Back in the 1940s, Baltimore and D.C. businessmen dreamed of creating an “Ocean City South” on Assateague Island, according to the National Park Service. Instead, the the 37-mile barrier island that spans Maryland and Virginia has remained largely undeveloped.
In 2011, National Geographic Traveler named Assateague one of the Top 10 Family-Friendly Hikes in the U.S. Parks. Other activities include canoeing, kayaking, hunting, over-sand vehicles, shellfishing, surf fishing, surfing and swimming (some beaches are lifeguarded on select weekends).
Visitors can encounter shipwrecks; distinctive flora (check out the prickly pear cactus and sea rocket); and a variety of fauna, which at various times include seals, sika elk and bird species such as American woodcocks, bitterns, dark-eyed juncos, oyster catchers, plovers, red-winged blackbirds, snowy owls, terns and Ipswich Savannah sparrows. Also: mosquitoes.
Most famous are the 82 roaming horses, according to a March census. The National Park Service considers them feral animals because they’re descended from domesticated animals, but you can still call them “wild.”
Distance from Baltimore: 141 miles