Assateague's Day-Use and Beach Areas

What’s in the day-use area?
The day-use area has a camp store/gift shop, concession stand and a bathhouse with warm showers. Lifeguards are on duty in the beach area from 10 am to 5 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The day-use area is open from 7 am to sunset.

What's the difference between the National Park and State Park day-use areas?
The State Park day-use area offers a concession stand, warm showers, flush toilets, camp store, and life-guarded beaches (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day). The State Park day-use service charge is also good for use of the marina for clamming, crabbing, and fishing. (Use of the boat ramp is covered by a service charge of $10.00 for Maryland residents and $12.00 for out-of-state residents.) State Park day-use charges are $4.00 per person for Maryland residents and $6.00 per person for out-of-state visitors (cash or check only accepted at entrance station). During the off season, the charge is $3.00 per vehicle for Maryland residents and $5.00 for out-of-state residents. Golden Age Passholders and children in car seats enter free of charge at all times. Annual Passes may be purchased for $75 for Maryland residents and $100 for out-of-state residents. All passes must be clearly displayed within vehicles.
The National Park day-use areas include life-guarded beaches during the season at their “North Beach.” They also offer swimming at their “South Beach”, but there are no lifeguards there. Facilities include chemical toilets and cold showers. There are walking trails and sites for boat launch, clamming, crabbing, and fishing. National Park charges are $20.00 per carload per week.

Viewing the Assateague Horses Safely
During your visit to Assateague, you will most likely encounter at least a few of the island's most popular residents. Petting or feeding the wild horses may seem like a harmless and fun thing to do, but the consequences can be terrible. For your safety and the safety of the horses, please obey park regulations and do not approach, touch, or feed the Assateague horses.

Stay at least a "bus length" or 40 feet away, but remember that may still be too close depending on the circumstances. If horses approach you, back off and retreat to a safe distance. Do not take food to the beach unless in a cooler that is zippered or secured with a nylon strap. Even then, if horses approach your food, you must move away.

Assateague horses do bite, kick and can carry rabies. These horses are WILD, and they don't behave like domestic horses. Treat the horses with respect - move back and stay safe.

Proper Food Storage - Protect Your Food From Horses

Insects on Assateague Island
Mosquitoes and other biting insects may be abundant on Assateague from May to November. They are most active at dawn and dusk but can be persistent any time. Be prepared for insects when you visit Assateague.

You can protect yourself from biting insects by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and/or using insect repellents on your clothing and exposed skin. Repellents containing DEET (20% to 30%), Picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus can be very effective. Carefully follow instructions on the container.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a cautious approach be used when applying repellents with DEET on children (repellents with 10% or less on children ages 2-12 and never using repellents with DEET on infants). Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three. Wash treated skin after returning indoors. For more information visit the EPA website.

Where can I swim at Assateague State Park?
You can swim anywhere along the ocean but for your safety we strongly encourage you to swim in the guarded area. Between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend lifeguards are stationed on the beach in front of the concession area from 10 am until 5 pm. Flags designate the length of this sector. Outside the swimming sector is considered a multi-recreation zone where people may surf, kayak, fish, and swim at their own risk.

What are the rules after the guards go off duty?
Rules remain the same, however, fishing, kayaking, and/or surfing is permitted in the swimming sector outside guarded hours. The beach is periodically patrolled by park staff when the lifeguards are off duty. The beach is “unprotected” and any use is at your own risk. We strongly suggest visitors abide by the regulations posted.

How do I know what the surf conditions are?
We fly colored flags to indicate the safety level as part of our surf condition warning system. Green flags represent normal surf conditions, however visitors are urged to use caution and know their limits as the ocean is always changing. Yellow flags mean that certain hazards exist such as rip currents, strong longshore currents, etc. Red flags stand for hazardous surf conditions, knee deep wading may be, no swimming will be permitted. Double red flags indicate severe surf conditions and no one will be allowed in the water, as the heavy surf would be too dangerous for even the most experienced swimmers. There may also be times when the beach is closed due to extenuating circumstances, such as lightning and severe storms. Park staff will advise beach-goers of these closures.

