Assateague Island is a unique barrier island found on the Atlantic Coast of the United States off of Maryland and Virginia.
The island was cut off from its northern neighbor, Ocean City, MD during the 1933 hurricane splitting the two and forming what we know today. The island is current dived up into three different parks. The Maryland side consists of Assateague Island State Park and the Assateague Island National Seashore. The Virginia side is the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Perhaps the Island is most famously known for the wild ponies that inhabit the island. They gained wide spread acclaim with the 1947 novel, Misty of Chincoteague, written by Marguerite Henry. A fictional account based on a real life wild pony.
Each summer the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies on the Virginia side of the island, auctions off the foals to keep the herd numbers controlled. Today, ponies and their descendants can be found all across the country. Pony Penning is a popular event each summer that attracts visitors from all over the world. Some come in hopes of bidding on their own pony and many come just for the experience of seeing the historic herd make thje swim to and from Assateague.
There are numerous accounts as to how the wild ponies originated on Assateague. Some of the most popular opinions are a Spanish galleon that wrecked off the coast and survivors swam ashore, or descendants of livestock owned by colonial farmers who let their horses run free on the island to escape paying taxes on them.
Each end of the Island houses a visitor center where visitors get a closer look at some of the other wildlife and creatures that live on the island and the local waterways.
Both Maryland and Virginia sides of the Island offer camping just off the beach. Each side of the Island also offer visitors in 4-wheel drive trucks sections of beach where they caan drive onto the beach and enjoy surf fishing.
On the Virginia side, the Chincotegue National Wildlife Refuge is home to the Assateague Island Lighthouse, a 142 foot tall tower built in 1867 that is still active.
The Maryland end of Island sits close by Ocean City, MD. A summer tourist haven similar to any beach town with all the amenities and attractions one would expect. The island also is nearby Berlin, MD. Berlin was recently named Americas Coolest Small Town. A town rich in history, was home to Stephen Decatur, war hero and Navy Commodore, and legendary racehorse Man O’ War. Berlin has been featured in several Hollywood films over the years featuring stars like Richard Gere and Julia Roberts among others.
The Virginia part of the Island can only be accessed by way of Chincoteague Island. Chincoteague is a small resort town and home to Pony Penning every July. The island houses a coast guard station. Rich in history itself, its home to many waterman and year-round residents. Before reaching Chincoteague, you pass Wallops Island NASA Facility that’s used to launch rockets that supply the International Space Station, and a nearby Naval Station, where former president George H. W. Bush spent time stationed. A NASA visitor center is located just outside of Chincoteague Island.
Take a video tour of Assateague Island here.