Assateague Island State Park

Phone: (410) 641-2120
Website: http://www.nps.gov/asis

Introduction

Many people don't know Assateague Island is actually managed by three official park agencies. The National Park Service manages the Assateague Island National Seashore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and lastly, the Assateague State Park is managed by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources. These agencies help to maintain an unspoiled vacation destination that is within easy reach for many East Coast residents.

Sightseeing cruises, crabbing, bird watching, fishing, hunting, biking and other activities continually make this a paradise for visitors that enjoy outdoor recreation. You will find nearby amenities at Chincoteague Island and Ocean City such as seafood restaurants and lodging in the form of hotels, cottages, beach houses, campgrounds and bed and breakfasts.

  • open daily: park hours vary year-round; Maryland's Barrier Island Visitors Center operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round; the Maryland shore never closes and parking at night is permitted for those engaging in recreational activities; hours for the Refuge in Virginia are as follows: April 1 to April 30 - 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; May 1 to September 30 - 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.; October 1 to October 31 - 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; November 1 to March 31 - 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • amenities / facilities: bike trails, hiking trails, surf fishing / shell fishing, beach access for vehicles, canoeing / kayaking (w/ rentals), camp grounds for various types of camping, ranger guided programs, hunting, horseback riding, seasonal programs for children, restrooms, picnic areas

Other Notable Attractions

  • Junior Ranger Program: The Junior Ranger Program is the perfect chance for children to learn more about the seashore. Intended for children between the ages of 6 and 14, parents can buy an activity booklet at the Toms Cove or Barrier Island visitor centers. Once the booklet is completed and you child attends two ranger-guided programs, he/she will receive a Junior Ranger certificate and patch. There is also a Mini-Ranger program for four- and five-year old children. Both programs are available year-round.

  • Over Sand Vehicles: The Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone at Assateague Island National Seashore contains miles of unspoiled beaches managed by the National Park Service to accommodate OSV enthusiasts and other beach-goers. OSV permits are issued for a twelve-month period beginning with the month of purchase and cost $70. OSV permits are only issued for individual vehicles in the name of the registered owner.

  • Hunting: Public hunting within the boundaries of the Assateague Island National Seashore is recognized as a recreational activity. The regulations for hunting within Assateague are designed to provide a meaningful and safe experience for hunters. State laws governing the public areas of Maryland and Federal Regulations apply to both the lands and the waters within the boundaries of the National Seashore. Hunting is legal only in specifically designated areas of the National Seashore. For a list of the regulations and maps of designated hunting locations, please visit http://www.nps.gov/asis.

  • Horseback Riding: In the summer and early fall, horseback riding is not permitted in the Maryland portion of Assateague due to the presence of biting insects known to spread disease, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Equine Infectious Anemia, and West Nile Virus. Day use horseback riding is permitted each year from October 9 through May 14. During this period, park officials believe the chance of spreading these diseases is much lower, although a slight risk remains. All horseback riding is permitted on the beach in the Over Sand Vehicle zones authorized for public travel.

  • Educational Programs: (410) 641-1143 ext. 232; There are a variety of educational programs for children of all ages to participate in while on a visit to Assateague Island. These programs are a great way to learn about the delicate ecosystem that makes up this vast barrier island. Scheduling for the programs begins in January while the actual experiences take place in April and May. From kindergarten to fifth-grade and above, there is a program for every age group that will have children combing the beaches and trudging through the salt marshes in some of the best first-hand learning experiences.

  • Wildlife Cruise: (757) 336-5956; The wildlife cruise along Assateague and Chincoteague Island is offered by Assateague Explorer, departing from Chincoteague Island. Guided by a former park ranger and native of Chincoteague, visitors will get the chance to see the different herds of wild ponies that roam freely all over Assataegue, search for dolphins in summer and fall, encounter the many species of birds including bald eagles, and discover hidden Assateague and Chincoteague.