Complete Guide to Camping At The Assateague Island National Seashore (With Wild Horses!)

As full-time RVers, we have camped all over the U.S. and Canada alongside amazing scenery. One of the most special places we have ever camped is with the roaming wild horses at the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Camping at Assateague Island National Seashore offers large spacious RV sites steps from the beach where you can live as one with the bands of auburn and white horses that also call this National Park home.

Ready for a truly unique camping experience on the Maryland Coast? We have compiled everything you need to know about camping at the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Get ready to plan a camping trip you won’t soon forget!

About Assateague Island National Seashore

Three horses grazing in the sand next a camper set up in the Oceanside campground at the Assateague Island National Seashore
You can expect to share your campsite with the horses at the Assateague Island National Seashore

Located off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, the Assateague Island National Seashore is a barrier island that not only offers a beautiful stretch of beach along the Atlantic Ocean but also unique opportunities to camp with some special wildlife.

Spanning over 41,000 acres and 37 miles in length, at the Assateague Island National Seashore you can witness the first steps of the season’s new foals, catch Osprey fishing in the waters surrounding the island, and stroll along miles of bright white sand. Wildlife photography is one of the best things to do in the park!

Loved by 2 million visitors each year and with no shortage of outdoor activities to explore, the Assateague Island National Seashore is the perfect destination for your next camping trip.

  • Entrance Fees (National Park Passes Accepted)
    • Maryland:
      • Vehicle: $25.00 – 7 Days
    • Virginia:
      • Vehicle: $10.00 – 1 Day – Available only at Virginia Entrance Station
      • Vehicle: $25.00 – 7 Days

About The Assateague Island Horses

Two auburn horses mouthing each other in the sand at the Assateague Island National Seashore
The horses in the park are wild – keep a safe distance. We saw multiple fights while we were visiting and they moved fast!

Known as the “wild” horses, the horses that roam along this tiny barrier island are most likely feral animals; descendants of domesticated animals that have reverted to their wild state.

Although the dramatic folklore (similar to the horses of the Outer Banks) that they swam to shore from a shipwreck, is a pretty fun origin story as well!

The horses are split into two herds, one on the Virginia side (in Chincoteague) and one on the Maryland side of Assateague.

The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd while the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia herd (often referred to as the Chincoteague ponies), which is allowed to graze on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

A mother horse cleaning its foal while it feeds in front of a vehicle at the Assateague Island National Seashore
This foal was born the day we arrived at Assateague Island National Seashore

Camping with these majestic and resilient animals is such a special experience…and also comes with great responsibility. Human food can make the horses of the Assateague Island National Seashore extremely sick and cause them to walk along roadways in search of food, leading to death due to car accidents.

Be sure to give the horses plenty of space and never leave food or coolers out unattended to help keep them safe! Each campsite picnic table does come with a locked storage container underneath to keep food items away from horses.

when to visit

A female in a pink shirt and black shorts sitting on the edge of a pier overlooking the water on the bayside of the Assateague Island National Seashore
Even in April, we were able to enjoy the park in shorts and T-shirts
  • Best for mild weather and smaller crowds: Spring or Fall
  • Best for beachgoers who don’t mind large crowds and long lines: Summer

The best time to visit and camp at Assateague Island is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the island’s natural beauty is in full bloom.

In spring, from April to June, temperatures are pleasant, and migratory birds grace the island with their presence. We had perfect conditions during our visit in April and were even lucky enough to see the first foal of the season, just the day after it was born.

Fall, from September to October, brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. These seasons offer ideal conditions for outdoor activities like hiking, birdwatching, and beachcombing, and provide a quieter experience compared to the busy summer months.

Summer is popular for beachgoers, but does bring more heat (which can be less than ideal for camping, especially due to the fact that all campgrounds are primitive sites without any electric hook-ups) and larger crowds with increased visitors.

READ MORE: Beginner’s Boondocking Guide: Live Well In Wild Places

Getting To Assateague Island

A young horse walking with its father through a campsite at the Assateague Island National Seashore

Driving Directions

Accessible by car, the most common approach is through the entrances of Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland or Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

If driving to Assateague from eastern Virginia, you will most likely be routed over the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay-Bridge tunnel. While it is understandable if this seems nerve-wracking, this is completely doable with an RV…and has been done successfully by RVs many times before!

There is a southern entrance into Assateague Island via Chincoteague Virginia, but there is no direct route to the Assateague Island National Seashore from here and there is no camping available in the Virginia district (although it is still worth a visit during your stay)!

