Tips for Camping on the Beach at Assateague

Camping on the beach at Assateague is one of the most unique camping experiences you and your family can enjoy. Tent camping and travel trailer/RV camping are available at both the Maryland State and National Seashore parks right along the beach. However, remember that Assateague is a barrier island so there are some important things you should now before you go.

1. Plan for harsh conditions.

The wind on Assateague can be brutal, so you’ll need to come prepared with some extra gear. If you’re setting up a tent for your camping experience, one thing at the top of the list should be long tent stakes designed for sand. We also recommend keeping the high winds in mind while you’re packing, and be sure to have a good way to tie your items down.

Beach camping can be a great way to beat the heat in the Summer, but it’s important to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Even on a sunny day, the weather can change quickly. Storms roll in on the beach fast, so have a plan to get all of your camping gear packed up and stored in a dry area if you see dark clouds on the horizon. Even if there’s not rain in the forecast a few days before your arrival, we always recommend packing a light raincoat just in case.

2. Bring bug spray and protective gear.

As mentioned, Assateague is a barrier island that shares one side with the Atlantic Ocean and a beautiful ocean breeze and the other side with wetlands and marshes. Mosquitoes and other biting insects thrive in Marsh areas and hot, humid climates. The Summers at Assateague become a breeding ground for Mosquitoes, Ticks and Greenies.

While a good bug spray does help with relief, there’s a saying the locals planning a trip to Assateague know: “Winds from the West – Staying Home is Best. Winds from the East – Enjoy the Beach.” Check the wind direction. A western wind on a muggy summer day means that the green flies will be blowing in from the marshes. The mosquitoes typically stay off of the beach, but will descend once you are in the parking lots and if you decide to use the restrooms.

We recommend long pants and long-sleeved shirts when you are at your campsite during late June through late September, depending on the wind and the heat. Bring plenty of bug spray, but be mindful of what is recommended for small children. Finally, a screened-in tent that goes over your picnic table will make hosting your camp meals outdoors more enjoyable.

3. Bring plenty of firewood.

Both campgrounds require purchasing your firewood locally, but luckily there is no shortage of places nearby to stock up! While you can purchase from the camp stores, we recommend Assateague Market, Assateague Farm and Buck’s Place for close and easy access to firewood.

4. Be prepared for the horses.

We can’t promise they’ll make it to your campsite, but it does happen a lot. While they’re beautiful to witness in their salty surroundings, remember that these are wild animals. They have become accustomed to people since Assateague has grown so much in popularity over the past two decades, and their manners are lacking. We like to tell people to think of them as giant raccoons that will scavenge your food anytime – day or night.

If you’re eating any food outside of your tent or camper, keep an eye out and be prepared to pack it up and lock it up if the horses come within about 100 feet of you. They don’t tend to run up and bite or kick you to get to your food, however, they will walk right up to your picnic and force you out of the way. Once they see that there’s open food, it’s too late. Step away and call a ranger to assist. We’ve witnessed a large group of campers happily sit down to a large family-style feast only to have a group of horses descend on their table and ruin their dinner.

They can and will rummage through all of your bags, boxes and coolers to find all of your goodies and unfortunately, they will eat the bag along with the snack. Do your part to help “keep ’em wild” and make sure your food and water is stored in a locked location.

5. Pack the right gear.

In addition to the basic camping gear you would bring on any camping trip, there are a few things you need to pack for beach camping. These include:

  • A sturdy tent that can withstand wind and rain. We love this one for the price.
  • A beach mat or tarp to protect your tent from the sand
  • A good beach chair
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
  • A first-aid kit
  • A flashlight or headlamp. Many don’t realize how dark it can get on Assateague Island, especially if it’s a cloudy night or there’s no moon. If you need to use the restroom at night, you’re going to want a headlight!
  • Flip flops and water shoes

6. Be prepared for the sand.

There’s no getting around it, there’s going to be sand. A lot of sand. Be prepared for it by packing plenty of towels and clothes that you don’t mind getting sandy. You may also want to consider bringing a camping dustpan and brush to help you clean up your tent or camper.

7. Leave no trace.

It’s important to leave the beach as you found it. Pack out all of your trash, and be sure to follow the leave-no-trace principles. This means not disturbing the natural environment, and respecting the wildlife.

8. Camping with young children? Follow extra precautions.

Camping on the beach at Assateague is a great way for the whole family to relax and spend quality time together. There’s plenty of recreational activities beyond the beach including bike paths, kayak rentals, hiking trails and more. Of course, if you’re camping next to the ocean you’ll want to take a day to soak up the sun, enjoy the scenery, swim in the ocean, and build sandcastles!

Here are some additional tips for beach camping with kids:

  • Bring plenty of activities for kids to do. This could include sand toys, books, games, and puzzles.
  • Set up a designated area for kids to play. This will help to keep them safe and out of the way of other campers.
  • Be prepared for kids to get dirty, and keep in mind the shower situation. The National Seashore offers cold-water-only showers, so if your kids are sensitive to cold water, you may want to look at the State Park Camping.
  • Know where your kids are at all times, especially after the sun goes down. The proximity of your campsite to the ocean and having a bonfire right on the beach makes for a memorable experience for your entire family. However, it’s important to know that there are risks for young children around these activities. Teach your children to stay near your campsite and not go near the ocean without an adult to supervise, and teach them fire safety and how to keep a safe distance and act around the campfire.

8. Feel free to bring your furry friends along, but keep them with you at all times.

Note that in the State Park campground, pets are only allowed with registered campers in camp loops G, H, and I and adjoining beaches. In the National Seashore park, pets are permitted everywhere.

Here are some additional tips for beach camping with pets:

  • Make sure your pet is up to date on all of its vaccinations.
  • Bring a leash and a collar for your pet.
  • Keep your pet on a leash at all times, even when they are in the water.
  • Pick up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
  • Be aware of the wildlife in the area and make sure your pet does not disturb any animals.

Have you camped on the beaches of Assateague Island? What is your best tip for camping on the beach?

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