Located along the eastern coast of the Delmarva Peninsula, Assateague Island is a 37-mile-long barrier island jointly incorporated as part of the states of Maryland and Virginia, featuring several national and state seashores, wildlife refuges, and park areas.

1. History

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Throughout its history, the structure of Assateague Island has changed dramatically due to the movement of littoral zone sand. Prior to 1933, the island was connected to nearby Fenwick Island, but that year’s Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane created an inlet and separated the land area that now encompasses Assateague, separating it from nearby Ocean City, Maryland. Modern human occupation of the land of Assateague Island dates back to the mid-19th century, with the establishment of small communities such as Green Run and Assateague Village, primarily inhabited by fishermen and workers with the United States Life-Saving Service, a predecessor of the United States Coast Guard. Though Green Run offered a resort hotel that served as a popular tourist destination throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, by the 1920s, the population of both villages had declined significantly.

Following the 1933 Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane, a permanent fortified network of artificial jetties was installed to preserve the newly-created inlet as a navigational waterway. In 1943, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was developed by the State of Virginia, and in 1956, a two-mile portion of the island was developed by the State of Maryland as Assateague State Park. Throughout the 1950s, plans were embarked on to create a new resort town on the island called Ocean Beach, with proposals laid out for affordable housing, commercial zones, public visitor amenities, and coastal highways. However, the damage caused by the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 illustrated that the island was too vulnerable to storm damage for the creation of permanent commercial and housing structures. In 1965, much of the island’s land was purchased by the federal government for the creation of Assateague Island National Seashore.

2. Attractions

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Today, Assateague Island is jointly incorporated as part of the states of Maryland and Virginia, with the southern third of the island located in Virginia and the northern two-thirds located in Maryland. The island’s land is owned in part by the National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maryland State Parks agencies. It remains the largest natural barrier island region in the Mid Atlantic that is primarily undeveloped and preserved as natural wilderness area. As of 2006, no private property or residences are maintained on the island. More than one million annual visitors come to the island’s natural facilities, which offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor visitor activities such as swimming, surfing, kayaking, and wildlife watching.

41,346 acres of the island’s land and surrounding waters are protected as part of Assateague Island National Seashore, which is open to the public year-round. The 14,000-acre Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is open seasonally and primarily located on the island’s Virginia side, with a small portion entering the Maryland side. 800 acres on the island’s Maryland side are also preserved as Assateague State Park, which contains most of the island’s developed visitor facilities and amenities.

More than 320 species of birds are found on the island, including great blue herons, American oystercatchers, snowy egrets, and the threatened piping plover. The island is best known for its feral horse population, referred to as the Assateague horse in Maryland and the Chincoteague pony in Virginia. The species’ classification as a horse or pony species is disputed due to its small size and horse phenotype, with some scientists arguing that the horses remain small due to environmental conditions rather than genetic ones. The horses may have evolved from domesticated ancestors aboard a shipwrecked Spanish galleon, though some believe that they were colonial horses allowed to run wild. In the 20th century, the horses gained public notoriety due to the children’s book Misty of Chincoteague and now serve as popular tourist attractions and photography subjects. Maryland populations are managed by the National Park Service, while Virginia populations are overseen by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

Two National Parks Service visitor centers are maintained throughout the island, including the Toms Cove Visitor Center, which is located within Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. A variety of exhibits are housed within the center, including an exhibit focusing on beachcombing. At the Assateague Island Visitor Center, daily showings of a documentary on the island’s wild horse population are offered periodically. Both facilities feature a marine aquarium with a touch tank, an Eastern National bookstore, and visitor amenities and serve as a trailhead for regularly-scheduled visitor educational programming. Campfire sites, fishing passes, and over-sand vehicle permits may be reserved at the Toms Cove Visitor Center.

A variety of hiking trails are offered throughout the island, including the 3 ¼-mile Wildlife Loop, the 1 ½-mile Woodland Trail, and the mile-long Black Duck Marsh Trail. Paved bicycle paths are offered on both the Maryland and Virginia sides, connecting the island with the mainland. A 12-mile area within the Maryland side permits over-sand vehicles, and many water areas allow canoeing and kayaking. Lifeguarded beach areas are provided throughout the summer months on both the Maryland and Virginia sides of the island. Other popular visitor activities include surfing, surf fishing, shellfishing, and shell collecting. 350 campsites are offered within Assateague State Park, with car camping permitted by reservation within the National Seashore.

