I had always dreamed of visiting Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia since I heard all about it from some people I met many years ago. Another “bucket list” item. Assateague Island is the place where the children’s story, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, takes place. In the story, a family tries to raise a pony that was born to a wild pony on this island. During the summer, usually in July, wild ponies on the Southern tip of the island are rounded up and swim to Assateaugue Island. Here the ponies are auctioned off to control the size of the herd and to raise funds for the veterinary care of the ponies. This week-long event is a BIG deal, with over fifty thousand visitors from all around the United States and Canada. A short youtube clip below, by National Geographic, captures the excitements of the annual pony swim:
Of course I had to make the journey with my family to this special place, where you can camp among wild ponies, a few years back. What makes Assateague Island so wonderful, in part, is the availability of some campsites right on the beach. Imagine looking out your RV or tent only to find wild ponies walking through your campsite. It is magical and like nothing else I’ve experienced before. Part of the Island is managed by the National Park System, and part of the island is managed by the state park system. Camping is only available in the Maryland district of the island. Campsite reservations are required from March 15 until November 15, and the site below takes for reservations six months before then. Most weekends sell out quickly. From November 16 through March 14, campsites are first-come first-served . This is an experience for which you should plan ahead, as even the firewood needs to be purchased within fifty miles of the park.
National Park information can be found below:
Maryland State Park information can be found below:
There seems to be some difference of opinion as to how these wild ponies got to the island, but most say a Spanish Galleon with these ponies aboard sunk off the coast, and the ponies swam to shore.
If you are traveling with children, a stop to Ocean City Maryland, might be a good place for the kids to burn off some energy after being in the car. Ocean City, Maryland, has a lot of beaches and a wooden boardwalk with shops, restaurants, and hotels. There is also an amusement park there, at the Southern tip, called Trimper’s Rides. This is a historic themepark, which originally was opened in the 1890’s. It is under new management now, and there were plans to add at least nine more rides in 2020. I’m not sure what the status of this new expansion is, however, with the current Covid-19 situation. Normally, the park opens from Memorial Day until October, and there are both indoor and outdoor rides.
For a unique camping experience, consider camping on Assateague Island. For those of you who don’t wish to camp, you can drive through to see the wild legendary ponies that live there. Keep in mind, however, that both Assateague Island parks and Trimper Rides are currently closed because of the pandemic.
Enjoy a little unique travel to Assateague Island when the travel restrictions are lifted. This would be a great road trip when that happens and something for which to look forward.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….
You can read all about the annual “pony swim” week here: