Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island is a place that we have wanted to visit for years. Once we heard about the wild horses that make the island their home, we were raring to go. And, yes, it lives up to the hype! The National Park Service has done an excellent job with maintaining the roads, facilities, and beaches.

Our first stop was the visitor center where we got some information about the island, bought our requisite Christmas ornament, and picked up the park brochure. Then we drove over the Verrazano Bridge to get to the island.

For information about the national seashore, click here: https://www.nps.gov/asis/index.htm

Not long after we drove in to the park, there was a pony jam which was very similar to the bison jams we have encountered in other national parks. Everyone wants to stop and take pictures, and if the horses are in the road, well, you just have to wait because this is their turf!

Some believe the wild horses that live on Assateague Island, which lies in Maryland and Virginia, and its neighbor, Chincoteague Island in Virginia, are the descendants of horses that came from a Spanish galleon ship that sank offshore. Others believe that farmers who lived nearby turned their stock out to graze on the islands to avoid paying heavy taxes on them. Whether these theories are true or not, it is known that the horses have been on the islands for about 300 years. In Maryland, the horses are owned and managed by the National Park Service. The horses in Virginia are owned and managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.

No, we weren’t as close as it looks. We obeyed the rules, kept our 40 foot distance, and used the zoom.
Parking lot picnic!

Approximately 80-100 horses live on the Maryland side of Assateague Island, and they are considered wildlife. There is no veterinary or human intervention toward their care, except for birth control. Their short legs and stocky bodies have evolved to enable them to easily navigate the sand dunes and walk through the marshes on the island. They appear to be bloated due to the fact that they drink twice the amount of water as domesticated horses because of their salty diet.

For a super interesting short film about the Assateague horses, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44KhYh3LVLU

Absolutely beautiful!

The beaches at Assateague Island are beautiful, too. There were no crowds on the day we went, and everything was clean including the beaches, the changing facilities, and showers. We were impressed.

View of the dunes from the boardwalk leading to the beach
We encountered several people who were surf fishing. We never have surf fished (probably because we live about 500 miles from the nearest surf) but they looked like they were having a great time. Crabbing is also allowed at this park. Other things to do here are hiking, biking, and camping.
Not a scrap of trash to be seen! We don’t know if this is one of them, but we encountered several “No Trash” parks on this trip. In those parks you pack out all of your own trash, and there are no trash cans. What a great idea! Someone should have thought of it sooner.
Check out all the passengers on this horseshoe crab
Did you know that horseshoe crabs have been around longer than dinosaurs? It has been estimated that horseshoe crabs have been on earth for 450 million years. That means they survived the ice ages! Their bright blue blood is vital to the medical industry as it is used to test vaccines for contamination. Who knew?

Assateague Island National Seashore abuts Assateague State Park in Maryland. The horses also have free reign in this park, and the facilities and beaches are great here too.

Assateague State Park beach
Beach grass at Assateague State Park. The grass controls erosion. Without it, the dunes would blow away.

This ends our visit to Assateague Island. We hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back again soon for another fun destination, quick stop, or travel tip. We will leave you with one more shot of the horses, this time standing in a marshy area. Doesn’t the one in the middle have spectacular coloring?

Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

6 thoughts on “Assateague Island National Seashore

  1. A really charming place guys. There’s something about a spotless beach that is good for the soul and I appreciated the lowdown on the horseshoes crab, I’m not sure I’d even heard of that! As for the horses, they are just lovely and it’s good to know that they have such a peaceful refuge to live in. Great piece.

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