3. Ongoing Programs and Education

Ongoing Programs and Education
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A variety of educational programming is offered by the National Seashore, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students. Ranger-led programming is offered for visitors of all ages, including family and children’s educational programming related to barrier island ecosystems. A Junior Ranger program is also offered, presenting young park visitors with certificates and badges for completion of park activities.

7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin, MD 21811, Phone: 410-641-1441

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More Ideas in MD: Saint George Island

Located in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, Saint George Island is an unincorporated community that was the site of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War, offering a variety of camping, dining, cultural, and outdoor experiences today.


Saint George Island, located off the coast of Piney Point, Maryland bordered by the Potomac and Saint Mary’s Rivers, is best known as the site of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War, which occurred on July 17, 1776 and took place between British forces led by 4th Earl of Dunmore John Murray and Maryland Flying Camp militia forces led by Captain Rezin Beall. Maryland forces were able to successfully defend the island against the invading British forces and prevent further invasion of the mainland. During the early part of the 18th century, the island was opened for settlement by the Roman Catholic Church, who had owned the island since the early days of European colonization of North America. Settlers migrating to the island during this time included settlers from nearby Smith Island.

Throughout the War of 1812, the island was occupied by British forces, who burned all of its structures and took slaves among the local population. Throughout the 19th century, the island became known as a secluded summer resort area for prominent figures from nearby Washington, D.C., serving as a frequent retreat for American presidents between James Monroe and Harry Truman. In the mid-19th century, a lighthouse was constructed at nearby Piney Point, the first of 11 of its kind to be constructed along the Potomac River by the United States government. The island served as a hotbed for bootlegging activity during American Prohibition, and during World War II, the island was used as a torpedo testing range.


Today, Saint George Island is an unicorporated community and census-designated place within Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, offering a variety of campsites, dining establishments, and natural attractions. The island is connected to nearby Piney Point, which services its postal mail and offers a variety of historic and cultural attractions, by a bridge accessible from Maryland Route 249. The island offers a taste of traditional Tidewater area culture, offering tourist attractions within a traditional fishing and oystering community environment.

The island is best known for its Ruddy Duck Seafood and Ale House, a branch of the Ruddy Duck Brewery and Grill Restaurant on nearby Solomons Island. The restaurant offers a variety of award-winning beers brewed at the Solomons location, along with classic seafood-focused fare such as Maryland crab cake sandwiches. All seafood served is locally-sourced and served as fresh as possible, with some dishes prepared the same day as seafood is caught. Views of the surrounding Potomac River and Saint George’s Creek are offered from the restaurant’s bar and casual dining area, and a tap room area offers a large gas fireplace. Nightly specials and local music performances are also offered regularly. Other restaurants in the region include the Reluctant Navigator at Tall Timbers Marina and Chief's, which is known for its southern Maryland stuffed ham dishes.

Nearby, the Saint George Island Inn and Suites, an Ascend Collection boutique hotel, offers water views from balconies with every room rental. Other room amenities include flat-screen televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, high-speed wireless internet, and free use of hotel bikes, fire pits, and fishing piers. On the south end of the island, Camp Merryelande offers camping and resort accommodations, featuring beachfront cottages with full kitchens and forested campsites. Some cottages can accommodate up to 24 visitors. Camp facilities include a tiki bar, picnic tables, fire rings, a fishing pier, and volleyball court. Concierge camping is offered at the campsite, with tent bedding and amenities set up in advance of visitor arrival. Regular special events are also offered, including a Cinco de Mayo beach party, a blues festival, and karaoke events.

The island is an ideal site for cyclists, offering a flat terrain and spectacular views of the surrounding Potomac and Saint Mary’s Rivers. Nine miles of shoreline extend around the island for visitors wishing to explore the region by canoe or kayak, with water trails extending from nearby Piney Point. Canoe and kayak rentals are offered for island visitors at the Saint George Island Inn. More than 500 miles of waterways are offered throughout the region, including guided water trails throughout Saint Mary’s County.

