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Ocean City, Maryland

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Did You Know … ?

  • Assateague Island’s horses are pony sized because of the island’s nutrient-poor grasses.
  • When active (1878-1964), the Ocean City Life-Saving Station responded to seven major shipwrecks.
  • Since a 1933 hurricane, the Atlantic shore on northern Assateague Island has shifted west more than 1,150 feet.
  • Ocean City is Maryland’s only coastal resort.
  • Ocean City’s boardwalk, at 11,857 feet long, uses about 100,000 pieces of lumber and more than 1.5 million nails.

Barrier Island beaches

Ocean City occupies a narrow barrier island, called Fenwick, on the Maryland shore. On the east side, the thin spit of land faces the Atlantic while the west side is marked by several small bays and offers more tranquil waters. This resort was born with the construction of the original Atlantic Hotel in 1875.

At Fenwick’s south end, a narrow inlet separates Ocean City from Assateague Island. The Assateague Island National Seashore occupies most of the second island and extends south across the Virginia state line. A two-mile portion of the island is Maryland’s Assateague State Park.

Assateague was separated from Fenwick during a 1933 hurricane. This is important, at least for some visitors, because the storm-created inlet allowed for development of safe harbors on bayside with easy access to the ocean for a major sportfishing business.

Not a big city — the fulltime population is less than 8,000 — Ocean City receives some 8 million visitors a year. The resort’s attractions can be divided into three categories — the sportfishing; the beach resort and boardwalk attractions, and the natural features of Assateague Island, particularly the wild horses that have survived there for more than three centuries.

Beach lovers may choose Ocean City’s miles of sand or head to the Assateague beaches, and they can be as active in, on or near the water as they wish. Watery fun ranges from paddling a kayak to riding a jet ski, parasailing or surfing. For fishing, anglers can toss a line in the surf on Assateague as well as head to deeper waters for the big ones.

The boardwalk offers the diversions vacationers look for, including games, amusement rides, a carousel, shopping, seasonal horse-and-carriage rides (not in summer), live entertainment and plenty of restaurants where seafood is a very good choice.

For anyone interested in natural environments that are kept that way, Assateague Island is the ideal counterpart to the more commercial Ocean City and its boardwalk. Assateague offers wildlife viewing (there are lots of seabirds as well as the famed horses), ranger-guided learning activities and camping at both the national seashore and the state park.

Things to do for Venturers

  • There are several campsites on Assateague Island, but only on the Maryland side. The U.S. Park Service warns that the barrier island habitat can be harsh for campers who are not prepared. Visitors can camp in the state park, as well.
  • Race across Ocean City’s waters on a jet ski, or fly high with a parasail.
  • Cruise Ocean City’s pubs and nightclubs for the live music that suits you, or for the option to dance the night away.
  • Go surfing on the ocean or the inlet. The resort reserves three beaches for surfers every day.
  • See the famed wild horses on the Assateague Island National Seashore just south of Ocean City. The U.S. Park Service offers a self-guided cellphone tour.
  • Hike on Assateague Island. It has paved and unpaved trails, plus 37 miles of beaches to wander on.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Ocean City is the place for fishing (best between mid-April and early November). The resort is called the White Marlin Capital of the World, but you could pull in bluefish, sea bass, sea trout and many other species.
  • Explore Assateague Island National Seashore on a ranger-guided kayak program.
  • Also, the Assateague Island National Seashore is a prime spot for spotting migratory shorebirds and other bird species.
  • Hire a guide to take you clamming or crabbing.
  • Float on the tranquil bay waters in a rented canoe or kayak. Paddling on the ocean is an option, too.
  • Come to town for an arts festival, or for something a little different, how about the White Marlin Festival and Crab Soup Cook-off (held in May)?

Things to do for Authentics

  • Stay at the resort’s founding hotel, the Atlantic Hotel (built 1875, rebuilt 1926).
  • Play golf and laze on any part of the town’s 10 miles of beaches. Or, head to the beach at Assateague State Park and fish in the surf.
  • Take the kids to the Jolly Roger Amusement Park, choosing from any of six themed parks.
  • Eat lots of seafood. It’s the obvious choice here.
  • Look back on the area’s history at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. Also, visit the nearby historic town of Berlin on the mainland, a village that charms with its quaint shops and small restaurants.
  • