Access -- In Maryland, take Route 611 south from Route 50 west from Ocean City. In Virginia, take Virginia Route 175 west across Chincoteague Island. The roads do not connect in the middle.
Visitor Centers -- The National Park Service operates the Barrier Island Visitor Center, on Route 611 before you cross the bridge onto Assateague (tel. 410/641-1441), and the Campground Office, inside the park (tel. 410/641-3030). It's open daily from 9am to 5pm. It's closed Easter and December 25. An expanded, waterfront visitor center is due to open in mid-2010 with expanded exhibits, aquariums, videos, as well as the usual brochures and gift shop. Maryland also operates Assateague State Park (tel. 410/641-2918), at the northern end of the island. It connects to the national park but has its own amenities, regulations, and fees.
Fees & Regulations -- Assateague State Park (tel. 410/641-2918) charges an entry fee daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day: $3 per state resident, $4 per out-of-state resident. Admission is free in the off-season.
Entry to the Assateague Island National Seashore is $15 per car year-round, good for a week. Walk-in and biking visitors enter free. Most national-park regulations apply. Permits are required for backcountry camping and off-road vehicle use. Pets are allowed only in the Maryland side of the park and must be leashed. Alcohol use is prohibited in the state park. And don't feed the ponies.
Seasons -- Maryland's state park is open for day use from April 1 to December 1. Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge are open year-round. There is no daily closing time on the Maryland side of the island, but only surf fishermen and campers staying in designated spots may stay overnight.
Avoiding the Crowds & the Bugs -- Weekends in summer are crowded. If you plan to camp, make reservations. The human population is not the biggest nuisance: Mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks are abundant from April through September, and mosquitoes are especially a problem beginning at the end of July and following a heavy or steady rain. They're also much worse on the bay side of the island, so try to get an oceanside site if you're camping in the national park. Your best bet for avoiding the bugs is to wait until it gets cold enough to kill them all off. The good news is that sea breezes from the Atlantic keep the mosquitoes pretty much off the beach itself -- so once you make it near the surf, you're safe.
Ranger Programs -- The National Park Service offers a wide variety of ranger-led programs on a weekly basis throughout the summer, including nature hikes, surf-rescue demonstrations, canoe trips, campfire programs, and surf fishing and shellfishing demonstrations. For a complete rundown of these activities, pick up a copy of Assateague Island Times, a visitors' guide to activities and events; it's available at the visitor centers or through Assateague Island National Seashore, 7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin (tel. 410/641-1441).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.