Nearby attractions in Piney Point include the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum, which preserves the historic Piney Point Lighthouse and offers a variety of museum exhibits focusing on the lighthouse’s operation by the United States Coast Guard and during American military conflicts. The museum’s Potomac River Maritime Exhibit, housed nearby, showcases four historic wooden vessels, including the Joy Parks skipjack, the Dorothy A. Parsons bugeye, a historic log canoe, and a Potomac River dory boat. A variety of restaurants and campground accommodations are also offered throughout the Piney Point area.

More Ideas in MD: National Harbor

Visiting the National Harbor in beautiful and historic Maryland is an experience that can take multiple days to allow for time to see and do everything. From water taxis, Ferris wheels, and carousels to dining, arts and shopping, the Harbor is a great place to spend vacation time. Although the Harbor has not been open for long, it has made a lasting impact on the local community.


A great combination of leading shops, hotels, and entertainment combined with the scenic background that is the Potomac River makes this massive, sprawling complex sit firmly on top of its competitors when it comes to fun, diverse offerings, and accessibility. There is even a hotel on sight for visitors who want to spend more than one day.

Permanent Attractions

Capital Wheel - This breathtaking Ferris wheel soars riders 180 feet into the sky and over the Potomac River. Tickets are available for purchase on site, allowing guests to see all the beautiful sights available from the top of the wheel: the Washington Monument, National Cathedral, and more. Also make sure to visit the recently opened outdoor bar and lounge, aptly named the Flight Deck.

Carousel - An exciting piece of nostalgia for riders of all ages, the carousel is a 36-foot masterpiece featuring a wide variety of make-believe creatures sure to please everyone. There is a small additional cost to ride, but the area surrounding the carousel also houses a playground and toddler specific play area.

Farmer’s Market - Hosted every Saturday and Sunday from May to October, at American Way, this farmer’s market hosts a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked items, and other goods.

Water rentals - For guests wanted to get out on the Potomac, the Harbor offers a variety of water rentals. Kayaks, stand up paddleboards, pedal boats, with or without lessons, can be rental for a small fee on site. All rentals come with life jackets and paddles, so guests can be safe while having fun.

Art - There are a few art pieces located around the Harbor if visitors know where to look! One of the most visually impactful is The Awakening, a giant 70-foot sculpture of a human that appears to emerge from the sandy beach. Children are encouraged not only to touch but also to climb onto it. The Beckoning is another sculpture, one that greets guests as they enter the premises. Created by an award-winning sculptor, this stunning and colorful piece stretches 85 feet into the sky. There are also statutes of a few former presidents and historical figures located outside the Harbor - Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower, Churchill, Douglass, Rosie the Riveter, Louis Armstrong, etc.

Urban Pirates - One of the more fun offerings at the Harbor, this experience allows pirates of all ages to board a pirate ship and play pirates! The cruise lasts for 1.5 hours and guests can dress up, learn pirate lingo, fire water cannons, and even find hidden treasure!

Special Events

The Harbor offers many different special events throughout the year. There are holiday movies shown throughout November and December, as well as an official tree lighting ceremony. There are also multiple areas available for rent. Check out the East Pier waterfront tent venue, which can fit between 250 and 350 people and has hardwood floors and incredible views. There is also the new Harbor Dome, which can actually be moved to any area on Harbor premises! Known as a geodesic structure, one which is transparent and allows guests the feeling of being outside while allowing them the safety and temperature/climate control of being inside, the dome can hold up to 450 people. For those looking for an outdoor venue to hold a larger amount of people, the Plaza is available for rent. With a stage area, a jumbo TV screen that can run video or live TV, the Plaza can hold up to 3,000 people at a time and is great for music festivals or movie premieres.

Shopping and Dining

With over 160 different shops by the Tanger Outlet, there literally is something for everyone at the Harbor. Featuring nationally recognized brands like Adidas, H&M, Steve Madden, and Yankee Candle, it is easy to spend hours browsing! The Harbor also offers over 40 different dining options for every preference and budget. Grab some Ben and Jerry’s to help curb a sweet tooth or a burger at Johnny Rockets. There are plenty of different types of food, from fast food to sit down dining, to make everyone happy.

