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Assateague Island Parks aka The Wild Side!

Assateague Island National Seashore Barriet Island Visitor CenterOur favorite resort, Ocean City MD has a Wild Side (or end to be precise). It's Assateague Island and until the "great storm" of 1933 cut the Inlet, was actually a continuation of the long barrier island now known as Ocean City. While the northern end was rapidly becoming an attractive seasonal, resort-style getaway to visitors from the more populated cities to the West such as Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, the more rustic, slower to develop, southern end, became home to the fish camps. Sturdy structures were erected to house the intrepid folks who fished and hunted for sport or profit throughout the forests and calm bays to the west and along the mostly boisterous Atlantic Ocean to the east.

The name Assateague comes from earliest times – a Native American word meaning "swiftly moving water" - of that, there’s no denying! The long narrow island of Assateague extending into Virginia, is fully surrounded by tidal water.

The Virginia portion, accessible by foot from Maryland - is a long walk down the beach, or by car via the Chincoteague Island causeway - Route 175, is a National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1943 for the protection of migratory waterfowl. The refuge features more than 14,000 acres of beach, a maritime forest as well as salt marsh and freshwater marsh habitats and is now home to an array of birds, plants and other wildlife. One may view the famed Assateague Island lighthouse in this park.

Back here, at the northern end of the island, a stone’s throw from Ocean City, we have two parks; Assateague State Park run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Assateague Island National Seashore Park established in the states of Maryland and Virginia in 1962 to ensure recreational use of the island with no endangerment to the perpetuation and maintenance of the seashore's natural environment. That's government speak for - we're in charge!

Assateague Island Horses Warning SignA large part of the "natural environment" is the management of the island's wild horses. These ponies have populated the island since the late 17th century. Today, more than one million people visit the now famous ponies each summer. And, though the ponies may seem "tame" they are not! On any given day, one may view the horses grazing in the marsh, walking beside the parking lots and campgrounds or, best yet, running along the long sandy Atlantic Ocean beach; and, depending on the time of the year, foals may be seen in the herds.

More chores for the Park Services include the management of the campgrounds; overnight camping is available by reservation however a quick trip down Rt. 611 from one of Ocean City's luxury hotels may be more to your preference...a day at Assateague can be very fulfilling.

Special hiking trails have been marked taking one along the bayside creeks; kayaking along with guided nature tours are also popular activities. Check here - to view the myriad available activities and accompanying fees for service!

Assateague Beach Kite SurfingYet we did say the "Wild Side"...and this is an island where one can still enjoy the freedom of self-expression. The long, seemingly endless, white sandy beach along the Ocean is the daily destination for many. Strolling and playing in the surf, sunning, swimming, and body and board surfing may be enjoyed. The newer sport of "kite-surfing"...where large, colorful kites keep agile surfers aloft...only skimming the wave tops occasionally, are a treat to behold on any given day.

No matter the weather one may see many folks trying their luck - surf fishing! And there is bird watching - there are over 300 species of migratory and resident birds! Remember to bring you rod, binoculars - and your camera!

Finally, upon this island the exciting opportunity to "ride a little rough" still exists - Over Sand Vehicles (OSV) are permitted on Assateague - allowing the driver to explore lands "off road" to the south - nearly to the Virginia state line.

Remember, within minutes of downtown Ocean City Maryland lies a "Wild Side" adventure with something for everyone! Explore the Shore...

Wild Ponies on Assateague Island
It is not uncommon to see the wild ponies of Assateague walking right along the road. Drive carefully!

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