Tips For Crossing The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel With An RV:

  • You will be required to turn off all propane before traveling over the bridge and through the tunnel
  • The toll charge starts at around $21 for a one-way trip. With our four axles, we paid $37. You can see pricing here
  • The bridge can be closed due to weather and winds (over 40 mph). Stay alert to conditions and plan for extra time on your travel day, just in case!
  • The height clearance of the tunnel is 13’6″
  • Have your sunglasses off and headlights on when entering the tunnel

Local Airports

If you plan to fly into the area, there are a few airports to choose from:

  • Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport (SBY) in Maryland = 30 miles (35 minute drive)
  • Norfolk International Airport (ORF) in Virginia = 100 miles away (2 hour drive)
  • Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington DC (DCA) = 150 miles away (2.5-3 hour drive)

RV Rentals

Want to camp at the Assateague Island National Seashore, but don’t have an RV of your own? Consider renting one through a private owner through RV Share (which gives you the most flexibility and choices when it comes to RV type).

Or consider renting one through a larger private company such as Cruise America.

Once on the island, you can explore by car, bicycle, or on foot with ease.

Camping At Assateague Island National Seashore

A new foal prancing in front of a bright orange tent in a Bayside campsite at Assateague Island National Seashore

Camping At Assateague Island National Seashore is the best of camping up close and personal with wildlife, while also being a great beach camping experience.

For more privacy and a laid-back feel, opt for the Bayside campground. This has quick access to the Sinepuxent Bay that is perfect for watersports including kayaking or paddleboarding while still only being a short walk or bike ride from the beach on the Atlantic side. We found this campground to be quieter and less windy than the Oceanside sites. Some sites are even waterfront on the bay!

If you want to be in more open spots just over the dunes from the beach and don’t mind being right in the center of the beach action, check out the Oceanside Drive-In campsites.

Here is a complete rundown of the different camping options in the park:

Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds

Campers and RVs camping at the Oceanside Drive-In sites at the Assateague Island National Seashore
Oceanside campsites are much sandier and less private but are just steps from the beach
  • Oceanside Drive-in: Primitive sites for tents, trailers, and RVs (no hookups). Sites have a picnic table and a fire ring. Cost = $40/ night.
  • Oceanside Walk-in: Tent-only sites with fire pits and picnic tables, located 100-200 feet from a designated parking area with associated site numbers. Walk-in sites are closed from November 16 through March 14. Cost = $40/ night.
Two horses grazing in a campsite in front of a large fifth wheel camper
We loved sharing our Bayside campsite with the horses for 14 nights!
  • Bayside Drive-in:  Primitive sites for tents, trailers, and RVs (no hookups). Sites have a picnic table and a fire ring. A Drive-In “Generator-Free Zone” is located in Bayside B Loop. Sites can be reserved year-round, up to 6 months in advance. Cost = $40/ night.
  • Group Camping: Organized clubs and affiliated groups must use group campsites. Tent-only sites, located 100-200 feet from the centralized parking area. Sites have multiple picnic tables and fire rings with grills. Group campsites can be reserved year-round, up to 6 months in advance. Cost = $80/night per site.
  • Horse Camp: There are 2 campsites for horse camping available October 16 through April 14. Each site accommodates up to 6 people and 6 horses. Sites have picnic tables, fire rings with grills, and hitching posts. Cost = $80/night per site and sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.

If you are interested in backcountry camping (including paddle-in sites) you can learn more about that here.

Fresh Water, Dump Stations, & Generator Use

A foal investing a gas generator at a campsite on the Assateague Island National Seashore

While all of the campsites at Assateague Island National Seashore are primitive (no water, electric, or sewer hookups) the park does have water available for filling tanks, and a dump station available at both the Bayside and Oceanside campgrounds.

Generator use is prohibited in Bayside Loop B as well as the Oceanside walk-in and group camping sites 24 hours a day.

Campers in Bayside loops A and C or the Oceanside Drive-In loops can use generators outside of the established quiet hours of 10 pm to 6 am.

Camping Reservations

A brown and white foal investing a firepit at a campsite on the Assateague Island National Seashore

Being a popular park with a unique and sought-after camping opportunity, we highly recommend booking in advance. This is especially true if you plan to visit during the peak summer months!

Reservations are required from March 15 through November 15. Campsite reservations are available six months in advance.

Check-in time is 12 noon and check-out time is 11 am EST and camping is limited to 14 consecutive days with a 28-day cumulative max.

Assateague Island National Seashore is a very popular camping area! The NPS website states “Be aware that nearly all reservations for weekends are filled the first day that they become available.” Be sure to book early.

We recommend booking campsites 6 months out to the day, at the hour sites are released, if possible.

To make reservations: Call the toll-free reservation line: 1-877-444-6777 (10:00 AM – 10:00 PM EST) or online at

If you don’t have luck reserving a campsite at the Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds, try reserving a campsite at nearby Assateague State Park, right outside the National Seashore boundaries.

