DescriptionEight miles south of Ocean City, Md., via SR 611, Assateague Island is a narrow 37-mile-long barrier island paralleling the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park manage the Maryland portion of the island, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge manages the Virginia end. The national seashore encompasses 49,500 acres (19,000 of which are land), including Assateague Island and nearby small islands.
There are two herds of horses on the island, including Chincoteague ponies that eat marsh grass and drink from freshwater ponds. Both herds reportedly are descendants of a 16th-century herd that swam ashore from a sinking Spanish galleon, although a more likely story is that they descended from local farm horses. The island is also a stop-off point during the migration of the once-endangered peregrine falcon and several waterfowl, including the greater snow goose.
General InformationThe National Park Service operates a visitor center with exhibits at the bridge approach to the north end of the island. Allow 30 minutes minimum. Both the National Park Service and the wildlife refuge operate information centers at the southern end.
Boating, crabbing, fishing, swimming and camping opportunities are available. Naturalists conduct kayak trips, campfire talks, guided nature walks and clamming and fishing demonstrations daily mid-June through August. Lifeguard-protected beaches are open in both Maryland and Virginia districts mid-June through Labor Day.
Allow 1 hour minimum to see the island. The Maryland district is open daily 24 hours while the Virginia district is open daily dawn to dusk. Visitor center hours may vary seasonally but are generally open daily 9-5; a limited schedule is offered January-February. Phone to confirm schedule. The visitor center is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
ADMISSIONADMISSION to the national seashore includes Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and is $20 (per private vehicle); free (for persons arriving on foot or bicycle). Permits are valid for 7 days. An annual pass is $40. Admission to Assateague State Park Memorial Day-Labor Day is $6 (per out-of-state visitor); $4 (per Maryland resident with ID). Admission rest of year is $5 (per private out-of-state vehicle); $3 (per private in-state vehicle).
PETSPETS must be restricted at all times, either in vehicles or by leash, and are not allowed in public buildings or on trails. This pet policy varies by area; phone ahead to find out where pets are not allowed. Pets are not permitted in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, even in vehicles.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Assateague Island National Seashore, 7206 National Seashore Ln., Berlin, MD 21811; phone (410) 641-1441 for the national seashore, (757) 336-6122 for Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge or (410) 641-2120 for Assateague State Park.