Assateague Island Camping: Everything You Need to Know

Did you know there is a magical place on the east coast where wild horses roam free, even right onto your campsite? If you’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy Assateague Island camping, that will hopefully change soon. Today you are going to learn about this unique experience. 

About Assateague Island

Assateague Island is a 37-mile barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Two-thirds of the island belongs to Maryland, while the other third belongs to Virginia. It is best known for its wild horses, beautiful sandy beaches, and the Assateague Lighthouse. On the island, visitors can enjoy camping, swimming, hiking, and driving off-road vehicles. There are no permanent residents on Assateague Island. 

Three different agencies manage the island: the National Park Service, Maryland State Parks, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

When Should You Visit Assateague Island?

Assateague Island stays open year-round. While visitors enjoy the area every month of the year, the best time to visit is from late April to early October. During these months, the weather stays warm and pleasant. Those hoping to see foals will want to visit during the peak of the summer months. 

Horses grazing on Assateague Island.

Things to Do While Camping at Assateague Island

Once you’ve decided to make Assateague Island a part of your travel plans, you’ll need to determine what you should do while there. Let’s check out a few of the things you may enjoy while visiting. 

Go Crabbing

If you’ve never been crabbing before, Assateague Island provides an excellent opportunity to try it out. If you have crabbing experience, you’ll love what the area has to offer. You only need a few supplies to experience the thrill of catching a crab. Come with a handline with a weight, net, and bait, and you are ready to go. 

If you plan to keep your catch for dinner, be sure to bring a ruler and cooler with ice. You want to make sure your catch meets the legal limit.   

Fish in the Surf

If you didn’t get enough angler action from your time spent crabbing, try your hand at fishing in the surf. You will need a special saltwater fishing license and obey catch limits. Check with the park for current rules and regulations. Fishing can provide a great way to bond with friends and family, and you’ll have the chance to catch your dinner. You can’t get much fresher than that.

Go on a Hike or Bike Ride

Assateague Island has many paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails to enjoy during your visit. Many offer boardwalks, which can be fun for hikers of all ages. For those looking for a longer one, you can take the 7.5-mile service road hike. Those who don’t want one so long can enjoy hikes as short as a quarter of a mile. If wandering a beach is more your thing, you have 37 miles of beach to walk along. 

Additionally, feel free to hop on your bike and take a beautiful cruise on the island. Don’t have a bike? You can rent one from Assateague Outfitters.

People riding their bikes along the water while on their Assateague Island Camping trip.

About Assateague Island Camping

If you’d like to enjoy Assateague Island camping, you’re in luck! You have a few great options when it comes to pitching a tent or bringing along your RV.

Oceanside Drive-In Campground

Oceanside Drive-In campground is an excellent Assateague Island camping option. You can pitch a tent or bring your RV. The wild horses wander the area frequently, so you have a good chance one will happen to find themselves hanging out with you at your site. What a unique experience that you’ve likely not encountered before. Additionally, some sites have direct beach access. 

The campground has no hookups available, so you will need to be prepared for a dry camping experience. However, you do have access to water, toilets, a shower, and a dump station. Sites come standard with a picnic table and a fire ring. Campsites cost $30 a night. 

Bayside Drive-In Campground

Bayside drive-in campground also offers the thrilling experience of wild horses coming into your campsite. This seaside campground provides excellent views of the ocean as well. Both tenters and RVers will enjoy this Assateague Island camping experience. 

Bayside Drive-In Campground has no hookups, so you will want to be self-contained while camping here. You do have access to vault toilets for tent camping, or if you simply prefer to use them instead of your RV. You can use the nearby water and a dump station. Each site offers a picnic table and fire ring and costs $30 a night. 

Family Assateague Island camping.

Assateague Island Camping Regulations

You need to be aware of a few Assateague Island camping regulations to ensure a pleasant stay for everyone. These regulations ensure everyone can safely enjoy their time camping. Let’s take a look at a few rules to keep you in the know. 

Generator Use

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., which means no running generators. You may not use a generator at any time in the Oceanside walk-in campground or the Bayside Loop B. While you can idle your vehicle to charge batteries, you may not do so during quiet hours. Be sure you check the noise level on your generator as it may not exceed 60 decibels at 50 feet, measured on the A-weighted scale. 

Maximum Stay Length

Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days at Assateague Island. Additionally, there is a cumulative 28-day maximum limit between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  

Site Limits

You can only have six people at a drive-in site. You may have three tents, two registered motor vehicles, or one vehicle and an RV per site.

Six people may occupy walk-in sites, which have a limit of three tents and one vehicle. 

Camper parked beside the beach at Assateague Island.

Reservation Information

While reservations are not required, they are strongly encouraged between March 15 and November 15. These campgrounds are often booked solid during these months, making walk-in availability limited. You can make reservations online up to six months ahead of the day of check-in. 

Trash & Wastewater

Dispose of both gray and black wastewater at a designated dump station. It is prohibited to empty either tank onto the ground. You’ll find a dump station located near the Oceanside Drive-In campground. 

There are dumpsters provided throughout the park for campers. You must properly dispose of trash in the dumpsters and not leave it at the campsite.  

A Wild Experience

Those looking for the unique experience of wild horses up close and great ocean views will love Assateague Island camping. Have you had the opportunity to visit this park? What tips would you share with a first-timer?

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