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Young girls and boys, former and current, with their noses in horse books, may be familiar with the infamous tale of Misty of Chincoteague. The well-known pony was rounded up from the wild of Assateague Island, MD, and brought to Chincoteague Island, VA. Of course, this is a fictional account of a true story, but the magical allure of these ponies and Assateague Island is very much real. Consider booking an RV rental to Assateague Island National Seashore, where sea salt coats the breeze and wild ponies roam with ocean water bloated bellies.
Assateague Island, located within Berlin, MD boundaries, was actually connected to Fenwick Island before a fateful storm in August 1933 ripped an inlet between the southern end of Ocean City and what is now Assateague. Officially dedicated as a National Seashore in 1965, Assateague has a rich history but is most known for its feral equine inhabitants. The legend has it that the descendants of the current herds of ponies survived a shipwreck and swam ashore, though the more realistic account claims the ponies were just domestic ponies confined on the island by local residents. There is a fence along the Chincoteague and Assateague border that separates two herds. The Chincoteague herd is owned by the Chincoteague Fire Department and is auctioned off once a year to maintain population size, while the Assateague herd is considered wildlife and managed by the National Park Services. Take your camper rental on a slow drive through the islands for a sight you thought only for storybooks.
Assateague Island National Seashore really prides themselves on their wildlife management. There are paved and dedicated paths that’ll take you all around the island and adjacent to the water. Some roads are vehicular accessible, while others are meant for foot and bike travel. You should expect to come across the wild ponies, but remember they are not tame and not meant to be approached or touched, despite how tempting it might be. Other wildlife includes deer, seals, birds, and marine life.
There’s lots of fun to be had on the shoreline. Engage in shell collecting, shellfishing, and surf fishing, though some of the fishing may require a permit prior to casting your line. Swimming and surfing are allowed during the summer on lifeguard-protected beaches. To avoid run-ins with seaweed, take a canoe or kayak out on the water instead. Equipment rentals are seasonally available, or just pack your own in your rental RV.
Should you happen to be in the area during the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, you can witness the famous Chincoteague pony swim. Though the actual swim across the Assateague Channel is a mere three minutes or so, some 40,000+ visitors crowd the shores to watch. After the swim, check out the Chincoteague Carnival and view the ponies that were rounded up for auction.
Inland, Pocomoke State Forest is an inviting natural spot to pay a visit. The heavily forested 198-acre area has several hiking and mountain biking trails. The Pocomoke River runs through here and offers opportunities for fishing and canoeing.
This national seashore welcomes Assateague Island National Seashore campers with open arms, but with a few rules. There are no hookups of any kind available, and any firewood must be purchased locally. There are two drive-in sites that allow trailers and recreational vehicles. These sites include a picnic table and a fire ring. The overall facilities do include toilets, cold showers, and drinking water. It may be a little more on the rustic side, but you’ll be sleeping while waves are crashing, and ponies are whinnying.
The neighboring Chincoteague Island does offer three commercial campgrounds, including a KOA location. These are great options for those that really prefer the comfort of hookups, warm showers, and other facility extras on this RV rental trip.
Berlin, which is the town Assateague Island National Seashore, is a part of, has a few places worth visiting. While much of the focus is around the waterfront, visitors can try their luck at the Oceans Downs Casino or seek some thrills at the two Frontier Town parks (Western Theme Park and High Ropes Adventure Park). The younger crowd will enjoy Baja Amusements, an outdoor park, and arcade. Around town, there are a handful of historical sites and plenty of spots to stop for a bite to eat.
For a larger than life bit of fun, drive your RV rental a short ways to the resort town of Ocean City. The electric atmosphere is filled with amusement park vibes, a water park, and all the beach town knick-knack shops you could imagine. It is also home to a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum. Stroll down the scenic boardwalk at your leisure while you take in the sights, sounds, and smells.