Oliver's Take on Assateague Island National Seashore

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We visited Assateague Island October 19, 2019. My mom wanted to see the Assateague Island Horses so we drove there when we were staying in Maryland. We stopped at the visitor center to learn about what we were going to see and things to do on Assateague Island National Seashore.

Island History

Assateague Island is a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Before settlers came, native people had lived in the area but not on the island. The English came to the area and didn’t get along and pushed the native people out. When the place started getting busy, they almost put a city on the island like they did at Ocean City which is close by. They didn’t do that and now part of it is a state park and part is a national park.

Visitor Center

The visitor center has two great movies. One about the history of the horses and one about the history of the island and how to preserve it. I learned that the island was shaped by the wind and the waves. I also learned that the horses grow big coats in the winter to stay warm. In the main area there is a cool touch pool with crabs and starfish. I liked the signs and activities, too.

Touchpool in Visitor Center at Assateague Island National Seashore.

The visitor center has a cool touchpool.

Where do wild horses live?

There are about 300 wild horses living on Assateague Island. They aren’t sure how they got there, but they think the horses were on a Spanish ship that sank and the horses swam to the beach. The horses are what makes this beach a lot different from all the other beaches we go to.

Woman posing for photo with wild Assateague beach horse in back.

Mom wanted to go see the horses. We stayed far back and Dad used a camera trick to make us seem closer.

One of the beautiful horses on Assateague.

One of the beautiful horses on Assateague.

What do wild horses eat?

I always love walking on the beach. We saw four horses right next to the beach looking for grass and flowers to eat. We made sure to keep our distance and stayed at least a bus length away which is what we were told to do to be safe and to keep the horses safe.

Other Stuff

There’s a few places to walk, but we had fun walking the boardwalk trail (Life of the Marsh Nature Trail) and seeing the salt-marsh area. We watched birds flying over our heads and saw a few fish in the water.

Nature boardwalk over costal swamp.

This nature boardwalk was cool.

Marshland at Assateague Island National Seashore.


Boy and Life of the Marsh Nature Trail

I really liked this walk through the marsh.

What else lives on the island? Frogs, birds, racoons (we saw tracks in the mud), deer (we saw them on the side of the road), fish in the marsh pond along the boardwalk trail, mosquitos, dragonflies, and blue crabs. It was really, really cool. Horseshoe crab tails are pretty amazing. They are pointy and sometimes look like saws. They are used like a walking stick for the crabs to help them balance. I also learned that seals visit the island during the winter.

The Beach

The day we went was sunny but with a little bit of cold wind. Then it got cloudy. Usually I like to go swimming whenever we are near water so even though I didn’t have my swim suit, I just jumped in with my normal clothes. There were people fishing at the beach. It must be a great place to fish!

We saw a lot of people camping right next to the beach. I want to come back and do that someday. I think it would be awesome to have a chance to stay right where the island horses live.

Boys playing in the ocean waves.

We love playing in the ocean.

Are wild horses extinct?

No! They are so cool to see in person. The ones on this island aren’t the only ones. We also saw some near Mesa, Arizona but I liked seeing them better at the beach.

Editor’s notes:

Where to camp near Assateague Island?

Our trip to Assateague was a day trip while we were staying at a Boondockers Welcome location about an hour away. There are a few options for Assateague Island camping. You can stay at Assateague State Park or Assateague Island National Seashore Campground. It looked like all the sites were primitive but maybe some of them have hookups. Also, if you head further down the Delmarva peninsula, south into Virginia, you can see more wild ponies at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge as well as a beautiful historic lighthouse.

If you can't go to Assateague, the National Park Service has some pretty cool online features to check out including an audio tour that we did for the Life of the Marsh Nature Trail

- Oliver

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