Assateague National Seashore Camping

 Assateague National Seashore Camping

Dawn at Assateague. Fiona and I had the sunrise all to ourselves.

duneI've written before about the national forests, Bureau of Land Management areas, and Corp of Engineers campgrounds where you can stay and use your Federal Senior Pass. In doing so, I have overlooked one more division of the Department of the Interior – national seashores and lakeshores – some of which also provide camping opportunities. Here's my experience with Assateague National Seashore camping.

Here we are at our campsite, with a couple of visitors.
Here we are at our campsite, with a couple of visitors.

Assateague Island is on the Atlantic coast just south of Ocean City, Maryland on the DelMarVa peninsula forming the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay. Like its better-known sister island, Chincoteague, it's home to herds of feral ponies put there by early settlers as a tax dodge – the first tax assessments were based on the extent of your livestock holdings, so any animals you could hide would save you money on your tax bill.  When the tax collector showed up, into the boats went the ponies to cool their heels out on the island, where they could forage for themselves, be safe from predators, and be reasonably easy to round up when it was time to go find them again. However, over time inventory control problems developed, and the ponies established their own herd out on the islands.

Our campsite. $8 a night, and the ocean's right over that dune.
Our campsite. $8 a night, and the ocean's right over that dune. You hear the surf as you drift off to sleep.

The Assateague Island National Seashore is readily accessible and fairly close to the I-95 corridor. We stopped by in the fall of 2010 on our way down from Maine during our first year of fulltiming, and spent two weeks. Campsites are just over a low dune from the beach itself, so you're right on the water, and rates were very reasonable – $8 a night with our Federal Senior Pass. In true Federal fashion, there are no hookups – you get a paved area to park on, a picnic table, and a fire ring. There's water and a dump in the park, and groceries and a laundromat are available in nearby towns.  Our kind of camping.

Despite the proximity to populated areas, we had the place to ourselves during the week in mid-October, and the weekend entertainment would show up in the form of rookie campers every Friday night. The ponies are as wild as the park staff can make them – they don't want you to give the ponies access to fresh water, for instance.  This is not a petting zoo.

Ponies helping themselves to the rookie camper buffet. They even ate the potato chips.
Ponies helping themselves to the rookie camper buffet. They even ate the potato chips.

Despite strenuous efforts by the park staff, people feed the ponies often enough for the ponies to know people mean food, so there are misunderstandings and people get bitten when they interact with the ponies in ways the ponies don't like, which is pretty much anything except forking over the edibles expeditiously.  They will go right into your vehicle and cooler unless you take precautions.  One weekend camper across the road from us put all their food out on the picnic table, and the ponies much appreciated the buffet. The camper's dog, which had been barking at everything non-stop since they got there, decided it would be a good time to cower under the picnic table and be quiet.  Smart dog.

Dawn at Assateague.
Dawn at Assateague.

Assateague is a beautiful place to spend the waning days of the camping season, and I imagine it would be nice in the spring as well. I'm not much for mid-summer beach camping myself, but I suspect it's packed here during the peak of the summer.  During our October stay, the mornings and evenings were cool, and we'd get days when it would struggle to get up to 65 as the fall weather made its way into the area.   But there's nothing like the solitude of the beach at dawn and the sounds and smells of the ocean to put your mind at ease.

campskunk

"campskunk" is a blissfully retired former public servant who has left the challenges of how to run the government to younger and less cynical hands, and wanders the continent in his Roadtrek Class B RV with his wife and cat. In addition to his work in the public sector, he has also at various times been a mechanic and delivery driver, skills which come in handy in his new role. Because his former job involved the forensic evaluation and sometimes the subsequent detention of some not-so-nice people, he uses the name campskunk instead of his legal name on the Internet. His was not the type of job where customer service feedback would be welcome.

28 Comments

  • Now Campskunk – I’m not happy that you are telling everyone about this, one of my favorite places to camp!! Its already too popular.

  • Perfect! On bucket list! Thanks!

  • Campskunk, were you by any chance on the 5 fwy in Oregon on yesterday? I exchanged waves with a Roadtrek near Grant’s Pass.

    • no, it wasn’t me, although Oregon is crawling with Roadtreks this time of year. i’m easy to spot because the whole roof behind the three windows is covered with solar panels. people recognize me from a half mile away.

  • Campskunk, Assategue is a great camping spot and favorite of ours also. My DW and I were there this summer for a few days on our way to the Outer Banks for some more Roadteking fun! The photos you posted looks just the site that we had, a site at Oceanside Loop #2 . What a great site, even though I don’t think there is a bad one there. It was great to open the rear doors to have the cool ocean breeze and hear the sound of the ocean waves, just thinking about it wants us to return.

    We found out quickly about the ever curious and hungry horses. One evening as we were sipping some wine after dinner quietly enjoying our campfire were both simultaneously heard the blow or snort of a horse REAL close! As we both turned into the darkness we saw in the campfire light one real huge horses head real close to our opened screened side door of our 210 Popular. As my wife let out a small yelp the horse headed away as we followed and scurried into the RT. We knew there were plenty more horses out there in the darkness with much better night vision than ours.

    The next day in speaking to one of the rangers about our nature experience he named the horse who he thought it would have been ,these NPS Rangers seem to know each horse as they track there activity quite diligently. When we asked him if the horse would have gone into the camper he said yes, he would have stuck he head into your camper and searched for whatever he could eat!

    It is great to be one with nature and we will again return to a favorite place.

  • Campskunk nice write up as usual. Though I am not an RV’er I enjoy the your post as well as the other writers. After reading so many of the trip reports on here I went to an RV dealership and started looking at class B’s. (Hey you never know as they say) I think one day I might have to get a 210 and hit the road!
    P.S. If any roadtrek 210 owners are reading this can you share your experiences/opinions of the 210? I sat in one last week and liked it( The sprinters were nice as well).

    • Yes, John, we own a used 2007 210 Versatile Roadtrek and love it. We spent the summer from May 28 to Aug. 9 living my bucket list dream of a roadtrip to and from Alaska from central Wisconsin, living in our RT, usually “boondocking” (pulling off onto turnouts or along creeks/rivers) and enjoying the solitude, expansive scenery, and simple living space. The RT is very efficiently designed, self-contained with a generator, and perfect for the two of us. We chose to keep four seats to make our RT versatile enough to carry two more couples for local trips, but have kept the wardrobe unit in case we decide we really need the storage space more than the living space. After adjusting to living small, I think you are sure to love an RT, too.

  • Campskunk,

    We found out there that the ponies have strange dietary habits. One took a big bite out of the weatherstripping around the rear hatch on our Jeep Cherokee tow/over sand vehicle. We loved driving far down the beach and spending the day surf fishing. It’s very accessible to us, since we live in Maryland and is therefore one of our favorite places.

    Thanks,

    Bill

  • We’re going to have to put that on our schedule.

  • Amazing place! Wild horses galore!

  • We camped here with my girl Scout troop many years ago. It was the best trip ever.

  • Camped across the bridge one July 4th. Love that place. Got to be there for the pony crossing and auction.

  • We go every September:) wouldn’t miss it

  • Carol Field

  • It would be nice if the pic had been lightened up a little so you can actually see the place.

  • If it’s such a great place, why do they have a satellite dish

  • Iits beautiful there. We had a horse that would come everyday and help himself to our foo that we cooked. The kids loved it. LOL

  • Love it. My backyard almost.

  • Too funny! Maybe the ponies were tired of hearing the dog too!

  • camped there before,nice!!

  • I scrolled down the IPad and saw the dish and da cat first…knew who it was before reading the headline. The myth, the legend, the dude in the tie dye t-shirt P)

  • Kitty?

  • Get ride of that big satellite dish!

    • if i did, you wouldn’t be reading this. the big dish is my Hughesnet internet satellite – it works all over the continent, even in places with no cell coverage, which is most nice places out West. it’s how i stay connected to civilization. https://rvlifestyle.com/mobile-internet-satellite-for-your-rv/

  • Don’t use walk-in campsites unless you are armed with industrial strength mosquito spray!! The drive up campsites are much better!! Love the wild horses that come through the drive ups and run along the beach!!

  • I think I see coyote bait?

  • Would remind everyone going that some call it wetlands, others call it swamps or marsh, meaning there are lots of mosquitos some as big as the ponies!

Comments are closed.