I don’t know about you but all this cold weather has me dreaming of the beach and our summer adventures. We love visiting National Parks and Assateague Island National Seashore is one that we visit at least 3-4 times a year. Assateague is known for its wild ponies that inhabit the island and for its beaches. If you have never been make sure you add it to your summer adventure list.
Little bit of History-
Assateague wasn’t always an island, it was connected to the popular Fenwick Island. A storm in August of 1933 ripped through the long island opening an inlet between the southern end of Ocean City and the new Assateague. Instead of closing the inlet they decided to keep it open allowing boats to travel between the ocean and the bay with ease.
Before the split, beginning in about the late 1850’s, there had been a few small but not permanent communities. The majority of the residents in the communities supported themselves working as watermen or for the United States Life-Saving Service. The USLSS was comprised of four stations on Assateague from 1875 until 1915.
In the 1950’s, there was a plan to create a resort town. This community was to have 15 miles of continuous beach with the entire area sectioned off for housing, commercial zones, coastal highway, streets and parks. The community was advertised promoting house 100 fee by 200 feet deep on about a ½ an acre. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 ripped through Assateague destroying existing structures and roads, making it obvious that the barrier island was unstable to support permanent structures. Side note: If you get an OSV pass and drive on the beach to the VA line you can still some of the houses. This one has to be one of my favorites.
The federal government then purchased the land. Assateague Island became dedicated as a National Seashore on September 21, 1965.
But what about the Horses-
Assateague’s wild ponies have roamed the beaches, pine forest, and salt marshes of Assateague Island since the 1600’s. Assateague has a combined total of over 300 wild ponies in Maryland and Virginia. Some people believe the horses arrived on Assateague when a Spanish galleon ship (with a cargo of horses) sand offshore. Others believe the horses arrived by early colonial settlers that allowed them to graze there. A Spanish shipwreck was discovered recently in the waters off Assateague which lends credit to the first theory. And if you are lucky enough to visit Assateague after a big storm and at low tide you might be able to see parts of the ship that are normally covered in sand and water.
*Stop by the visitors center which is located right before you go over the bridge to the island. While there get your stamp for your National Park Passport book and make sure your kids get their junior ranger badges.
*Drive the island. Make sure you go down the side roads to the campground and the old ferry landing. The ponies have free range on the island so you never know where you will find them.
*If the weather is nice walk the path (located past the ferry road) out to the bay. You will have ample opportunities for landscape pictures.
*Take a walk over the dunes to the beach. I encourage you to stay until at least late afternoon when the ponies have a higher probability of walking the beach.
*If the Life Saving Station is open make sure you stop and check out the history and the number of lives that were saved.
*If you are up for a little more adventure stop by the Ranger Station to get your OSV pass, so that you drive on the beach. You can check out current OSV regulations on the Assateague Island National Seashore site.
On the OSV side of the beach make sure you
-Drive all the way down to the Md/VA line. As you get down to the line you will see a couple of the old beach houses that were built in the 1950’s and now abandoned.
-Go slow as you pass the dunes close to the VA line. The foxes like to make their dens in the dunes.
-Take a hike over the dunes. With a little exploring you might be able to find the old road that ran down the island.
-Stop along the way to collect seashells if you are visiting after a big storm you might even find whole conch shells.
Exploring with your Kids-
When we go on adventures keeping our kids engaged is a must so that everyone has an enjoyable time and I love capturing our adventures. So it just makes sense to get the kids involved, so for each adventure the kids have a little photo challenge. Right now I take the pictures but the kids help us find the different things on the list. Here are some of the pictures from our Assateague Photo Challenge. For older kiddos that might be looking for a beach read check out Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. It gives a history of the island and the ponies, besides being a childhood favorite of mine.
Where to Stay-
If you like to camp you can camp on the island but spaces are limited and so are amenities. Some nearby campgrounds include Frontier Town, Castaways, and our favorite Island Resort. If camping isn’t your thing Assateague is very close to Ocean City which has a wide variety of hotels.
Tell us what adventures you plan on taking this summer in the comments. And to keep up to date on all of our adventures make sure you are signed up to get our Monthly Newsletter.