What inflatables are allowed in the ocean?
Boogie boards are permitted inside the guarded area, with the exception of boogie boards with fins. Vinyl and plastic rafts and boats are not permitted anywhere within the park due to safety hazards. Canvas rafts and boats may be permitted, however, large canvas rafts and inflatable boats should not be used on windy days as they can drift quickly offshore. Inner tubes are very dangerous in the surf because they greatly increase your risk of a spinal injury. They are not permitted in the State Park beach area and we strongly advise against their use in the ocean.

I have some doubts about my child’s swimming abilities. Do you recommend Water-Wings?
"Swimmies” are not designed for the surf environment. We have lifejackets available at the guard stands for the safety of our visitors. We loan them out free of charge between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

What are the rules regarding kayaking?
You may launch or land non-motorized vessels on the beach during daylight hours only. During guarded hours you may launch north or south of the swimming sector; if you paddle across the guarded area you must be well outside (east) of the breakers and maintain a safe distance from all other swimmers. Children, below the age of 13, are required by law to wear a lifejacket at all times while the vessel is underway. Adults must have a lifejacket aboard for each person and it is highly recommended that they be worn at all times.

What other restrictions apply to the beach?
Alcohol, glass, fires, and charcoal grills are not allowed on the beach at any time. Metal detectors are only allowed beginning the day after Labor Day through May 30th and only on the ocean side of the primary dune. Metal detecting will not be allowed from May 31st until the day after Labor Day. Any exceptions must obtain written permission from Park Manager. All holes dug may only be as deep as a small child’s knees and must be filled in before visitors’ leave. No tunneling is allowed. All recreational nets should be set-up parallel to the ocean to allow emergency vehicles access to the beach.

Are there any other natural dangers I should be aware of besides the wild ponies?
The number one danger is the ocean itself because it is constantly changing. Features such as tides, currents, sandbars, and inshore holes vary from day to day. Marine life you may encounter include fish, horseshoe crabs, jelly fish, sea-lice, and porpoise or dolphin. Occasionally rays, sea turtles, sharks, seals, and whales may be spotted. You also should be aware of the weather. Leave the beach if storms approach, especially if there is lightning, and seek appropriate shelter.

Do you have a seasonal Day-Use Pass?
There is a Maryland Park Service Passport that covers day-use charges only and is valid at all Maryland State Parks. It is called the “Maryland State Park Passport.” The cost of the pass is $75.00 for MD residents and $100.00 for out-of-state residents. This pass is available at the Ranger Station while the campground is open, at the Park’s Headquarters at all other times, and on the DNR website.

Can I have pets in the State Park Day-Use Area?
Pets are permitted in the day use areas from Labor Day to the Friday before Memorial Day.

I just want to go to the camp store. Do I have to pay the day-use service charge?
No. Ask for a 30-minute-free parking pass, and return it to the booth on your way out. This pass is valid for use of the camp store ONLY.

I’m over 62 and have a National Park pass. Can I use it at the State Park?
No. The State Park has its own Golden Age Pass. It is available at the Ranger Station, or at the Park’s Headquarters, or online at Maryland Park Service Golden Age Pass website. It has a one-time service charge of $10 and seniors can receive their card immediately (depending on availability). It is good for all MD State Parks day use areas and a reduced rate for camping every night except weekends and holidays. It also covers boat launching fees at our marina; be sure to display the Golden Age Pass in your vehicle.

Why am I charged for children at Day-Use?
Only children in car seats are free. By Maryland law, children under the age of 4 or under 40 pounds are REQUIRED to be in a car seat at ALL times. This is to promote child safety and to make drivers aware of the Enforcement Officers are available to write out a citation. Children under 16 years of age must be restrained in a seat belt, and are not allowed in the back of a moving vehicle, including a truck bed.

Can I use the day-use area just to take a shower?
If you have already paid at the entrance, you may use the showers. However, if campers from the National Park or other nearby campgrounds come to the State Park just to take a shower, then they must pay the day-use charge. This charge is non-transferable and is only valid on the day of purchase.

