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Since my parents introduced me to this barrier island off the shores of Maryland when I was very young, it’s given me many unforgettable memories and outlets into the outdoors. The best part is that it is right on the beach and 15 minutes from my home. But sometimes that comes with a painful price, especially during the summer when the horseflies and mosquitos can be unbearable, not to mention the crowds! For me, fall is the best time of year on the Island when most of the bugs – and the crowds – begin to fade away. Here are just some of the reasons why I love Assateague Island in the fall, but also all year round!
This might be my favorite reason. Growing up in Ocean City, Maryland – a seasonal town – the summers are packed like sardines in a can, which also means Assateague will also packed considering it’s located only a few miles out of town. The Over-The-Sand Vehicle (OSV) area only allows 145 trucks on the beach and that normally fills up before 9 AM. On weekends, I’ve gotten there at 7 AM and the drive on is full. After the summer season has passed, any time of day is good to drive on the beach or just explore around the park with less people around.
This is probably one of my favorite places to surf on the east coast. Why? Because I can drive my truck on the beach and find a wave all to myself. The water’s still fairly warm in the fall and again, less crowded than in town. My friends and family will drive on the beach with some food, our dogs, a grill and our surfboards and we can hang out till sunset. There’s nothing better than having a wave all to yourself or with your friends and looking back and seeing a natural landscape. No buildings, no crowds, and no loud noises. You have wild ponies roaming up and down the beach and normally some dolphins trying to snake a wave from you. It’s very serene.
The park offers a few short walks on a boardwalk over the marshes, but I’ve found the best places to hike and explore the island are on the OVS area. You have to have a 4×4 or be prepared to give your legs some serious exercise. With 12 miles of beach on the OSV there are some marked trails that lead back to the old hunting lodges that are longer in use. But sometimes it is just fun to park the truck somewhere walk back and blaze your own trail.
Assateague is packed all summer long with campers, and without a reservation you most likely won’t get a spot. But in the fall the crowds along with the bugs have mostly disappeared. The OSV area also offers several really cool campsites but you have to backpack to them. The oceanside campsites are the best in my opinion.
If you love history then Assateague is for you. The island has about 9 old hunting lodges still standing on the island, some old jeeps and even a lone grave stone that dates back to 1874. Some of the lodges date back to the early 1900s. It took me several years to find all the lodges and other gems Assateague has hidden from the world. I still go back to all of them and it never gets old. Unfortunately, the park has not maintained the lodges and will soon only be a memory.
This beautiful island has become my favorite spot to escape and get into the outdoors. It’s not disturbed by tall buildings, corporate restaurants and traffic lights. It’s one way in and one way out. Dunes, the beach and ocean on the east side and marsh on the west side, just how it should be. For me going to Assateague is going home.
Matt is a photographer based out of Ocean City, MD. Growing up surfing and camping, he loves the outdoors, getting into adventures and his dog Flounder. To follow along check out his Instagram @matt_thelandon or website www.Raisedbytides.com
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