Located on the East Coast along the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland and Virginia, Assateague Island is the largest, natural barrier island ecosystem in the Middle Atlantic states region that remains predominantly unaffected by human development. The Virginia portion of the island is designated as the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the exception of 448 acres in the refuge’s Toms Cove area maintained by the National Park Service. These 448 acres are part of the Assateague Island National Seashore. The The Assateague State Park and the Assateague Island National Seashore are located on Assateague Island, MD.
This year marks our fourth visit to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Island National Seashore, located on Assateague Island, VA. We visited the Virginia portion of Assateague Island previously in 2011, 2015 and 2016. We had never visited Assateague Island, MD. That fact changed this year.
In my previous blog post it appeared that Saturday, March 31st, was a very lazy day. It wasn’t. Leaving Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, we decided to visit Assateague Island, MD. There are two entrances to Assateague Island. The island’s south entrance is at the end of Route 175, two miles east of Chincoteague, VA. The north entrance is at the end of Route 611, eight miles south of Ocean City, MD. There is no vehicle access between the two entrances on Assateague Island. Vehicles must return to the mainland to access either the north or south entrance.
It was a pleasant drive from the southern portion of Assateague Island to its northern end.
Our first stop in Maryland was at the Assateague Island Visitor Center. The visitor center is located on the right-hand side of Route 611, before the bridge that takes you onto Assateague Island. Inside the visitor center you will find information on Assateague Island, aquariums, a touch tank, a variety of exhibits and a small gift shop. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the visitor center. We looked at the fish in the aquariums.
This is a Sheepshead Fish.
Admission to Assateague Island National Seashore is $20.00, which is good for multiple days AND good as well at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. We didn’t have to pay the admission fee, as I purchased a National Park Service senior pass in February, when I turned 62 years old. On Friday at the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia I added the first stamp to our Passport to Your National Parks. I also purchased a page of souvenir stamps (1989 Stamp Series) at that location. While at the Assateague Island Visitor Center in Maryland, Bob stamped our Passport to Your National Parks (our second passport stamp….YAY!), and we picked up a map of the Assateague Island National Seashore.
I wanted a passport that would last. The Collector’s edition fit the requirement. This passport edition, though, is very big. It isn’t something that I would want to carry with us on the motorcycle. I did see at the visitor center’s gift shop that a sheet of three blank passport stamps are available for purchase, wherein one can obtain the stamp and add it to the passport at a later time.
In addition to the 1989 Mid-Atlantic Regional Stamp (Assateague Island National Seashore), the 1989 Stamp Series includes nine other stamps: 1989 North Atlantic Regional Stamp (Federal Hall National Memorial), the 1989 National Capital Regional Stamp (Thomas Jefferson Memorial), the 1989 Southeast Regional Stamp (Great Smoky Mountains National Park), the 1989 National Stamp (Yellowstone National Park), the 1989 Midwest Regional Stamp (Apostle Islands National Lakeshore), the 1989 Southwest Regional Stamp (Hot Springs National Park), the 1989 Rocky Mountain Regional Stamp (Arches National Park), the 1989 Western Regional Stamp (Great Basin National Park), and the 1989 Pacific Northwest & Alaska Stamp (Crater Lake National Park). I wonder how many of these places we will see? Well, we have the rest of our lives to visit these places. We shall see ….
From the Visitor Center we drove over the Verrazano Bridge, turned right onto Stephen Decatur Memorial Road to Bayberry Drive. We saw our first wild horses of Assateague Island, while on Stephen Decatur Memorial Road.
The wild horses of Assateague Island are descendents of domesticated animals brought to the island over 300 years ago.
I enjoyed the beauty of these horses from a safe distance, using a telescopic camera lens to get close. Park rules state to enjoy the beauty of the horses from a distance. Keeping at least a bus length from the horses is recommended. The horses are wild. They are known to charge, kick and bite.
Although it is possible to see the wild horses up close at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, we saw more horses close up in Maryland than we have in Virginia. (I will be sharing more wild horse pictures in future blog posts.)
We spent approximately 3 1/2 hours exploring the Assateague Island National Seashore. We hiked three trails; we saw several more wild horses, close up and personal; and we saw the ocean.
Stay tuned, I will be posting more Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland District) blog posts in the near future.