Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island is a narrow strip of sand – in most places not more than a mile or two wide – that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The entire island is publicly-owned: the northern half as Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park, and the southern half as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. No roads connect the two halves, but there’s an abundance of things to do and see whether you decide to enter from Maryland or Virginia!

—Laura Connors, NPCA

Laura Recommends

  1. View (from a safe distance, please!) the wild ponies that inspired Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague.  Herds can be seen from the Maryland or Virginia entrances. And for fans of the book, there’s a monument to Henry and Misty on Chincoteague Island not too far from the Virginia entrance to the National Wildlife Refuge.
  2. Go for a stroll. There are several short and easy trails whether you enter the island from Maryland or Virginia. Interpretive markers along the way describe barrier island geology and the animals and plants that make this place home.
  3. Pitch a tent. The Maryland side of the island has several great campgrounds that can accommodate anything from tents to RVs. If you like getting off the beaten trail, backcountry camping is also available. Just make sure to remember the bug spray!
  4. Watch the waves and soak up the sun. As a Virginia native, I may be biased, but I think Assateague Island offers some of the most beautiful sandy beaches you’ll see anywhere!
  5. Get out the binoculars. Assateague Island offers up some truly fantastic birding. Visit in the winter for huge flocks of snow geese and other wintering waterfowl, or in the summer for a wide variety of shorebirds.  It’s on the Atlantic Flyway, so spring and fall are busy for the birds, too.


According to NPCA's Center for State of the Parks assessment in 2007, key problems at Assateague include:

  • Contamination of bayside waters from nutrient-laden runoff from agriculture and residential development on the mainland;
  • Overgrazing by non-native feral horses and sika deer, which disrupts fragile island soils, interferes with dune formation, and reduces habitat for native species; and,
  • Heavy demand for over-sand vehicle (OSV) use, which harms Assateague’s beach habitats for both resident and migratory wildlife.








March 18, 2012

Bmason, A fox is NOT a marsupial. You must be thinking of an oppossum! hahah


November 10, 2011

I just got back from this beautiful park! The best time to go is really after Labor Day. Less people and no mosquitoes! And hardly any traffic on the island roads--something the ponies appreciated, I'm sure!


November 10, 2011

As a native of the West Coast, Assateague held several firsts for me: wild horses & ponies on the beach, and incredible sunrises over the ocean! We backcountry camped and saw a red fox (the only marsupial in North America!), toasted s'mores & enjoyed great sunsets & sunrises from our oceanside camp site.

Post a Comment

Share your park story today. Post your park experiences, recommendations, or tips here.*

Enter this word:

* Your comments will appear once approved by the moderator. NPCA staff do not regularly respond to postings. We reserve the right to remove comments that include profanity or personal attacks, promote products or services, or are otherwise off-topic. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the position(s) of NPCA. By submitting comments you are giving NPCA permission to reuse your words on our website and print materials.


Want to learn more about the  ?

The   can be seen in the wild in America’s national parks. Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect parks in   & other states

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect   and other National Parks

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Please leave this field empty
Yes, please sign me up for NPCA’s newsletter and other emails about protecting our national parks!

National Parks Conservation Association
National Parks Conservation Association

Log In

Or log in with your connected Facebook or Twitter account:


Welcome to our growing community of park advocates. Thanks for signing up!

Sign Up:

Or sign up by connecting your Facebook or Twitter account: