Made famous years ago in the literary community by the book Misty of Chincoteague, Assateague Island is one of Maryland's Eastern Shore's most sought out destinations. It is the state's only ocean park. This barrier island is bordered by the Sinepuxent Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It is about a twenty minute ride from Ocean City and is frequently a side trip from the beach town. In the park there are two miles of ocean beaches where visitors can swim, beachcomb, sunbathe, surf, and fish.
There are no pets permitted in the park with campers, and there is a great reason why. The island is inhabited by feral horses that run wild on the shores and in the woodlands of Assateague. They have lived on the island for more than 350 years, and the story of their origins is varied. They were originally domestic, but grew wild after their release and through their subsequent generations. They receive no professional veterinary care and no supplemental feeding. The island houses no natural predators to the horses, and the only official interference in their natural existance is the occasional birth control program to prevent the island from growing overpopulated. Over the generations, they have developed a stocky build to enable them to navigate their marshland habitat and a thick coat helps them survive the frigid coastal winters. Those visiting the park may see the horses wandering free in just about every location on the island. In certain areas you are more likely to see the horses, so if they are the reason for your visit, be sure to check the park's website ahead of time.
There are a variety of special events hosted on the island. Guests are welcome to camp on their own, but if they are searching for something more organized or educational, the opportunities are available. The Junior Beach Patrol is a training program with lifeguards. Kids can learn the responsibility of lifeguarding and the program will help them understand how physically taxing acting as a beach lifeguard can be. The Youth Group Environmental Education Program offers a variety of opportunities ranging from an island scavenger hunt to a coastal cleanup event. Campers can learn responsible environmental behavior and have a great time doing it. There is also a birthday party program, allowing kids age 4 - 16 to celebrate their big day on the island. April through October kids have access to a great outdoor event, and surrounded by nature they can enjoy crafts, the playground, and three hours of use in the pavilion.
On the island is the Rackliffe Plantation. Constructed in 1752, it is one of the few remaining early plantation homes built by English merchant planters. It is in the process of being restored and will serve as a public museum and heritage discovery center. If your family enjoys getting back to nature, and you know your children would love seeing the feral horses roam free on the island, plan a camping adventure or day trip to Assateague Island.