Where can I find the free bathrooms?
Free restrooms are located at the National Park’s Visitor’s Center on the mainland.

Can I park in the lot in front of the Ranger Station?
Registered campers only are allowed to park in the overflow camper lot in front of the Ranger Station. This parking lot is not to be utilized by visitors going to the beach.

Can I use an inner tube or other flotation devices in day-use?
Boogie boards are permitted inside the guarded area, with the exception of boogie boards with fins. Vinyl and plastic rafts and boats are not permitted anywhere within the park due to safety hazards. Canvas rafts and boats may be permitted, however, large canvas rafts and inflatable boats should not be used on windy days as they can drift quickly offshore. Inner tubes are very dangerous in the surf because they greatly increase your risk of a spinal injury. They are not permitted in the State Park beach area and we strongly advise against their use in the ocean.

Can I take alcohol on the beach?
Alcohol is NOT permitted on the beach, nor is it permitted in any other public areas, including parking lots.

Can I have a bonfire on the beach?
Open fires are not allowed at the State Park beach area. The National Park does allow open fires, with prior permission from the National Park Ranger Station.

Can I have a barbeque grill?
Charcoal grills are not allowed because there is no place to dispose of the waste. Self-contained or mini-propane grills are allowed, but are not to be used on the concession deck area or on the beach.

Why can't I walk on the dunes?
Walking on or crossing the dunes is not allowed. There are dune crossings available in day-use and at least one in each of the camping loops. This is to protect the vegetation on the dunes, which in turn helps to keep sand and soil from eroding.

Is there a clothing optional beach?
No. There is no such beach and anyone who violates this policy will be cited and/or fined.

Where is the Park’s Nature Center?
The State Park’s Nature Center is located between the “D” and “E” Loops in the campground and is open to the public during our camping season. (Hours are posted at the Nature Center, the Ranger Station and at the bathhouses.) Various displays are set up to teach visitors about different environmental issues and our local flora and fauna. Tanks filled with local aquatic life are on display. Campers may drive to the parking area. Day-Use visitors are welcome to walk from the Day-Use area to the Nature Center. A playground and basketball hoop are available there as well.

How can I find out what programs are being held?
Information about programs sponsored by the State Park are posted at the bathhouses, the Nature Center and the Ranger Station.

What and where is the “Big” Visitor’s Center?
The Visitor’s Center is located on the mainland. It is free and is run by the National Park Service. It has aquariums, touch tanks, movies, a gift shop, and restrooms.

Can I ride a bicycle here?
Yes. You may ride anywhere in the park. Please make certain that you stay in the designated bicycle lanes and that children under 16 are wearing a helmet, as is required by Maryland law. You can park in the Day Use area if you pay the service charge to enter, or park across the bridge and use the bicycle and pedestrian bridge to cross the Sinepuxent Bay. There is also parking at the National Park and the sides of the roads can be used for bikes. Brochures covering Maryland’s bicycle laws and a Maryland Bicycle Map can be obtained at the Ranger Station (limited quantities available.)

Where can I fly a kite?
A kite can be flown anywhere in the State Park, provided it does not obstruct the lifeguards’ view of the beach. No permit is needed.

I have a family member with special needs. Do you have anything available to help them enjoy the park?
Wheelchairs designed specifically for use on the beach are available in the Ranger Station at no charge. We ask (if possible) for prior notice if they will be requested, as they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Four campsites are listed as handicap accessible, as they have an asphalt path to the bath house, however all bathhouses within the park and at the marina are wheelchair accessible. The fishing pier at the marina, the Day Use Concessions area and Ranger Station are accessible as well.
A very limited quantity of the Assateague State Park brochure is available in braille in the Ranger Station.
The Universal Disability Pass is a free lifetime entrance pass to those State operated parks with entrance service charges. It is issued to persons who have a permanent physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The form for this pass is available online at the Universal Disability Pass website. This pass is available only through DNR's Licensing and Registration Service Office; it is not available at Assateague State Park.​​​​