Assateague State Park Camping (Campsite Review)

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip

Back in April, Ken and I went on a camping trip to Assateague State Park, which is part of the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Assateague State Park entrance


If you recall, I went on my first ever camping trip a little over a year ago, and I (VERY unexpectedly) enjoyed it. Since then, we had planned two camping trips that both fell through. One for last April, which we ended up having to cancel because Ken started a new job and was completely out of vacation time, and a camping trip to Ohiopyle State Park back in October because it was forecast for heavy rain all weekend. And rescheduling those trips never quite worked out because of other conflicts.

Anyway, I was very excited when this trip to Assateague came through!

We had a really fantastic time. Although the high temperatures were in the low-mid sixties (which is perfect weather for being outdoors if you ask me!), it was SO WINDY. And that made the weather decidedly less enjoyable and pretty chilly!

So, I thought I’d start with a review of the actual campground and then cover what we actually did during our camping trips (like hikes, etc.) in separate posts.

Review of Assateague State Park Campground

Before I start, I should point out that there are two campsites at Assateague. One is the Maryland STATE Park, and the other one is the NATIONAL park. We opted for the State park largely because the National Park offered only cold showers and pit toilets. Although I enjoyed camping more than I originally expected after my first trip, I am still certainly not up for cold showers and non-flushing toilets. (Although the pit toilets we encountered on several of our Southwest USA road trip stops were surprisingly clean, smelled decent, and generally didn’t make me go “Yuck.”

We booked a spot several months in advance at Loop B. Their website indicated that several of the loops further down the road had temporarily-closed bathrooms due to renovations. So we definitely wanted to make sure to book a loop with an open and functioning restroom!

We booked site B35 (you’re allowed to book specific spots) because it was close to the beach, as well as appearing to be a relatively close distance to the restrooms.

Here’s what our spot looked like when we had just arrived (before we set up anything else). There was a large sandy campsite and a paved parking spot right next to it.

Campsite B35 at Assateague State Park

It took us quite a while to get everything set up at the campsite, mostly because it was SO windy. Our tent was becoming like a giant sail in the wind as we tried to set it up. Luckily we had done some research in advance and brought stakes that work well in sand, and Ken learned how to make “guylines” to make the tent even more stable in the wind and sand. (More on that later)

But we eventually got everything set up, then we took some time to explore the area.

Campsite setup at Assateague State Park

Okay, let’s walk through how the campsite was set up. From all the maps and images of Assateague State Park, I was not sure if our campsite would have an actual VIEW of the water. Well, the answer was no. You could actually HEAR the water and the waves crashing, but the sand dunes blocked the view of the water. That was pretty much what I was expecting.

Our campsite was very close to the path to the water. (Most of the dunes are roped off and you can’t walk across them, so access is limited to the dedicated path.)

For context, this photo was taken while we were standing on the path to the water. The car you see in the image is our campsite. So beach access was still very close, even though we didn’t have a direct view of the beach.

Access path to beach at Assateague State Park

And the path does, in fact, lead directly to the ocean!

Path from campground to beach at Assateague

And here is the path leading from the beach back to the campground. So we’re standing with our backs to the ocean in this photo.

Access path to beach at Assateague Campground

The beach was beautiful and pristine. We arrived at the campground on a Thursday, so it was understandably empty. There were more folks, but still not many, on the beach on Friday and Saturday, but we never saw anyone in the water since it was chilly.

Beach at Assateague State Park | Campground | B loop Beach at Assateague State Park | Campground sign for B loop beach access at Assateague Beach at Assateague State Park | Campground

On Thursday night, there were just a few other campers at the campground (at least A loop and B loop, the two loops we could see from our campsite), but on Friday, it started to fill up a little more, and I’d say it was actually about 85% full by Friday night.

Here’s a photo of other B-loop campsites on Friday afternoon:

B loop campground at Assateague State Park

Assateague State Park Campground Restrooms

The restrooms / bath houses at Assateague State Park were pristine. I mentioned earlier that Assateague’s website indicated that the restrooms at some of the loops were closed for renovation. We assumed that the restrooms that service A, B, and C loops were recently renovated, and that’s why there were so immaculate.

