Chances are, if you’ve heard of Assateague Island National Seashore you’ve heard of the famed wild horses that walk the beaches and roam the island freely. One cold winter day, we decided that we just couldn’t wait for warm weather to visit the beach and sought off in search of the famed wild horses on Assateague Island outside of Ocean City, MD. What we found were not only dozens of fuzzy horses sporting their winter coats, but a mostly deserted beach that offered an escape from the crazy politics swirling in DC.
We visited the island just a week after President Trump’s inauguration and the massive Women’s March that followed. Since then, we’ve seen protests throughout the city during Trumps first week and it’s impossible to talk to people without raising the subject of the new administration. We were ready for a break from politics and the beach was calling us. Despite the below-freezing wind chill, or maybe because of it, we found Assateague Island to be the perfect escape. A 2.5 hour drive outside of DC, the road trip in an of itself was an escape. We blasted the radio, pulled out the twizzlers, and just took in the Maryland countryside.
Upon first getting to the park, we were instantly searching for the horses. We’d heard of people visiting the island and never seeing a single horse (and after being on the island, we actually don’t know how that’s possible). Since it was so cold out, we knew they wouldn’t be on the beach but that was about all we knew. However, less than a quarter of a mile away from the park entrance, we saw our first shaggy horse grazing on the side of the road. It wasn’t long before we realized the horses were everywhere and we didn’t have to worry about missing out on them.
After about an hour of watching the different packs of horses grazing, we took to the beach to walk among the dunes and water. While hiking trails are few and far between, there are a few small trails that are easy for all levels of hikers. We went on them all – none was more than a mile long – and then spent the rest of our time on the beach.
The sand is white and filled with thousands of sea shells. The beach on Assateague is dog friendly and very clean. Perfect for building sand castles, laying in the sun, and having a picnic. We hear that bugs can be a problem in the summer, but in the cold winter months we had absolutely no problems with that.
There were no resources open on the island itself – so all food and water must be brought in. Restrooms were open, but that was it. It was the perfect escape from people and life. It was a tight trip to make it there and back in a day from DC, so if you can, try to find lodging in a nearby town. Ocean City is just 20 minutes away and in the summer is a bustling beach town with concerts, shops, and restaurants.
For weather, beach conditions, and alerts, visit the official NPS website.