Plan Like a Ranger: 10 Tips to Visiting Assateague Island National Seashore

The Park Ranger iconic hat accompanied by Assateague's Park map and an NPS water bottle
The iconic Park Ranger hat accompanied by the Assateague park map and water bottle

NPS Photo

Planning to visit Assateague Island? Awesome! Many parks, including Assateague Island are experiencing an especially busy summer season and want everyone to have a great experience. A little advance trip planning can ensure that your only surprises are happy ones. Check out our top 10 list to get the most out of your summer vacation.

1. Pre-visit Virtually

Explore the NPS App and Assateague Island National Seashore website prior to your visit to become familiar with the park layout and things to do. Learn about the horses, where to park and where to hike. Download and print a JR Ranger book for a fun car ride activity and turn it at the visitor center to earn a badge.

2. Check Local Weather Conditions Frequently

Weather can change quickly on a barrier island, and predictions can change numerous times through out the day. Check the weather often when planning a trip to Assateague. Assateague is typically 10 degrees cooler than the mainland and breezier.

3. Respect Wildlife

Use your zoom to give them room. Keep in mind you are visiting their home. While they may appear tame at times, these horses are wild and will bite and kick. You should keep at least 40 feet or a bus length away from the horses. Other wildlife deserve their space as well.Check out the “thumb rule” from Leave No Trace or our tips for viewing and photographing wildlife safely.

4. Bug Spray, Sunblock and Protective Clothing are Your Best Hiking Friends

Don’t let your hike become miserable because you forgot the spray. Mosquitoes, ticks, and greenhead flies can be abundant on Assateague. Wear light colored clothing, long sleeves, and bug spray to help ward off these bloodsuckers. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen! More info..

5. Pack a Snack & Plenty of Drinking Water

Pack plenty of drinking water and snacks when visiting Assateague. In the MD district, a snack shack is seasonally available. In the VA district there is no food or water is available for purchase. You must return to the Town of Chincoteague for food and beverages. To save space in a cooler, freeze water bottles and drinks and use them as the ice packs to keep food cold. When they melt you will have a cool refreshing drink. More info..

6. Be Surf Smart

Before running into the ocean, be sure you are current on the current situation. Check with lifeguards for the daily beach conditions and watch a surf rescue demonstration to see how lifeguards react to beach emergencies. Always swim with a buddy, watch children, and wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen after swimming! More info..

7. Plan for Crowds

Beaches can be extremely crowded in the summer. Arrive before 10 am or after 3 pm to find parking or walk or bike into the park. Plan for waits getting through the entrance booths and at the restrooms. More info..

8. Relax and Be Patient

Relax! You’re at the beach! We always remember to allow ourselves extra time to get from one place to another and enjoy the experience. This season, national parks are already bustling. Like lots of places you go this year, we may not yet be able to offer the past level of service as we emerge from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And keep in mind that people who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside park buildings and in crowded outdoor areas. More info..

9. Ask a Ranger

Can’t find what your looking for? Don’t hesitate to ask a ranger. We offer information on trails, how to see the horses, and of course where the bathrooms are! Contact us!

10. Download the NPS App

Information at your fingertips for every NPS site. Save the sites you plan to visit and you will have the ability to view the information offline. The offline feature is extremely helpful on Assateague as internet and cell service are sporadic.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Last updated: February 27, 2023