Three agencies administer Assateague, a windswept barrier island that offers many opportunities for seashore recreation and nature study along its thirty-seven miles. Ocean swimming, camping, bayside canoeing, crabbing, clamming, hunting, surf fishing, and off-road vehicle use are all popular.
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The famous wild horses roam throughout and share beach to bay habitats with a host of other animals, including over 300 species of birds.
Assateague Island became part of the National Park System in 1965. The park’s land and water boundaries encompass over 48,000 acres in the states of Maryland and Virginia.
National Seashore – September 21, 1965
Operating Hours, Seasons
Maryland District – open year round, 24 hours a day. Barrier Island Visitor Center open 9 am – 5 pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Virginia District – January-March: 6 am – 6 pm. April: 6 am – 8 pm. May-September: 5 am – 10 pm. October: 6 am – 8 pm. November-December: 6 am – 6 pm. Visitor centers open 9 am – 5 pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Weather & Climate
Summers are generally hot and humid. Mosquitos and ticks are abundant from spring through autumn. Insect repellent and/or protective clothing is recommended. Rarely snows in the winter but often a damp cold. Sturdy hiking shoes recommended for long walks in the sand and hard sole water shoes for wading in bay waters.
All visitor centers, most nature trails, bathhouses and wayside exhibits are accessible. The seashore has established two accessible campsites which may be reserved. Beach wheelchairs with balloon tires are available for use on the oceanside beaches in Maryland and Virginia.
In Maryland, four miles of paved roads include an adjacent bike path. ‘Life of Assateague’ self-guided trails interpret three different barrier island habitats. In Virginia, five miles of paved roads include a bike path and fifteen miles of trails wind through refuge marshes and forests, including a path to the Assateague lighthouse. Hikers can enjoy miles of beaches on both the Maryland and Virginia sides of the island.