There is a large, handicapped accessible ramp that leads to the restroom doors. There’s a women’s room, a men’s room, and a “Assisted” restroom, for the mobility impaired or for families with young children.

Restroom entrance at Assateague State Park

Inside the restroom were a line of flush toilets and running-water sinks on the other side.

In the back, there were two shower stalls. One was larger and appeared to be handicapped-accessible. Both had separate, private changing rooms. Ken said the same thing about the Men’s room. (When we went camping at Westmoreland State Park the previous year, I told Ken that the ladies’ room had the separate changing area. Ken said the men’s room didn’t, so he appreciated it here at Assateague.)

Shower stalls at Assateague State Park Shower stalls at Assateague State Park

The restroom also had a baby changing table and electric hand dryers (but no paper towels.)

Baby changing table in restroom hand dryers

I feel a little bad for having some complaints about the restrooms considering how clean they were, but I’ll just share them here.

I’m not sure if it was related to the chilly weather, but the water was pretty close to freezing cold. The campground advertises hot water showers, and while I realize that might not be as hot as what I’m used to at home or in a hotel, the water was really cold.

Ken had a theory that since the campground was pretty empty the first morning, that maybe the water hadn’t had a chance to “warm up” enough, since it wasn’t being circulated enough. And that seems like it might have been the case. The next morning, the showers were warmer (but I also let the water run for a decent amount of time before getting in the shower, like while I was brushing my teeth and stuff), and the campground was significantly more crowded, so people had probably been using the showers a lot more.

The restroom “room” itself was also freezing. Sure, it was chilly outside, but you’d think inside a structure would be a bit warmer since the wind would be blocked. The bathrooms had circulating constantly these super high powered industrial fans. No doubt they’re great for circulation and keeping the bad smells to a minimum, especially during hot summer months. But, during the spring and fall, I think it might have been nice to have an option to turn off the fan. Especially so getting out of a cold water shower wasn’t quite so shocking! (Sorry if this seems like so much complaining! I really did enjoy it, I’m just pointing things out in case it is a real concern to other folks who might be camping there).

Right outside the restroom facilities were dumpsters and large sinks (where we would wash our dishes after dinner).

Dumpsters outside restrooms for campers Large industrial sinks available for campers

Other Campground Amenities

The campground registration building (for the Assateague STATE park, not National Park) was efficient and had a few small amenities available for purchase.

Assateague State Park Registration Office

Directly outside the registration office, they had firewood available for sale.

Firewood for sale at Assateague State Park Firewood prices at Assateague State Park

Since it was chilly in the evenings and mornings, we went through a LOT of firewood! The campground also sold bags of kindling, but I will say that the kindling left a lot to be desired. It was mostly bark and small wood chips. No twigs or medium size wood logs. (Since this was beach camping, you couldn’t exactly scour the ground for sticks and branches!) So, the next day, on our hikes around Assateague trails, we picked up some small twigs and medium branches to bring back to the campsite with us.

Of course, one of the main attractions at Assateague are all the ponies! (horses? ponies?). We didn’t see many around the campsite. We later asked a park ranger about this, and he said that since the weather was still cool, that most of the horses were staying away from the beach areas until it got warmer (we saw some later on our hikes around Assateague!)

Either way, there are warnings galore about the horses:

Horse warning signs at Assateague National Park

Just beyond the registration building was the entrance to the State Park campsites, which was access controlled by a barrier gate. To lift the barrier gate, you had to enter a pin number, which was provided to us at campground registration.

Access gate to Assateague State Park

The State Park and National Park actually share a visitor center. The visitor center is quite beautiful, and looks to be relatively new!

Visitor Center at Assateague National Park

Inside the visitor center, you could look out using free binocular type things.

Binoculars at Assateague

And there were exhibits illustrating how Assateague was formed.

Exhibit at Assateague Visitor Center

In the next few posts, I’ll talk more about the trails we hit at Assateague, our camping food, and even the quick stop we made to (very) nearby Ocean City.

Have you gone camping at Assateague or done other beach camping?  What did you think?

Camping Lessons Learned

Remember a few months ago when I went tent camping for the first time? Well, I really liked it and I am thinking of planning another camping trip for this spring.

I was pretty happy with how well things went on our first camping trip. There was nothing major that we forgot to pack, and for the most part, things went pretty smoothly. However, there were a few things that I’d like to improve for our next camping trip.

Packing and Organization

Although “what we packed” was great, the organization certainly left a lot to be desired. As you can tell from the way we organize our gear at home, we are bin junkies. We love storing everything in bins.

This organization system of various-sized bins really works for us at home, so I thought it would be great for our camping trip as well. So, I put supplies in bins, labeled the bins, and put them in the car.

Well, the bins did not work great.

  1. We kept the bins stacked in the back of the car, which meant if we needed something from a bottom bin, we had to move all the other bins to get to it.
  2. As ridiculous as this sounds, removing lids and putting them back was annoying. So many times we just left the lids off, leaving items to fall out when things toppled over. Note all the lids leaning up against the car in this picture!
  3. My level of organization was almost too detailed. There was no reason that I had to have a bin for “First Aid and Hygiene” (i.e., bug spray, toilet paper, and hand wipes), that was separate from “General Supplies” (i.e., scissors, pocket knives, rope, batteries, etc.). And kitchen towels were in a separate bin from the bath and beach towels. You get the idea. That level of granularity is fine for our storage in our home when we want to find something very quickly in a sea of dozens of bins, but it’s not necessary for camping.

For our next camping trip, I’m going to eliminate most bins, and try using plastic drawers instead. Or perhaps try a toolbox to organize supplies instead of multiple bins.

My bin of cooking tools and supplies would have been much better suited in a drawer.


We bought two of these small air mattresses. We wanted separate mattresses because, if you’ve ever slept on an air mattress with somebody else, you know that when one person rolls or moves, so does the other person. While the air mattresses weren’t terrible, they weren’t great either. We couldn’t get them at a comfortable inflation point. They were either too hard or too soft. They didn’t conform enough to our bodies, leaving our backs pretty stiff when we woke up in the morning.

For our next camping trip, I’m thinking that little futon mattresses like these might be nice, especially if we covered them with some additional padding like this. Although I’m going to be on the hunt for cheaper versions of these. As an alternative, we saw this cot at LL Bean. Ken thought it was comfortable, but I thought it was just okay.


We purchased two of these chairs for our camping trip, and we really liked them. They were comfortable, folded compactly, and the cupholders were great. But, after our hike the one afternoon, I wanted to stretch out my legs, not sit upright in a chair. I tried laying in the tent, but it was too warm in there, even with the vents open. So I think for the next trip I might bring some sort of patio chaise lounge chair or hammock. That would’ve been perfect for an afternoon campsite nap!

Inside-the-Tent Organization

It would have been nice to have a small crate or basket to store things we wanted to keep at hand overnight. Things like our glasses, water, cell phones, flashlight, pocket knives, etc. We just kind of put things next to our air mattresses and hoped that we wouldn’t have pushed things away in our sleep overnight.

What do you think? What are your camping tips?

Camping at Westmoreland State Park, Part 2

Part 1

After we had rested from our hike, we were trying to figure out what to do for the afternoon.  There were more a few more trails, but it was just so hot (90+ degrees in October), and we were still whooped.  We considered going to see a movie, but decided against it since it was already about 4:00 in the afternoon.  So, we just decided to take a drive into the local town of Montross.  I thought maybe there would be some local shops to check out.

Ken walked to the restrooms, and I told him that I would meet him there with the car since I was gathering some sticks for the evening campfire.  When I went to start the car, it was dead!  The car was making a strange noise, and I wasn’t happy!  My 1999 Ford Explorer had just had nearly $200 in repairs two months earlier.  Ken must have realized I was taking too long, so he started to walk back to our campsite.  I was fairly certain it was the battery, but Ken wasn’t sure.  I thought it was the battery because we had been keeping the car doors open so much (and hence the lights on in the car), and charging our cell phones while the ignition was off.

I called the main number for Westmoreland State Park from my cell.  I explained the situation, gave our campsite information, and the lady told me that a Park Ranger would come and give me a jump.  The Park Ranger arrived within 10 minutes.  He had a portable battery jump pack, and as soon as he hooked it up, I was able to start my car.

It had been about five years since I last had my car battery replaced, so I figured I was due for a new one anyway.  I left my Explorer running, and Ken and I looked up some local car repair places on our phones, found one called Kenny’s, and decided that sounded good to us!  Luckily they would be open for another hour, and they would be able to replace the battery right away!  Score!

But, on our drive into the town of Montross, we got stuck in some random local parade!  What should have been a short ten minute drive, ended up taking us nearly 40 minutes!  I was afraid we weren’t going to make it to the car repair shop in time.

2013_10_05 14_57_21 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

Firetrucks, and spectators along the road.

2013_10_05 14_55_00 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)


Then, of course, after we were finally done with parade traffic, our GPS wanted to take us 3 miles out of the way for some random U-turn.  Luckily we decided to ignore the GPS directions and not drive 3 extra miles down the road.  We found the car repair place without much difficulty, and he got started on my battery right away.

2013_10_05 15_49_33 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

The garage was cluttered in the most beautiful way.  It was one of those places that had an old, beautiful tool or trinket everywhere you looked.  Ken used that time to check in with his Mom, and I took some pictures of the shop.

2013_10_05 15_41_34 Westmoreland State Park Camping

2013_10_05 15_41_55 Westmoreland State Park Camping

They're installing my new battery

I asked the repair guy what the deal was with the parade.  He said it was their annual fall festival.  I also saw some signs for Homecoming, so I think that was related as well.

2013_10_05 15_54_33 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

About 20 minutes, a new car battery, and $120 later, we were on our way back to the Campground.  The parade route had cleared, and we made it back much more quickly!  On our way,we stopped for gas and picked up some bottled sodas and beers at a convenience store.  I hadn’t packed any beer or other alcohol for camping.  Forgive me if this is too much information, but for me, beer = many trips to the bathroom.  Since I wasn’t sure how far we’d be from a bathroom, I didn’t pack any beer.  But, now that we were set up at our campsite and we were a very short walk to the restrooms, I feared beer potty breaks no longer!

We got back to the campground while there was still daylight.  We made a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, since we had not yet saw the inside.  We also took some photos of the lovely view behind the Visitor’s Center.

2013_10_05 16_24_55 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

2013_10_05 16_30_53 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

We picked up more firewood, and got another good fire going.  I put some potatoes on the fire to make some loaded baked potatoes (with butter, sour cream, pre-cooked bacon, and ham).  Since baked potatoes take so long to cook, we just sat around and enjoyed the campfire in the meantime.  Once the potatoes had been cooking for 45 minutes or so, I started with other elements of the meal, including foil packets of cream cheese and salsa, as well as pie iron pizzas.

Getting baked potatoes started


After we ate, we cleaned up and then we drove the car to a big open field near the Visitor’s Center.  We had packed our telescope and wanted to take advantage of the minimal light pollution and clear skies to do some stargazing.

Telescope Photo (from iPhone)

 When we returned to our campsite, we started getting ready for bed!  I was thoroughly exhausted and fell asleep quickly and slept hard.

Around 4AM, I was awakened by a neighboring camper.  There was a family of four at that site, and I heard the dad yell, “RAAARRR!  Get out of here!  RAAAARRR!”  My heart jumped into my throat.  That’s what you’re supposed to do when bears are around, right?  Make yourself sound scary and look larger?  Of course, I had no way of knowing whether it was a bear, or what was going on, but it was enough to get my brain spinning.  Ken had woken up too, but he was not freaked out.  I just could not calm myself down, and I was debating whether to sleep in the car.

At some point, I finally fell back asleep, thank goodness.

The next morning, I asked the neighboring campers what happened.  Apparently a raccoon had visited their campsite THREE TIMES in the middle of the night.  The raccoons managed to open their cooler, and also started to drag away some dog food the campers kept in a plastic ice cream tub for their dog.  They seemed like experienced campers, so I didn’t chastise them for leaving their coolers out and not putting them in their car, but they did say that typically they have no trouble since the coolers are sealed.  I wanted to call them idiots.  But I didn’t.

So, while I was freaked out by the middle-of-the-night “rarrring” experience, I figured I wouldn’t let it ruin my desire for future camping trips.  But I am glad that it happened on the second night instead of the first!

When we woke up, we ate bagels and cream cheese that we had packed.  We wanted to head home early in the day, so we didn’t want to set up for an elaborate breakfast.  We packed everything back in the car, and disassembled the tent.  We both decided to skip the shower at the campground and just shower when we got back home instead.

Our drive was uneventful.  We made some mental notes of what might make the next camping trip even easier (not arriving at the campground when starving, maybe taking off on a Friday or taking a half day to ensure we arrive for a long weekend camping trip with plenty of daylight left, etc.)  But there wasn’t much.  It overall was a successful first time camping trip!

And we really liked Westmoreland State Park.  And the friendly Park Rangers and help with car battery jump sealed the deal even more.


Camping at Westmoreland State Park

I’m happy to report that my first camping trip was a success!  Despite a dead car battery, a 4AM raccoon incident, and 90 degree heat on an early October day, I’m ready to plan another trip!

Ken and I both worked from home on a Friday, with the intention of leaving around 4:00PM to make the 90 minute drive and arrive at the park before dark so that we could set everything up more easily.  Well, 4:00PM became 5:00PM and thanks to some rush hour traffic, we arrived at the park just as the sky went completely dark.

driving across potomac

Still bright and sunny as we crossed the Potomac River from Maryland to Virginia across the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge


We drove around Campground C  first to look for a spot, and it was REALLY crowded.  Then we drove to Campground B which was still crowded, but it seemed less so than Campground C.  We set up the tent, ate some lunchmeat sandwiches (I pre made a version of this sandwich for myself.  Ken said he wouldn’t like all the toppings, so he just made a plain one for himself.)    My sandwich was good, but I don’t think I had scooped out enough of the bread, so it was a bit bread-y.  Also, I didn’t pre-cut the sandwich at home, so I ended up basically just scooping out the meat, toppings, and bread to eat it, instead of eating it like a normal sandwich.  So definitely take the advice in that post and pre-cut the sandwiches with an electric knife!

Westmoreland State Park Campground B

Campground B entrance, as seen in bright daylight the morning after our arrival

After setting everything up and eating, we walked around, found the restrooms, and then drove our car to the entrance of Campground B to pick up some firewood.  Firewood is for sale at 50 cents a piece, using the honor system.  There are envelopes to deposit payment, and we decided we would make one bulk payment when we left.

2013_10_05 10_42_20 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

Firewood pickup location

We managed to build a very successful campfire.  Although we were a little disappointed because our site didn’t have a metal fire “ring” like other sites at the campground. Instead, it just had a grill grate, making it harder to safely build a larger fire.  But, no biggie.  We’ll just keep an eye out for that on future camping trips.

We built the fire so well in fact, that we realized we had no idea how to safely extinguish a fire when we were ready to go to bed.  We poured some water on it, and it seemed to extinguish but once we were laying in the tent ready for sleep, the fire had a resurgence.  We figured that since the entire area was gravel, and that we would be nearby all night, there was no harm in letting it burn all night.  It continued to burn well throughout the night.

I actually slept much more soundly than I anticipated.  I was afraid that every little cracking twig was going to startle me awake.  But, it was really quite peaceful listening to the sounds of nature as we drifted off to sleep.  My biggest issue was the heat. We had been anticipating crisp autumn weather for our October camping trip.  But by night, it was still in the upper 70s, and it was way too warm to sleep in my sleeping bag.  As the hours progressed overnight, it got considerably cooler and I covered up a bit.  The air mattress certainly wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it was certainly better than sleeping directly on the ground.

The next morning, we built another fire and cooked some foil packet breakfasts over the campfire.

2013_10_05 08_48_02 Westmoreland State Park Camping


This time though, we googled how to safely extinguish a fire, since we planned on going on some hikes soon thereafter.  You can read the full guidance here, but basically we learned that you must continue to pour water on the wood and fire until you no longer hear any sizzling noises.  We filled up some large bowls with water, and slowly poured water on the fire until it no longer sizzled.