What To Pack

A new foal walking with its parents through a campground toward a black Jeep

A few items you won’t want to forget for your trip to Assateague Island:

This list contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Assateague Island Camping Rules & Tips

A curious brown foal investigating a blue and brown campchair
The horses are curious! It is important to protect them by not leaving anything out that could harm them

Just a heads up about some rules and helpful tips based on what we learned during our 2 week stay camping at the Assateague Island National Seashore:

  • No firewood from out-of-state allowed; there is plenty of local firewood available for purchase
  • Stay at least 40 feet away from the horses at all times. Visitors observed to be 40 feet or closer to a wild horse may be subject to a minimum fine of $100.00. Touching, feeding, or enticing Assateague horses is illegal.
  • During the spring season on our visit, we saw an extremely high amount of ticks. Wear long socks and pants, wear bug spray, and be extremely. We pulled several ticks off of our dog as well so be sure to pay close attention to your pets and make sure they are protected with flea and tick medication or devices.
  • In camping loops where generators are allowed (Bayside Loops A & C and Oceanside Drive-In sites), generator use is to be kept between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm.
  • Horses will wander through and around campsites. Never leave food out unattended and be sure to put coolers away. Drive slowly through the park and always give the horses space and the right of way!
A small brown and white foal following its mother in he middle of the road at Assateague Island National Seashore
It is common to encounter horse traffic jams in the park

Things To Do While Camping At Assateague Island National Seashore

An auburn horse walking toward a blue bicycle in front of the Sinepuxent Bay in Maryland
  • Chincoteague Pony Swim: On the last Wednesday of July, the Virginia herd of horses is rounded up and swum from Assateague Island to nearby Chincoteague Island. On the following day, most of the young foals are auctioned off. Proceeds from the sale benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.
  • OSV Permits: Obtain an Assateague Island National Seashore OSV Permit to drive onto the beach for camping under the stars or surf fishing
    • An OSV Permit allows 24-hr access to the Maryland OSV zone. Permit holders must be actively fishing from midnight to 5 am. Allows access during Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hours to the Virginia OSV zone. Cost = $110
    • Bullpen Permit allows overnight camping (Maryland only) for self-contained/hard-sided vehicles with approved toilet and permanently installed waste-water storage tanks capable of holding two (2) days’ volume of waste. Cost = $200
  • Play Golf: There are a few local courses nearby including Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, Ocean City Golf Club, and Eagle’s Landing Golf Course. We loved our round along the water at Rum Pointe!
  • Walk around downtown Berlin. We had great food at the Sterling Tavern, the Island Creamery, and Pop’s Kitchen
A boardwalk trail over marsh and water at the Assateague Island National Seashore
The boardwalk at the Life of the Marsh Nature Trail
  • Hike Assateague Island’s Trails: Check out the Life Of the Marsh Nature Trail, Life Of The Forest Nature Trail, The Old Ferry Landing, and the Life Of The Dunes Trail
  • Enjoy the beach or water sports: We loved kayaking along the channels of the park adorning Sinepuxent Bay. Canoes and kayaks can be rented seasonally from Assateague Outfitters at the Bayside Rental Stand. We even saw a few people kiteboarding!
  • NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center: Learn about NASA operations at this rocket launch facility
  • Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (the Virginia side of Assateague Island): Visit the North Pony Corral and South Pony Corral and the Pony Overlook (to see the horses), the Assateague Lighthouse, the Toms Cove Visitor Center, and Assateague and Chincoteague Beaches. Some of the top trails in this section are the Bivalve Trail, the Marsh Trail, the Woodland Trail, and the Wildlife Loop
Three horses grazing behind a fence in Chincoteague
The horses in Chincoteague are kept behind fenced-off areas of the wildlife refuge
  • Hop on your bike to explore! We loved riding through the park and across the Verrazano Bridge to the Assateague Island National Seashore Visitor Center.
  • Visit Rackliffe House: Restored 18th-century coastal plantation house overlooking Sinepuxent Bay
  • Take a trip to Ocean City, walk along the beach boardwalk, and don’t forget to have some Maryland crab!
A colorful Ferris wheel across a stretch of beach in Ocean City Maryland
One night we went for a stroll along the boardwalk in Ocean City


Use the map below to explore all that Assateague Island National Seashore and the surrounding areas have to offer and start planning your perfect itinerary for your camping trip to Assateague!

A couple and their brown down smiling on the beach on the bay side of the Assateague Island National Seashore
We loved our stay camping at the Assateague Island National Seashore!

Looking for other great camping trips on the East Coast Of The U.S. & Canada?

Some of the links on Fulfilling Travel are affiliate links. We may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase, contributing to the site's upkeep while ensuring our travel recommendations remain freely accessible. Read our disclosure policy to learn more.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *