Assateague Island National Seashore
Memorial Day weekend 2012 and we were off to Assateague Island National Seashore to camp. Since we were traveling during a holiday weekend, I had reserved and paid for our tent site back in November. There are two options for camping on the island – the State Park or the National Park. The State Park has better facilities with hot showers, but I choose to stay in the National Park. So we had icy cold showers and chemical toilets. It
is camping people – not the spa.
We got a late start, big surprise, and got stuck in Delaware beach traffic. We arrived after the ranger station had closed, a little after 10pm, but were still able to pick up our site assignment.
I had reserved the Oceanside sites. Our “Walk-in” campsite was located in sites 86-104. “Walk-in” means just that – the car is parked on the road and you must lug your gear to your site.
I now count it as a blessing that we were assigned the site closest to the road(#86) and not near the beach; we had less distance to lug our gear and we had more vegetation surrounding our campsite for privacy and protection against wind.
We are used to setting up camp in the dark and made quick work of getting the tent up. Since the weather did not call for rain, Jack opted to not put on the rain shield over the tent (big mistake). Since it is muggy in Maryland at the end of May, we awoke to drops of condensation dripping down on our sleeping bags.
Knowing that the bugs, specifically black flies, are plentiful we brought plenty of bug spray and a screened tent for eating at the picnic table. My bug spray was not protecting us against the tics, so we also made a run to Wal-Mart to pick up spray with DEET.
There is nothing like waking up at the beach. We walked the short walk to the beach and waded in the cold ocean water.
Assateague is known for its wild horses and they were everywhere grazing on cord and beach grass. Be careful not to approach them because they are wild and can bite and kick. Also, remember that if you leave food out on your picnic table you could arrive back to your site in disarray.
We didn’t bring our bikes, but saw many people riding bikes along the road. Rentals are also available. Instead we chose to go kayaking in the bay. Kayaks can be rented for $15/hour. Double kayaks can be rented for $20/hour from Maryland Coastal Bays Program.
We also walked the three nature trails (approximately .5 miles each) that wander through the tree different ecosystems on the island: Life of the Dunes, Life of the Forest and Life of the Marsh. All three are short, but very different and it was good to experience each trail. Our family preferred Life of the Marsh best. Be sure to bring your binoculars and a bird field guide (can be purchased at the visitor center).
A few miles away is a little water park, golf and campground called Frontier Town. We played mini golf one night and the following day, we spent the afternoon at the water park. It is small, but perfect for grade-schooled children. There is a lazy river, a couple of slides and a splash pool. They also have bath houses with hot showers! Prices were very reasonable.
If you can’t wait to get back to civilization, Ocean City is a short ride north. We stopped for all-you-can-eat crab at Stinky Pete’s before heading back up north!
TIPS for traveling with your family:
- Remember to reserve your campsites as far out as possible – go to nsp.gov
- Camping at the beach is probably best for children ages 5 and up. Camping at the beach combines both the hardships of camping with sand of the beach. I recommend that children be a little older so that they can assist with the camping chores and alert around the ponies.
- When camping at the beach, you should bring 18-inch long stakes. Anything less will be useless in the sand.
- Food should be locked in the car at night. Food storage regulations are strictly enforced.
- Remember to bring good bug spray (with Deet) and screened tents.