There are few places in the world to see wild ponies roaming free, but Assateague Island, a 37-mile-long barrier island located in both Maryland and Virginia, is one of them. With breathtaking views around every corner, this island offers groups more than just a day at the beach. Activities such as camping, hunting, fishing and wildlife hiking or boat tours are all available for groups to enjoy while visiting Assateague Island.
Assateague Island National Seashore—located along Maryland’s southern border—and Assateague State Park—located along Maryland’s northern border—are the only two parks on the island. Both parks offer tent, trailer and RV camping along with some canoe-only access sites. Tent-only options are available for large groups. Both parks also offer nature programs, bike trails, canoe rentals, boat launching sites, swimming areas, and food and beverage locations.
Spend a relaxing day along the beaches on Assateague Island. Swimming is allowed anywhere along the island shores but both the state and national parks offer designated beach areas with lifeguards on duty.
Lack of wildlife certainly won’t be a problem when visiting Assateague. In addition to over 300 wild ponies, other animals such as crabs, deer, several species of birds and an abundance of marine life can be seen. Groups can go bird watching, deer hunting, fishing, crabbing and clam dredging. Assateague Adventures offers eco-tour cruises that include opportunities to see the island’s wildlife, learn about the ecosystem and visit a hands-on marine life touch tank. Dolphins can also be seen on the cruises during summer and fall months. Private charters are available for groups of up 80 people.
Assateague Explorer offers options on the Virginia side of the island. Here groups can take specialized cruises such as a Pony Express Nature Cruise, a Bird Watching Cruise or a Lighthouse Cruise that includes entrance into the Assateague Lighthouse. Kayak tours and rentals are also available.
Activities are available for younger children as well. Environmental education programs—such as salt marsh explorations, biological beach combs and beach scavenger hunts—offer hands-on fun for kids. Ranger programs offer educational fun for any age group.
Assateague State Park Nature Center is filled with exhibits on nature and wildlife and interpretive programs are available. Aquariums offer an up-close look at local marine life such as horseshoe crabs, seahorses and whelks.
Located half a mile from the Assateague Island Visitor’s Center is the Rackliffe House. This restored 18th century coastal plantation house is the new Coastal Heritage Center. Here groups can learn the history of colonial life along Maryland’s coast. There are several hiking trails linking the Rackliffe House to Assateague State Park.
Although Assateague Island is known for being one of the few places in the world to see wild ponies in their natural habitat, its proximity to Ocean City, Md. and the historic town of Berlin, Md. offers endless sightseeing opportunities for groups. With so many outdoor activities—such as camping, kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming—Assateague Island truly is a destination with something for everyone.