The wild ponies are hoofs-down the top attractions on Assateague Island, a 37-mile-long barrier island located near Berlin, Maryland. The isle runs along the coasts of Virginia and Maryland, with Maryland laying claim to more of Assateague Island National Seashore and Virginia encompassing more of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Together, both parks cover most of Assateague Island, a place where visitors can behold the mystical presence of the horses that meander freely all over the island.
Many tourists arrive at the end of July to see the legendary Chincoteague Pony Swim, when approximately 150 horses cross the Assateague Channel. The ponies are just one example of the area’s unique flora and fauna. An effective way to see more of the top attractions on Assateague Island is by canoe or kayak. The surrounding waters are normally quite calm, so sightseers often paddle with the whole family on commercially guided or self-guided tours. Either way, the Assateague Lighthouse on the Virginia side of the island should not be missed.
Along the shore, tourists visiting during the late summer into early fall can try their hand at crabbing and clamming or search for rare mussels and oysters. Hikers and cyclists can adventure along the many inland trails, most of them paved. The Virginia side of Assateague Island is home to the Woodland Trail, which leads visitors to an observation platform ideal for spotting the wild ponies. Additional wildlife to survey includes Sika deer, bald eagles, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and Great Horned Owls. On the Maryland side, Assateague State Park features more wildlife-rich trails.
For those wanting to remain in the wilds after dark, the state and national park services provide camping accommodations. With the state park just nine miles from mainland Berlin, however, hotels in the picturesque town are a great choice of accommodation for luxury lovers.
Experience the charm that personifies the historic town at the Merry Sherwood Plantation. Set on Berlin’s southern side, the grand 1859 plantation home-turned-hotel has high ceilings and rooms decorated with beautiful antiques. Or stay at the Atlantic, the Berlin hotel where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere filmed Runaway Bride. The stately-looking 1895 Victorian hotel offers guests updated features like flat-screen TVs without sacrificing old-world touches.
Dine on steak in the elegant Drummer’s Cafe, the Atlantic’s on-site restaurant, or venture into town for steamed clams at Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon. On game day, be sure to come prepared, as the saloon is a hotspot for sports fans, particularly those donning Steelers garb. Try the homemade risotto at the Globe, a restored vintage theater and restaurant stationed on Broad Street. The Globe features live music, and its walls are adorned with art by local creatives, so be sure to stroll the restaurant’s balcony after dinner.
Guests of the Atlantic Hotel’s Anna Suite should shop at Berlin’s Farmers’ Market for fresh ingredients to cook in the suite’s kitchen. The market is open year-round on Fridays and additionally on Wednesdays in the summer months.