There are many reasons to visit oceanfront Assateague State Park, chief among them the famed Assateague Island horses.
Assateague State Park is situated on the Maryland side of long, narrow Assateague Island, which is officially a National Seashore spanning both Maryland and Virginia. In addition to the famous Assateague State Park wild horses, the park is where you’ll find the island’s only concessions and camping options.
While easily accessible and open year-round, there are some things to know to ensure you have the best possible experience at Assateague State Park.
Assateague State Park Horses
There are plenty of things to see and do in Assateague State Park (which we’ll get into in more detail below!), but the Assateague State Park horses are so iconic that they deserve their own section.
Technically feral horses, the island’s celebrity residents are descendants of domestic horses “that have reverted to a wild state” over time. Although there are several variations of both stories, local legend says the horses either survived a shipwreck or were brought to the island by wealthy landowners hoping to find a loophole in livestock tax laws back in the 17th century.
However they got here, the Assateague State Park horses have since thrived, defying the odds and overcoming obstacles, including severe weather and limited food sources. Today, there are over 200 wild horses occupying Assateague Island, about 80 on the Maryland side and the remainder on the Virginia side. The horses are free to roam the island and Assateague State Park, so while you’re extremely likely to see them, there’s no way to know exactly where or how many.
Best Things To Do in Assateague State Park
There are many opportunities to get out and explore nature in Assateague State Park. Here are some of the top things to do during your visit.
Enjoy the Beach
With sand dunes and a wide, sandy shoreline, simply enjoying the beach is one of the best things to do at Assateague State Park. Relax on a beach chair, comb through the sand for shells (or treasures!), climb the dunes, and see what you can find at low tide.
Situated between a fairly well-sheltered bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it comes as no surprise that fishing is excellent at Assateague State Park. On the bayside, you can go clamming or fish from either a boat or the marina piers. On the ocean side, surf (shore) fishing is permitted in designated areas.
Exploring the area by kayak or canoe is a great way to discover Assateague State Park. There are several salt marshes and hidden sea caves on the bayside, offering a unique perspective on the island. Plus, of course, you may see the Assateague State Park horses from the water!
The water is calm here, making it suitable for paddlers of all abilities, but visitors are welcome to explore the ocean side as well. Kayak and canoe rentals are available near the marina and from several outfitters near the park.
Historic Rackliffe House
Overlooking the bay, this 18th-century coastal plantation home gives visitors an opportunity to learn about colonial life in New England. It’s open from May through October, but visitors are always welcome to hike to the building and see it from the exterior.
Assateague State Park Campgrounds
There are a few options for where to stay when visiting Assateague State Park. We go over them in the sections below.
Assateague State Park Campground
One of the best ways to enjoy Assateague State Park is to camp on-site. The park’s only campground has over 300 sites and is open from late April through late October. Bathhouses and water and dump stations are available, plus sites have fire rings and picnic tables. A limited number of sites in G-loop have hookups.
Island Resort RV Park
Just 20 minutes from Assateague State Park, Island Resort RV Park offers large, full-hookup sites, a seasonal outdoor pool, catch-and-release fishing, and more. Plus, it’s just minutes from bustling Ocean City!
Sun Outdoors Frontier Town
Adjacent to Sinepuxent Bay and with a fun Wild West theme, Sun Outdoors Frontier Town is a great camping option for families. It’s just 10 minutes from Assateague State Park and offers a long list of amenities, including a water park, mini-golf, and a “Western Experience” with gold panning, horseback riding, and much more!
Tips for Visiting Assateague State Park
- Assateague State Park is open year-round, but visitors should take the weather into consideration when planning a visit. Being an island, the weather can sometimes be extreme and often changes quickly. Fall is the most pleasant season, while winter and spring are typically wet and windy and may bring snow. Summer is a popular time to visit, but keep in mind that it’s extremely humid, and the bugs can be relentless.
- Remember that although the Assateague State Park horses appear very tame, they are still wild animals, and you should keep a very safe distance (the park recommends at least 40 feet at all times). While incidents are exceedingly rare, they can be unpredictable — charging, biting, or kicking are all within the realm of possibilities.
- Bring plenty of bug spray, particularly if you’re visiting Assateague State Park in the late spring or summer. Mosquitos are notoriously bad here, especially on the bay (interior) side.
See the Assateague State Park Horses With Cruise America
Within an easy, scenic three-hour drive from Washington, D.C, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, visiting Assateague State Park couldn’t be easier!
Consider picking up a Cruise America RV rental to make the trip even more memorable, traveling on your own schedule and having creature comforts at your fingertips. We have several convenient rental locations near Assateague State Park, including a couple in Maryland, so the only things you need to do are decide on a date and pick your favorite RV model.