Assateague Island is 9 miles south of Ocean City, Maryland and is home to 37 miles of gorgeous ocean beaches.

This is the perfect getaway if you are on the East Coast! Assateague Island is a 37-mile long barrier island along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia that is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Sinepuxent Bay on the west. The state and national parks offer the chance to explore the island in all its splendor and are sure to give you plenty of adventures that will entertain you for well over a week. The island offers swimming, beach-combing, sunbathing, surfing, paddle-boarding, crabbing, bird watching, fishing, hunting, biking and ocean kayaking. The bayside offers you the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak.

It is important to note a few differences between Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds

State Park:
  • offers warm showers and some electric sites
  • fresh water is located at the bathhouses
  • open fires are not allowed on beaches
  • pets are allowed in the day-use beach area from October 1 to April 30
  • registration is available 24 hours a day online.
National Park:
  • has cold showers and chemical toilets
  • fresh water is located at the bathhouses
  • open fires are allowed with permission from the Park Ranger Station
  • also allow pets (dogs must be on a 6-foot leash)
  • offers backcountry camping (A 7-day backcountry permit is $6 per person ages 16 years and older. A $15 7-day entrance fee per vehicle is also required)
  • offers an Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone (The permit fee ranges from $70 to $150, depending upon the type of access desired)
  • registration is available 24 hours a day online.

The beaches of both parks are the same. However, the State Park has only one entrance through the dunes in day-use and the National Park has two. Each camping loop has at least one dune crossover to the beach.

We chose the state park for two reasons: cheaper rates and more availability. As it approaches tourist season you will notice it will be harder to find availability. So I recommend booking months in advanced or go in the off-season, which would be late May and August. The water will be slightly colder but definitely bearable. When booking at the state park, aim for campsites 12-16 on any loop, these will put you closest to the dune that separates you from the beach.

If you look at the marker I placed on the map, you will notice it isn't actually on the island. This is where the visitor center is located. It is highly recommended you stop by and grab some pamphlets before crossing over to the island. They are loaded with information on the island and the Park Rangers will tell you all of the secret spots to visit on the island. The Ranger we spoke with gave us a map of the bay and circled some isolated coves that are a must-see if you plan on going kayaking/canoeing. To reach the bay, you have to enter through the National Park. A $13 7-day entrance fee is required.

One last thing, keep your food out of your tent! The horses that roam the island are brazen and will raid your site. We witnessed a horse stomp through one of our neighbor's tents just for some twizzlers! Your food will be safe as long as you keep it in your car.

Camping at Assateague will be a pleasant experience if you plan ahead! The barrier island habitat can be harsh if you are not prepared.

Pack List

Campers are reminded to bring:
  • coolers
  • water
  • firewood (locally purchased)
  • sunscreen
  • towels
  • sunglasses
  • insect repellent (the mosquitoes are monsters!)
  • screen tents for shade and insect protection
  • long tent stakes to anchor tents in the sand and wind
  • sleeping bags as it gets cold at night
Show More
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Kayaking, Swimming
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Features
Bathrooms
Beach
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Awesome Place To Camp, Swim, And See

I went as a kid but could barely remember. I'm so glad I went back. We camped in the state park, which had great bathrooms and showers. Hot water too. The campsites are really nice. However, watch out for the horses... they're really cool but will take all the food off your picnic table!

BEWARE THE PONIES

As another post read, this fulfilled my daughter's dream of visiting the island and seeing the ponies. All the madness created was completely self induced (terrible sun burns due to not constantly bathing in the sunscreen as I slathered it on the kids). You will have beautiful views, and weird experiences with the ponies. We left a bag of food on the picnic table while grilling dinner and I turned around to see a pony eating from the bag. Kids were thrilled, I was not happy. When the ponies moved on, through our campsite, the walked under my rigged laundry line, pulling my sons underwear as they went. We have a great picture of a pony "wearing" my sons underwear as it walked on down the beach. I recommend doing a kayak tour of the bay with Super Fun Eco Tours, especially if you have little ones. The tour guides were awesome and held the kids attention as they talked with them about the creatures living in the bay. Great experience.

Gorgeous beach but beware of the bugs!

Totally fulfilled my childhood "Misty of Chincoteague" daydreams! The ponies can get a little aggressive -- they came and ate everything off our picnic table and refused to be shooed away -- but it was totally worth getting a close up view of them! The biting flies are even worse -- unrelenting even with citronella candles and bug spray so be prepared! Otherwise a beautiful, expansive, peaceful beach and totally worth coming a few miles down from nearby Ocean City which is much rowdier.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Bike Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island is a 37 mile long barrier island along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, and is home to the famous herd of wild horses.

52 Saves

HIke the Bald Cypress Trail

The beautiful Pocomoke River State Park is divided into two sections, the Shad Landing Area and the Milburn Landing Area. The Bald Cypress Nature Trail is located in the Milburn Landing Area.

46 Saves

Camp at Delaware Seashore State Park

Delaware Seashore State Park offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Rehoboth and Indian River Bays to the west.

20 Saves