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Wild and Wonderful: 5 Reasons Why Assateague Island Shines in the Winter Months

Assateague Island is a unique barrier island located off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. The Assateague Island State Park and the Assateague Island National Seashore are both on the Maryland side of Assateague, closest to Ocean City, Maryland.  Chincoteague occupies the lower half of Assateague Island off the Virginia side and is managed by the National Park system.  Known for its wild ponies, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife, Assateague Island attracts visitors from all over the world. While summer is the most popular time to visit, winter has its own charm and unique advantages. In this article, we’ll explore 5 reasons why winter is a great time to visit Assateague Island.

Witness the Winter Wildlife

snowy owl photo by jongsun lee
Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Assateague Island is home to a diverse array of wildlife that can be seen year-round, but winter is a particularly special time to witness some of the island’s unique inhabitants. During the winter months, visitors can catch a glimpse of the majestic bald eagle as it soars overhead. They can also observe the playful antics of harbor seals, who make their way south to the island to escape the harsh winter weather up north. Other winter visitors to the island include various waterfowl, such as loons and grebes, which can be seen bobbing on the waves of the Atlantic.

Enjoy the Peaceful Solitude

Assateague Island
You can find yourself all alone to enjoy the beach during the winter months on Assateague Island.

During the summer months, Assateague Island can get quite crowded. Visitors flock to the island to soak up the sun on the beach, swim in the ocean, and observe the wild ponies. In the winter, however, the crowds dissipate, and visitors can enjoy the peaceful solitude of the island. The beaches are quiet and serene, making it the perfect time for a contemplative stroll or a cozy beach picnic. The island’s trails are also much less busy, providing an opportunity for a peaceful hike through the island’s stunning natural landscapes.

Photograph the Winter Scenery

Ponies on Assagteague Island
You can still see the wild ponies on Assateague during the winter months, but you won’t see all the people.

Assateague Island is a photographer’s paradise year-round, but the winter scenery is particularly striking. The island’s windswept dunes and marshes are covered in a blanket of snow, providing a unique and beautiful backdrop for photographs. The winter light can be particularly stunning, especially during sunrise and sunset when the sun’s rays reflect off the snow and ice. Visitors to the island during the winter months will have a chance to capture some truly breathtaking photographs.

Attend Winter Festivals and Events

st patricks day 5k run

While winter is not the peak season for events on Assateague Island, winter does have its fair share of activities available.   Some winter events on the island include bird-watching tours and New Year’s Day beach walks.  You can venture into Ocean City where the best lodging can be found to experience Winterfest, The Love on Tap festival at Seacrets,  St. Patrick’s Day,  and the Ocean City Film Festival.

Take Advantage of Off-Season Rates

Princess Royale indoor pool and atrium
Princess Royale indoor pool and atrium

One of the biggest advantages of visiting Assateague Island during the winter months is the cost savings. Many of the island’s hotels, campgrounds, and rental properties offer significant discounts during the off-season, making it a more affordable time to visit. Additionally, visitors can take advantage of lower rates for activities such as horseback riding and kayaking. In the winter,  bring your own kayaks – and horses for that matter.  You can even camp with your horses on the island in the off-season.   With the cost savings, visitors can extend their stay on the island and explore everything that Assateague has to offer.

If you are interested in finding a hotel at a discounted rate, visit the hotel guide.    You can also find recommendations on the “Save Money Ocean City” Facebook group.  We have added discounted gift certificates for the hotels owned by the Ocean City Hotel Group which includes the Flamingo, Ocean 1 and many more.  You can also stay at the Cambria using discounted gift certificates.  

In conclusion, while summer may be the most popular time to visit Assateague Island, winter has its own unique charm and advantages. From observing winter wildlife to enjoying peaceful solitude, from photographing the winter scenery to attending festivals and events, and from taking advantage of off-season rates, there are plenty of reasons to visit Assateague Island in

Ann has been with StateVentures since 1999. She moved from Annapolis to Berlin, MD to be closer to Ocean City. She splits her work week between the two locations to help clients and visitors get the best information and value out of our sites. She loves a camera and any excuse to use it.  Her kids are both grown and off adventuring.  Ann loves to travel with her kids and lives with her dog Marley when she's not in Virginia fishing.

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