Beach Or Bay? National Seashore Camping At Assateague Island MD
Spelling Assateague is a challenge. Camping at Assateague Island National Seashore? No brainer. Go. Whether you’re camped on the beach or the bayside, there’s nowhere else in the National Park System quite like Assateague for range of night-time and day-time fresh-air activities (abled, disabled, 0-120 years).
What’s that about the National Park Service? Yup: Assateague is on their list. That means free entry for 62+ and 50% off camping sites, if you’ve figured out how to Make The Most Of Your National Park Senior Pass (on a budget). Woohoo! You can get a whole lot of 24/7 beach fun with those prices.
Car camping first-timers
If you’ve never been car camping before, Assateague National Seashore is an ideal place to start a budget-vacation habit. The campground facilities are basic, but there’s lots to do, reasonable weather, camp hosts, and the spots are level enough for a decent night’s sleep.
Where is this little camping adventure?
Which could take a few nights, by the way…
Boot up your Google, Apple, Road Trip Planner apps…..See where Assateague Island National Seashore is on the map? We’re talking the Maryland, northern, half of the island. Not to be confused with the southern, Virginia, half of the island, which is a wondrous place to visit as well.
Just so you know….Assateague Island camping is on the more expensive side when compared with other National Park Service campgrounds.
But we can’t talk about facilities until we’ve talked about horses
Assateague Island National Seashore has wild horses everywhere: by the roads, on the beach, in the bushes. That means maybe in your campsite too, if you hate wild horses or can’t restrain yourself from feeding them (which would be very bad for the horses), overnights here will not be your kind of thing.
Back to the camping at Assateague
The hardest choice you may face is what kind of camping you’d like to do. Yes, there’s boat-in backcountry camping, and walk-in camping right on the beach. But there are 2 car camping areas that offer completely different experiences from one another. One’s at the beach, the other is next to the bay.
Oceanside, bayside, oceanside, bayside, eeny meeny miny mo…..
How will you know (or guess) which might work out best for you?
A little list might be helpful?
Don’t plan on camping at Assateague beachside in mid-winter. Heck, would you even want to? Muddy Boots can testify that at least one of the bayside loops, however, is open year round.
When the northeast was at 20 below one January, Assateague was a balmy 50. No freezing water bottles, Michelin Man puffy jackets, or fuzzy boots. Ahh….The night was full of stars, with a view over the bay to twinkling lights on the mainland. Magical. Until it rained…poured…
Do you mind sand on your dog and in your dinner? Would you like to see the sun rise over the ocean? Or maybe you’d appreciate your beauty’s sleep? Rambunctious or more sedate?
The mosquitoes have a reputation for being prodigious at when you’re camping at Assateague. Check the rumor mill for bug season. From hearsay, the bayside campsites are buggier than the beachside campsites owing to differences in vegetation, breezes, etc.
Camp host? Muddy Boots was stunned to find that the bayside camp area has a camp host even in January! This might not be true for you, but the campground always feels safer when there’s a resident camp host.
One more option and it might be an important deciding factor….
The Assateague Island National Seashore abuts Assateague State Park, which also features a large campground (with hot showers).
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with Maryland State Park fees for seniors. The discounts look promising, but Muddy Boots has no personal experience with the Maryland State Park system.
Some words to the wise. about camping at a beach…
Anticipate that you’ll have to be creative in tying down your tent and picnic shelter to prevent them from going airborne. Stakes easily pull out of sand. You could try old gallon water jugs filled with water to weigh down the corners. You may be able to bury them, too. Whatever your method, bring plenty of paracord in case you have to improvise.
Bring shade. If you don’t have a purpose-built shelter, see if you can make use of the alternatives at 3 Tarps And A Tip: How To Camp And Stay Dry.
Assateague is great for intermingling camping and exercise….
Walking, biking, kayaking, flying a kite, running on the beach, bird watching…
Beginner tips for car camping:
Photo credits. All Public Domain courtesy NPS at National Park Service site for Assateague Island National Seashore, except 3 Honda Elements Beach Camping at Assateague: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Dean Wissing via Flickr.