We both showered, and the showers at the park were perfectly fine.  There were only two, but by the time I showered around 10:00, I didn’t have to wait for one.  I even liked that the women’s showers had a private changing stall right outside of the shower.  Ken said the men’s bathroom did not have the changing stall.  The fire was still nice and extinguished, so we got our hiking boots on, gathered our camera gear,  and headed out for some trails.

We started on the Beach Trail, which involves some easy trail, and then many many steps.

beach trail westmoreland state park virginia camping


The Beach Trail leads you down to Colonial Beach on the Potomac River.

colonial beach potomac river westmoreland state park


On the way back up, we took the Laurel Point Trail, which involved more steps.
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Here, Ken is making sure I’m still alive on the hike back up.

We stopped at Rock Spring Pond on our hike.

2013_10_05 12_11_05 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

2013_10_05 12_12_10 Westmoreland State Park Camping (Ken)

We thought that Rock Spring Pond was going to be a minor detour, but we discovered the nicely paved Rock Spring Pond Trail, which took us right back near the entrance to our Campground.

By the time we got back to our site, we were really hungry.  We took off our hiking boots and put our flip flops back on, and then heated up some hot dogs on a tabletop gas grill.  It was our first time using the grill, a Char Broil, which I had purchased from Target on clearance.  I didn’t realize there would be some assembly required, and unfortunately we had not packed a screwdriver.  But, we made do using a pocket knife.

After the hot dogs, we just hung around the campsite, recovering from our long morning hikes (what can I say, we’re out of shape), and just read our Kindles and hung out.

2013_10_05 08_58_13 Westmoreland State Park Camping

We decided to head into town for a bit, which turned into a double adventure!  I’ll talk about that in the next post.

 Part 2

Figuring out what to Pack for a Camping Trip

We’re in the final planning stages for our upcoming camping trip.  As I mentioned in my previous post, while my husband went tent camping a lot as a child, this would be my first time camping and I was a bit overwhelmed by all very long checklists and lists of supplies and for camping trips I was finding online.

So, what I did was I created a nice, clean empty spreadsheet that had two columns headings:

  • Column One: Supply Name
  • Column Two: Own, Make, or Buy

I went through two super detailed checklists that I found online, including and

When I saw something on the existing checklists that I thought would be applicable to our camping trip, I added the supply name to my spreadsheet list.  For instance, we’re only going camping for two nights, so I ignored supplies like a clothes line and clothes pins.  Also, since a 7-11 will probably be nearby, and we don’t do any backwoods camping, things like water purification tablets are unnecessary.  And since we don’t have children, we could certainly ignore things like “Ergo child carrier.”  And so on …

After I added an item to the spreadsheet list, I specified whether it was something we needed to buy for the trip, something we already owned, or something that I needed to make for the trip.  Most of the things that were designated as “make” were food-type staples.  Like filling a small jar with ketchup instead of taking a huge bottle.  And putting some dish soap in a trial size bottle instead of lugging a big bottle with us.  And also putting some spices, including salt and pepper, in very small containers to take with us.


Once I finished our list, everything was not nearly as overwhelming.  There were just 13 items to purchase, and four food staples to “make.”

Here’s what made it to our “buy” list:

  1. Sleeping Bag (just for me, since Ken owns one already)
  2. LED Lanterns
  3. Air mattresses and pump
  4. Headlamp
  5. Stadium Chairs / Folding chairs
  6. Ponchos
  7. Bear Mace
  8. Dutch Oven (although based on the meals I planned, we wouldn’t need one of these for our upcoming camping trip.  But I’m leaving it on the list in anticipation of wanting to buy one for a future camping trip.
  9. Heavy duty foil
  10. Pot and Pan set
  11. Pot scrubber
  12. Camping stove
  13. Pie Iron

Most of the other items on the camping checklists that were applicable to us we either A) Already owned, or B) Decided we could do without.  Like I mentioned in my previous post about camping, I know that many seasoned campers advocate having dedicated camping supply bins so that it’s easier to pack.  So, sure, it’ll be more annoying to pack for this first trip since I’ll be grabbing things like wooden spoons and pillows and lighters from all over the place, but I’m not ready to make dedicated camping supply bins just yet!

After our camping trip, I’ll post more on what exactly we packed and how, and how it all ended up working out for us!