Assateague, Maryland is quite a popular vacation destination. Assateague has both a state and national park, and is essentially a peninsula/beach filled with wild horses. Travelers from all over come here to set up camp (whether that be by RV or tent) to stay a few nights to take in all that the beautiful parks have to offer.
Other than the beach itself, I stumbled upon quite a few surprises (a rocket launch being one of them) that I think you should hear about. This way you can stay on the look out when you go here yourself and get the most of your trip!
1. Book Early–Not Necessarily for the Summer
My first tidbit of information I want to share with you is to book your camping spot EARLY. I’m talking at least a month or two in advance. Spots sell out quickly.
Also, consider what time of year you are going. My boyfriend and I ended up going in mid-October. You would think it would be chilly, but we did luck out as we got weather in the 70’s and sunshine the whole trip.
I would book either in spring or early fall because of hot, blistering weather (there is no shade on the beach) and mosquitos. We obviously didn’t experience too many because of the time of year, but just watch in the summer time. Also watch WHERE you book your site. Some camp sites are near the swampier area and a swamp=tons of mosquitoes!
2. The State Park VS. The National Park
The State Park is around $30/per night, a tad more expensive (depending on the season) compared to the National Park. However, the State Park has NEWLY updated hot water showers and very nice bathroom stalls.
If you are looking for a more campy feel the National Park has cold water showers and chemical toilets. Probably a good option if you have an RV with shower and toilet hookups. We drove my Jeep Liberty up and set up a tent, so the hot showers were the way to go for us!
All in all, the two parks are directly next to each other, and are essentially the same except the amenities.
3. The Campsite
Our campsite was super cute. We strategically used the Jeep as a form of shade throughout the day, as we parked right in front of the sand barrier that led to ocean, so we were merely steps away from the beach! It was a great location.
We actually bought a cheap Walmart tent for maybe $50, but it was quite roomy. The mosquito netting definitely helped. Just a forewarning: It was EXTREMELY windy when we were setting up the tent. Our cheap plastic pegs did NOT do the job for securing our tent. I recommend investing in deeper heavy duty pegs that will actually stay in the sand.
Funny story: we ended up filling up about 20 trash bags with sand and laid them on the inside and outside four corners of the tent so it wouldn’t blow away. How’s that for efficiency?!
We also brought 2 camp chairs a good bit of food, as we stayed 3 days, water jugs and a telescope! My waterproof speaker was also a nice touch.
4. The Horses
Ah yes, the horses. What everyone comes to Assateague for. Not going to lie, I was a little bummed when I found out you can’t actually pet the wild horses.
And as cute as these little guys were, they were a bit of a nuisance, too. About the same time every night (as dusk fell among the campground) you would hear the slow patter of little hooves, and their breathing. Everyone had their campfires going and were cooking things for dinner. You had to move out of the way and let them sniff EVERYTHING, and you prayed they wouldn’t destroy your campsite for the night. We found that out the hard way the first night when a horse simply bit open our WHOLE salt container and just knocked over everything and spilled our olive oil in the sand like it was nothing.
He also gnawed at the garbage bags a few times. By the second day we had a routine of how to clear off the table when we saw them coming. If they don’t see food, they will just walk away.
I found it pretty entertaining and kind of cute, but as long as you don’t get in their way they won’t bother you–because they CAN bite and CAN charge at you. You can also get fined if you get caught feeding them, petting them, and end up bitten. The rangers will usually make one or two rounds a day to make sure nothing suspicious is going on as well.
5. I Got to See a Rocket Launch
Lucky us, as we stopped into the little check-in store to check in for the week, the ranger mentioned there would be a rocket launch on Wallop Island, Virginia. I have never seen a rocket launch in real life before! I believe they were sending a rocket up filled with supplies for the ISS (International Space Station).
I was so excited that we brought the telescope! As you can see from the picture of our camp site above, the telescope was pretty hefty. It was maybe $200-300. We originally brought it to look at the moon and stars. There is barely any light pollution out there, so at night you can actually see the Milky Way galaxy. It is absolutely stunning.
As the rocket shot off, you could see the path of the rocket curving with the spinning of the Earth–it was really going that fast! It was pretty crazy but so cool to watch! I managed to catch a picture on my camera, not that great of quality but still something!
Take this as advice to do your research on any upcoming events at Assateague and plan accordingly! I know that they have animal tours for the wildlife at different times of the year as well!
6. The Beach
The beach itself was beautiful. It was so incredible waking up to the sea breeze and hearing the ocean waves crashing. It was so peaceful and absolutely breath taking. I have never quite had an experience like that before.
There were quite a bit of seashells on this beach, most likely because it was a State Park. My boyfriend and I like to collect a really cool seashell and some sand to put in a bottle from each beachy place we visit!
The seagulls were cute (as always) and beware of the creepy jellyfish sacks and dead trilobites that wash up on shore! I barely go more than ankle deep in ocean water for fear of stepping on these creepy crawlies. There are also a TON of crabs. They are very small. They could sit on your pinky. You will see tons of crab tracks in the sand, as well a few large crabs scuttling around–I think they are kind of cute!
The crabs hide out in the sand and since they are covered in sand they will blend in, so be sure not to step on them (although they are pretty quick)!
7. Other Stuff You Should Know…
When you first enter the island itself, there is a little store/restaurant you can visit. Also, the ranger station has a ton of firewood which you will be needing! I suggest purchasing some firewood from surrounding areas because it is a bit cheaper!
You can also find any other tidbits like batteries or water that you may need.
Ocean City is about 30-45 minutes away from Assateague, as well as a pretty nice casino! Take the time to check out surrounding areas for other hidden treasures!
Overall, Assateague was a pretty great trip. I highly recommend it to anyone, as it is such a unique experience. I hope sharing my experience will help YOU have a great experience! Feel free to share your experiences/questions below!