IT’s not so sure we’d want this poking around our tent at night, but National Geographic Traveler senior editor Norie Quintos has only good things to say about her recent weekend camping with the horses:
They look more like docile donkeys than Lipizzaner stallions, but never mind, the wild horses that roam through Assateague Island have a long and storied past. Legend has it that the horses escaped a Spanish galleon shipwrecked on the treacherous Atlantic shores. A less romantic explanation is that they’re descended from horses brought to the island in the late 17th century by local landowners wanting to circumvent fencing laws. Today, visitors can see them or evidence of them (watch where you step) on both the Maryland and Virginia sides of this 37-mile (59.5-kilometer) barrier island. We spent a weekend tent camping on the pristine beaches of the National Seashore, and ran into them walking on the dunes, hiking near the marshes, even heading to the Port-a-Potty. While people should definitely keep their distance—the fillies may kick or bite—an encounter with a horse is less panic-producing than a run-in with a bear.
Camping on the beach is a wonderful experience, if you plan and prepare. Camping is permitted year-round on the National Seashore and in Maryland’s Assateague State Park from late April through October ($20 to $30 per night). Go in early summer or fall to avoid mosquitoes and flies, and choose a campsite that is as close to the ocean as possible (a stiff breeze blows the bugs away). Not a camper? Book a B&B in picturesque Berlin nearby (filming location of the movie Runaway Bride), and plop yourself on the beach for the day. The state park ($3 per person from Memorial Day through Labor Day) has a bathhouse, food, and other facilities. Assateague is approximately three hours’ drive from Washington, D.C.
- Nat Geo Expeditions