Assateague State Park: Take MD Route 50 East to Route 113 South (to Berlin). Turn east on Route 376 and travel 4 miles to MD 611. Turn right and drive 5 miles to the Visitors Center. Park here and ride over the bridge to Assateague Island.
Assateague National Seashore:
Trillions of grains of sand, eroded from Maryland's ancient Appalachian Mountains and deposited by the sea, have created the magical barrier island of Assateague.
The island consists of three major areas:
Assateague Island National Seashore:
Encompasses the entire island and adjacent bay areas, beginning just south of Ocean City, Maryland, and extending all the way down to Chincoteague, Virginia, some 37 miles long with the widest point being three miles accross.
Assateague State Park:
Managed by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service manages most of the remaining Maryland portion of the seashore.
Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge:
Virginia portion of the seashore, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Biking on Assateague is a great way to explore this 37 mile-long barrier island. Hiking and biking trails lead you from forest to marsh and along shallows and dunes. Assateague is most famous for its wild ponies. They have lived in the wild for at least two centuries and can often be seen by the road, on the trails, in the marsh, and on the beach. You may be tempted, but don't touch or try to feed these shaggy, friendly looking ponies; they have been known to bite and kick.
At least 44 species of mammals including deer, beaver, muskrat and 260 species of birds also live here. Bird-watching platforms provide a panoramic view of the marsh and its feathered visitors.
The island has 2 miles of ocean beach for swimming, beachcombing and sunbathing. The island's bayside offers visitors the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak. The beach is always changing due to the storms that effect this windswept barrier island. The cool sea breezes and that plunge into refreshing ocean waters make Assateague the perfect place to relax after biking. During the summer it can get crowded but it takes only a 15-minute walk to find yourself alone on an undeveloped (and unguarded) beach. Other facilities include a boat launch, nature programs, camp store, dumping station, food & beverages, fishing, swimming and nature center.
First-time visitors should stop at the visitor centers to obtain information about the recreational activities and nature programs offered. Bicycle rentals are available seasonally at the Bayside picnic area.
Beware of biting insects. They shouldn't be much of a problem daytime on the beach with an ocean breeze. Toward dusk when the breezes subside is a different story. Bring an effective insect repellent. To avoid the island's mosquitoes and biting flies, consider visiting Assateague in the fall. After Labor Day the biting insects are all but gone. The weather is also usually mild at this time of the year.
Assateague Island Bike Trails:
Even though the riding is on paved bike paths, this is a special, magical place to bike, for those who enjoy biking and observing wildlife.
Cyclists can travel to Assateague Island via a bridge exclusively for bicycles and pedestrians located near the Visitor's Center. The bridge leads to a bike path that travels through 4 miles of island habit from the pedestrian-bike bridge parking lot over the bridge, and continues along Bayberry Drive and Oceanside Campground Road.
Bicyclists must use caution if riding on Old Ferry Landing Road and Bayside Road. Bicycles are not permitted on the nature trails in Maryland, however lock-ups for bikes can be found near the camping and nature trails, as well as at the entrances to both parks. This makes it easy to hop off your bike and explore the side nature trails on foot.
For those road bikers looking for a longer excursion, you can ride from Ocean City to the island. A 3 1/2 mile paved bike route now leads from Route 611 to Assateague and through the parks. The more adventurous cyclist may appreciate the 9 mile trek from Ocean City's inlet area following Route 50 west to Route 611, and then south to Assateague Island.
Note: The bike trails at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge can only be accessed from the Virginia side of the Island.
The Wild Horses
The ‘wild’ horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state.
Despite the often told tale of the horses swimming to Assateague from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon, the most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.
Today's horses are actually the size of ponies (average 12-13 hands) probably due to their poor diet and harsh environment. Almost 80% of their diet is coarse salt marsh cord grass and American beach grass.
For more information:
TTY Users: Maryland Relay at 800-735-2258 or 711 (AT&T National Relay Service)
Assateaque Island National Seashore
Phone: 410-641-1441 (Maryland District Visitor Information)
Assateague State Park