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?

Assateague National Seashore | Trails and Hikes | Camping Trip

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip


I gave an overview of our campsite at Assateague State Park in a previous post, and now I’ll cover what we actually did during our camping weekend!

Sign for Assateague Island National Seashore

First, of course, “hikes.” I use hikes in quotations because I always envision hikes as going over rough terrain on natural surfaces. (Not that I advocate that that is “real” hiking or anything like that because I’d probably fall flat on my face). The hikes at Assateague were over pleasant, wooden-deck like structures. Very little chance of falling flat on my face. Which to me, makes it a great type of “hiking,” but I don’t want anyone to envision that I was trekking for miles over crazy surfaces.

Our hikes on trails were at the Assateague National Park. (Our campsite was at the Assateague State Park. I talk more about the difference in the campsite review. But, long story short, the parks are right next to each other!)

Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague

Our first trail was the “Life of the Forest” trail.

Life of the Forest Trail Life of the Forest Trail Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore

The trail, dirt in some places but wooden planks in (most) others, led you to a spectacular overlook to some of marshland of the Assateague barrier islands.

Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore

It was so crazy windy during our time at Assateague, and the open area above the marsh just made it seem like the wind was whipping our faces even harder.

Ferry Landing Trail at Assateague

After the Life of the Forest Trail, we drove to the trailhead for the Ferry Landing trail (to be honest, I’m not sure if this was considered a trail or just a road). It was on this trail that we finally saw some of Assateague’s famous horses!

Ferry Landing area at Assateague Ferry Landing

Along the Life of the Marsh trail, there were various signs to measure crabs. If I recall correctly, people can go “crabbing” in this area, but they are restricted to the sizes of crabs they can take.

Measure crabs here | Sign at Assateague

We spotted some horses, which were attracting the attention of other hikers as well!

Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park People taking photos of horses on Ferry Landing Trail at Assateague Horses at Assateague National Park

I was pretty scared to get close to them. The “horses bite” and “horses kick” signs all around Assateague worked well to scare me from getting near them! But, a zoom lens came in handy!

Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park

We actually spent a lot of time on this trail, enjoying the beautiful (but windy) weather, and just taking in the breathtaking sites. And, of course, trying to avoid stepping in the massive piles of horse manure.

Ken and I on trail

Life of the Marsh Trail

Our final stop was the “Life of the Marsh Trail,” which also had stunning overlooks.

Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague

As you can tell, it’s almost like we had the entire park to ourselves.  The last weekend in April was apparently a great weekend to go and avoid the crowds!

There was one additional trail at Assateague, called Life of the Dunes, but it is mostly for offroading vehicles, so we didn’t hit that trail.

We finished up our hikes (according to the Fitbit, more than 17,000 steps that day!), and went back to our campsite and started an early campfire. The previous night we waited till a bit too late to start the fire and we were pretty chilly by the time the sunset. This time we wanted a gorgeous, roaring fire with lots of hot burning coals to keep us warm through the evening.

Starting the campfire at Assateague campsite

Our trip to Assateague also consisted of a stop at (very) nearby Ocean City, which I’ll cover in a future post!

Ocean City, Maryland (Assateague State Park Camping Trip)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip


I’m desperately trying to get caught up on a lot of trip reports that I started and never finished! Today, I’m finishing up the report on our camping trip to Assateague State Park last year!

Sign for Ocean City

Assateague Island National Seashore is actually quite close to Ocean City. It seems like Ocean City is a HUGELY popular vacation destination for folks in the DC metro area and beyond. I have multiple friends and lots of family that go to Ocean City pretty much every year for a week during the summer. Ken’s used to go to Ocean City pretty much every year with his family when he was growing up. He has many MANY home movies of him and his family having fun on the boardwalk or playing on the beach.

Interestingly enough, I had never been to Ocean City! So, since we were camping so close by, I definitely had to make a stop in Ocean City to see what all the fuss is about!

We actually ended up making two separate trips. The first trip was on a Friday, and pretty much everything was closed on the boardwalk (this was, afterall, April and not even close to peak season). So we walked around for a little bit, enjoying the sites of the beach and the huge waves thanks to the windy weather!

Empty Boardwalk in Ocean City in the Spring Empty Beach in Ocean City Empty Beach in Ocean City Rip Currents sign in Ocean City

No profanity sign in Ocean City

No profanity sign in Ocean City. As I took this picture, Ken quipped, “Are you taking a picture of that f*cking sign?”

 

Every picture I had ever seen of Ocean City before was always of completely packed boardwalks. So to see it like this, it was actually kinda creepy. Ken, who was a frequent visitor to Ocean City as a kid, concurred that it was definitely weird!

Empty boardwalk in Ocean City

After a decent walk up and down the boardwalk, we left. We were so hungry and couldn’t find a single open restaurant along the boardwalk. Womp womp.

We grabbed some lunch, did some hikes at Assateague, and then turned in early at our campsite.

Then we went back to Ocean City the next day. The boardwalk was much more crowded than I had expected for a chilly, drizzling Saturday afternoon!

Ocean City Boardwalk Crowds in the Spring (April) Welcome to Ocean City building and sign Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk

Running on the boardwalk seems pretty popular, and I liked this sign at the very end of the boardwalk. Love how well-worn that spot is!

Finish line for Running at Ocean City Boardwalk Sign at Ocean City Boardwalk for runners.

We went into this place with kids rides. Ken had specific memories of going to this place and he said he had so much fun there. But he was pretty sure not a single ride in the building had changed since the 1980s. Everything looked kinda old and sad and decrepit.

Playland at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City

We decided to partake in three classic Ocean City experiences (so I’m told!). First, skeeball!

Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City

Second: Thrashers french fries.

Thrashers French Fries in Ocean City Thrashers French Fries in Ocean City

But no ketchup?!?!?! For real? This is ’Murica. Give me my ketchup!

Sign with prices at Thrashers. No ketchup Ken with Thrashers French Fries

Third, a stop a Fractured Prune Donuts.

Fractured Prune Storefront in Ocean City Peanut Butter Cup Donut from Fractured Prune

Peanut Butter Cup Donut from Fractured Prune

Fractured Prune Menu

The donuts at Fractured Prune were a bit too “fancy” for Ken’s taste, so he opted to pick up some fudge from Candy Kitchen. (A stop he always made when he was a kid).

Candy Kitchen in Ocean City

But I thoroughly enjoyed my donut! So warm and gooey.

We grabbed a late lunch, and then we were done! I was happy I finally got to see Ocean City!

Meal Plan for our Camping Trip

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


I wanted to give a quick rundown of our campfire (er, and Coleman Grill) cooking during our camping trip at Assateague State Park.

Our meal plan for a weekend camping trip | Campfire cooking and recipes

Camping Cooking Prep

Before we even left for camping, I had a food prep checklist so that we could minimize food preparations at the campsite. Because, although cooking around the campfire is fun, finding 5 different ingredients and dirtying a dish to stir them all together is a whole different story.

First up, pasta salad.

I made a big batch of pasta salad. This is fantastic for camping. It’s great for when you first arrive at the campsite and haven’t had time to make the campfire yet, or when you get back from a long hike and need a snack ASAP!

I use this this recipe for Antipasto Pasta Salad. I make a few minor adjustments, mainly just swapping out the dry italian dressing and oils mix with some plain old bottled italian dressing. I also add roasted peppers (from a jar that I buy from Trader Joe’s) instead of the raw bell peppers. I’m not a huge fan of raw bell peppers, but the roasted ones are great.

I made up a big bowl of it the day before we left so the flavors could meld together. Then the day of departure, I put the pasta salad into individual portion bowls to make it easier to eat and to make it easier to store in the cooler.

Pasta salad recipe for camping

It was perfect to eat at the campsite!

Pasta salad for camping

I also made up some pinwheel bites. I basically used this recipe for Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pinwheels, but added turkey deli meat slices, and swapped the ranch for cream cheese, just because I thought it would hold together better in the cooler.

Turkey Cheddar Bacon pinweels for camping | Camping food ideas

These kept fantastic in the cooler, but I did put them in gladware containers so they wouldn’t get smooshed.

I also assembled the “Perfect Picnic Sandwich” from Echoes of Laughter. I had made this for a previous camping trip, and had ignored her advice for cutting it into slices with an electric knife before leaving home. And, that did not work out well. It was so difficult to cut with a normal kitchen knife! So this time I was sure to cut it before I left home and wrapped each slice in plastic wrap. And look at how gorgeous it turned out!

Sandwiches for camping trip.

Campfire Foods

As soon as we got to the campsite, we had some of the sandwiches and pasta salad.

The first night, we kept things simple. Hot dogs and baked beans. (I had already mixed together the ingredients for the baked beans at home, so all I had to do was dump the container in the cast iron skillet)

Hot dogs and baked beans | Camping foods Hot dogs and baked beans | Camping foods

The next morning we had some hot chocolate and homemade breakfast burritos (that I always have on hand at home. I make them in huge batches and put them in the freezer). We heated everything up on the Coleman Grill. The burritos were still pretty frozen even after being in the cooler for 24 hours, so it was difficult to cook them evenly. Next time I may try some different techniques, like maybe keeping the foil on it for a while on the grill so it can thaw without getting burned.

As an FYI, I generally use this recipe for my breakfast burritos, The “Potato Skillet.”. Adding, obviously, the critical “tortilla” component.

Camping breakfast foods - breakfast burritos and hot chocolate

For lunch, we went out to a fun local BBQ joint.

Smoker’s BBQ Pit near Ocean City Smoker’s BBQ Pit near Ocean City

The food was good, but the “dining room” area was meant to be an outdoor space and was just covered by plastic walls, so it was actually kinda chilly.

We went on a hike after lunch, and when we got back to the campsite, it wasn’t quite dinner time, but we were hungry, so we just snacked on some pinwheels.

For dinner, back at the campsite, we had spaghetti and garlic toast grilled cheese and boozy campfire brie and baguettes. (I had pre-made the spaghetti at home, including boiling the noodles and adding the sauce to them. Then I poured the ingredients into a plastic baggie, along with a little extra water to keep the noodles from drying out.). We cooked the sandwiches using our pie irons. I also threw in some frozen homemade meatballs, but as it turns out, we weren’t really hungry for them.

I know the lighting is terrible, but it was so dark at the campsite! Both the brie and the spaghetti sandwiches were divine! (First time making both of them!)

Spaghetti and garlic toast sandwich Boozy campfire cheese (brie) Cooking brie and meatballs over the campfire

We heated up the brie and the meatballs in foil pie tins covered with aluminum foil.

I’d definitely call this camping menu a success!

The next day, we went out for our meals.

What are some of your favorite camping meals?