Crabs and horses, you say? Yep! Maryland produces the most blue crabs in the United States. Blue crab isn’t my favorite eats but they sure are pretty. You may or may not know that Assateague Island is home to around 200-250 wild horses.
The island is split between Maryland and Virginia. We visited the Maryland side. This northern section is home to about 80-100 horses and has both state and federal components. Since we have our America the Beautiful passes, we stayed on the National Seashore part. It was beautiful. The horses are the residents as the entire island is park land and the horses have the right of way. We found them by the bay, by the road, by our car. It was so cool. Since they are wild, you’re not allowed to touch, feed, or come within 40 feet of them. The island has beaches and short hiking trails (two of three are handicap assessable), you can go biking, kayaking, fishing, clamming, and crabbing.
We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and had a picnic, watched a short video about the horses, checked out the displays, and then grabbed the boys’ Junior Ranger books and set off to the explore the island.
We didn’t explore too much once the boys heard the words beach. So we took the afternoon to hang out at the beach. I was expectantly waiting and wishing for a horse to walk up and nudge me while I lay on the beach like the video showed a horse doing to a gentleman on the beach. No such luck. We didn’t see any on the beach but were told they roam there often and there was evidence on one of the the walkways that one had passed by, if you know what I mean.
The next morning at breakfast we met the sweetest lady, Marcie, serving us breakfast. She invited the boys to come back the next morning and help make smoothies. I don’t know what it is about Hampton Inn’s breakfast crew but we have met some amazing people. Hello, Portsmouth, NH, I’m talking about you!
After breakfast, we went back to the Visitor’s Center. The boys turned in their Ranger programs, we watched the other video (this one was about the island itself), and then headed to the island to kayak.
As we were pulling up to the NPS entrance, we had horses hanging out in the road and along the roadside. Oh, I wanted to pet them so bad! This little guy was right outside my door scratching his chin on the post.
We had planned on hiking but Marcie mentioned kayaking the bay and seeing the horses up close; so we were sold. With kids back in school, the crowds are fewer. Unfortunately, the downside of the shoulder season and the offseason is not everything is operating on a full time basis or is closed; such was the case with kayaking. The National Park Service guided kayak tours and the kayak rental company were only being offered and open, respectively, on the weekends now. Bummer.
But no worries, it was 90 degrees and blue skies so we struck out for the trails. I wouldn’t call them hiking trails as they were only 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile paths but we were out in nature and the constant expectancy of crossing paths with a wild horse added some excitement.
The Trails of the Marsh trail is a broad walk through the salt marsh. The boys spotted lots of blue crabs and baby fish and then we spotted them…the horses were on the shoreline by the path. So off we went to get our pictures.
Satisfied that we saw the horses up close (outside of the car), we headed to the Life of the Forest Trail. No horses but Trevor was the first to spot a bald eagle flying over us. How cool?!
We drove to the Life of the Dunes trail down by the south beach but it was a sand trail and we had on our sneakers and decided to skip it and have lunch. On our way back to the north beach to swim, we saw the crabbing sign and decided to have a gander down at the landing.
We met this sweet couple who let the boys try their hand at crabbing. The boys kept getting the little crabs on the bait but every time the boys pulled the crab out of the water, the crab would let go and fall back into the water. The boys could have “crabbed” the rest of the afternoon but we didn’t want to take advantage of the couples kindness. It wasn’t liking fishing with a rod, where you spend hours before you get a bite. Those little nippers were fairly constantly biting the chicken bait.
It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful people the Lord puts in our path. Nor do we ever go a day without being thankful for the amazing weather. Still no rained out days. Unbelievable!
After lunch, we left the bay and crossed the road to the beach and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.
I know you’re going to roll you eyes at this statement and, I promise, I don’t mean it to sound boastful but we were tired and a day at the beach was much appreciated after all those days in the cities. I know it sounds like we’re on a constant vacation but traveling as much and as fast as we are right now, can wear you out. The downtime was such a blessing.
After swimming, building sand castles, and doing what my kids consider body surfing (aka jumping in front of an oncoming wave and Supermanning it to shore) we did what every other red blooded American does when they’re at the beach….head to an all you can eat seafood buffet. Hallelujah…crab legs!
Phillips Restaurant is about a 30 minute drive from Assateague over to Ocean City. If you go within the first hour of opening you get the early bird special, which is $4 off the buffet. Sweet! That’s perfect for us. We still needed to run grab some groceries and I had a couple of loads of laundry to get done after dinner so an early dinner worked out wonderfully.
Mason had never had a whole crab before so he asked our server, a sweet young lady named Kylie, how to go about said task. She was so sweet. She went grabbed some gloves and a crab and walked him through the process. Above and beyond. Great customer service.
I LOVE CRAB LEGS!!!! Mason normally eats a bunch of crab legs with me but a couple years ago he discovered he likes mussels, so if a restaurant ever has them on the buffet he goes for them instead now. Tuck, of course, went for some pizza and a hamburger.
We didn’t hang out in Ocean City. After having such a chill day, fighting the crowds on the boardwalk (think Myrtle Beach or Panama City) was the last thing we were interested in. But if that’s your cup of tea, this area is great because within 30 mins you’ve got laid back beach or fun bustling entertainment, amusement park rides, and dining.
After dinner it was groceries, laundry, and bed.
The boys woke up at 4 something excited about getting to help with breakfast at the hotel. Of course, they had to go back to sleep for a little bit longer. We headed down later that morning to eat and were met by Marcie and Michael, the General Manager. She had told him about our trip and he gathered up two gift bags for the boys for them to remember Ocean City West by. Too stinking generous.
After we ate, Marcie took the boys into the staff only section of the breakfast area and instructed them, hands on, in making the mango smoothie Mason likes so much. She was awesome. You would think she was a tour guide or teacher. She made it so special. This hotel exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds.
We all wanted to stay another day at the beach but we had pressing matters in Washington to attend to.