At one time, Assateague Island, the long thin barrier island on which Ocean City sits, stretched in an unbroken line all the way into Virginia. In 1933, a major storm crashed through the sands and created the broad inlet that now divides Ocean City from the near-wilderness of Assateague Island National Seashore. Like its neighbor Chincoteague, the island is known for the wild ponies that live there. It’s also one of the few areas of the Atlantic Coast protected from commercial development, with some 37 miles and 10,000 acres of hiking, swimming, camping, canoeing, bicycling, clamming, and bird-watching. Swarms of voracious mosquitoes and a lack of freshwater keep the crowds to a minimum.
To reach the island from Ocean City, follow US-50 west for two miles and turn south on Hwy-611, which loops around Sinepuxent Bay before arriving at the visitor center (410/641-1441, daily). The center has a small aquarium as well as maps, guides, and up-to-date information about the national seashore.