National Harbor, 165 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745, Phone: 877-628-5427

More Ideas in MD: Monocacy National Battlefield

The Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland is a national park that memorializes the site where, in 1864, Confederate States Army under General Robert E. Lee mounted an attack in Northern Maryland in an attempt to reach the capital in Washington D.C. Although the Confederate States Army was successful in this battle, the Union’s brave fighting bought time for more federal troops to arrive to defend Washington D.C., thus the Battle of Monocacy has become known as “the battle that saved Washington.” Permanent Collection

The 1,650-acre battlefield spans the Monocacy River in Frederick, Maryland. Several historic properties are located on site, and can be reached by walking tours or by car. The Worthington House on the Worthington Farm was built in 1851 and purchased by John T. Worthington in 1862. During the battle, the family hid in the boarded-up basement, while the home and yard was used as a temporary hospital. The Gambrill Mill, built in 1830, was purchased by James H. Gambrill in 1855. Union forces were stationed in the mill’s yard while the building was used as a field hospital. The mill is used today as national park offices. The Best Farm was originally a 750-acre plantation, which overlaps the National Battlefield. Approximately 250 acres of the farm are open to the public as part of the park today. Archeologists uncovered the remains of a large slave village at Best Farm between 2010 and 2011. In the 1800s, the farm was home to over 90 enslaved people. The ornate Gambrill Mansion, known as Edgewood, is used today as offices for the Historic Preservation Training Center. The Thomas House on the Thomas Farm was built in the late 1700s. The farm was purchased by Christian Keefer Thomas in 1860. By June of 1863, it was being used as Union Army headquarters. The farm saw some of the heaviest fighting during the Battle of Monocacy. Both the home and outbuildings were captured several times by Union and Confederate troops. Months after the battle, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant used the home as the site for strategy meetings to plan future Civil War battles. After the Civil War, the farm returned to its pre-war success and remained in the Thomas family through 1910. Currently, the Thomas house serves as the park headquarters.

The Visitor Center Museum at the Monocacy Battlefield National Park houses an archive, a library, and artifacts from the war. Researchers may access the archives by appointment. Exhibits display the details of the battle and contain Civil War artifacts. A viewing platform on the second floor of the visitor center provides an overview of the battlefield. Monuments are located throughout the park to memorialize specific battles and infantry units.


After the Civil War, the majority of the battlefield remained under private ownership for close to 100 years. Glen Worthington, who owned a large portion of the battlefield site, was the first to petition Congress, in 1928, to designate Monocacy as a National Military Park. It wasn’t until the 1970s, close to 50 years later, that the National Parks Service had the funds needed to acquire the land. Thomas Farm was acquired and added to the park in 2001. The battlefield was bisected by Interstate 270 in the 1980s, in what was considered a great loss for area preservationists. In 2013, Preservation Maryland added the battlefield to its list of threatened historic properties.

Ongoing Programs and Education

Daily ranger programs at the National Park operate seasonally between Memorial Day in May and Columbus Day in October. Programs include ranger hikes. The free hikes walk guests through the footsteps of the soldiers involved in the battle. Three separate hikes are stacked throughout the day, allowing visitors to choose one, or all three. Each hike is less than 2 miles. While the first hike of the day meets at the visitor center, the second hike meets at Worthington Farm, and the third at Thomas Farm. A driving tour is available for those who prefer not to walk. Stops along the 4-mile auto-route are highlighted by interpretive markers placed by the National Parks Service. A 20-minute battle orientation is a ranger-led talk that takes place daily at the visitor center. Rangers occasionally demonstrate artillery drills and infantry drills. Schedules are posted online or at the visitor center.

What’s Nearby

Monocacy National Park is flanked by several other historically significant battlefield sites. To the west is Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg Battlefield is located to the north, while Balls Bluff Battlefield is to the south.

5201 Urbana Pike, Frederick, MD 21704, Phone: 301-662-3515