Camping on Assateague National Seashore

Wild horses and tree crowned sandy dunes framing a glassy Atlantic Ocean, anyone?

Okay so the horses aren’t truly “wild.” Technically, they’re feral. But ask your tweenage daughter if she cares much for technicalities as one of these sometimes all too brave ponies saunters toward your vehicle reflecting her anime star struck eyes in its own big pearlies and you’ll no doubt see a glimmer of that magic for yourself.

Hold on though cowboy, this is going take a bit longer than a day trip to explore what is arguably Maryland’s most famous attraction. The solution?

Let’s go camping!

While a handful of public RV parks (and even a parking lot) are available in the area, if you’re looking for the “on the beach” experience, look no further than the various public options available, and there’s no better place to start than camping on the national seashore itself. Two campgrounds, aptly named Oceanside and Bayside, provide dune-laden camping where you’re almost guaranteed to see the herd…even if it’s just during the drive in and out.

The Bayside Campground will offer a little more shade, as the trees tend to tower a bit higher than the more traditional “beachy” experience of the Oceanside Campground.

A third option, Assateague State Park, lives just north of the national campgrounds.

Should that prime real estate be occupied by other hippophiles, have no fear, there’s plenty more to explore in the area than solely the hoofprints in the sand.

Just west of the seashore, a small town by the name of Berlin, Maryland provides old fashion charm via its multitude of diners, cafes and two story brick buildings harking back to a more romantic time in our nation’s history…as evidenced by the town playing host to movies like Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting.

North of the park, centered by a massive pier-side ferris wheel and largely consisting of sprawling boardwalk t-shirt stores, hot dog stands and all of the crustaceans one can eat, Ocean City, Maryland is perhaps the quintessential Atlantic Coast vacation destination. Expect big crowds, go kart races and just about everything exactly opposite of the quiet experience of Assateague proper.

Across the border, in Delaware, the small town beach and resort life continues. Bethany Beach is perhaps the cutest little waterfront town, with its own share of taffy shops and brewpubs, boardwalk strolls and sea gull laden sands. Delaware Seashore State Park is a modest RV park style campground situated under a massive purple glow of a bridge, and easy access to both Bethany and Rehoboth Beaches, the latter more of a bustling scene than the former, but neither quite the extravagance and congestion of Ocean City.

The beauty of this area lies in the variety. From a funnel cake on a busy boardwalk to a slow stroll through a small town, sitting at traffic lights on the water, to long empty drives through the countryside, Assateague Island National Seashore and the surrounding area is a crown jewel in an otherwise often daunting mid-Atlantic coastal experience.