There certainly are ponies and nature trails and ghost crabs to catch, but one of the great parts of going to Assateague National Seashore is hitting the Barrier Island Visitor Center first. The visitor center is both a place for rest and relaxation (even when it isn’t open) as well as a place where you can get some context before or even during your trip to the island.
Targeted, engaging programing at Assateague
Assateague Island’s nature interpreters do everything from teach clamming and musseling classes, to leading guided nature trail hikes. These all are part of a bigger plan to make sure that the barrier island’s ecology and history are both understood and valued. The Visitor Center is kind of the heart of that whole program. It affords interpreters to give tours of the entire island without leaving the building, bringing people an up close and personal look at the native species and processes that keep the island one of the great destinations in the region.
Beyond the hands-on displays, the center also has a small theater that shows educational videos about the island and its history. Speaking of history:
Plenty of history for exploring Assateague Island
Did you know Assateague once was being groomed as an Ocean City-style resort? Have you walked on whats left of the paved streets of that destroyed town? How about its history as a stop of for pirates, smugglers and all other sorts of romanticized half-villains from the colonial era through prohibition? The displays chronicling the island’s history provide depth that accompany’s the ecological displays’ breadth. In addition to the salvaged anchor from a Spanish ship and a few remaining street signs from the abandoned development, the visitors center provides information that can help people understand why this island has attracted visitors for more than 400 years.
People whose job it is to know
If you visit museums regularly while on vacation you know about rolling the docent dice. Sometimes the people who are providing you information are volunteers who are passionate but maybe a little less knowledgable than you might hope. In the visitors center the docents and other helpers are supported by Park Rangers, men and women paid and trained to be, if not experts, certainly highly knowledgable about both the island and the surrounding area.
They are qualified to give both directions and advice about local attractions and island activities as well as to advise on the rules for enjoying yourself at Assateague.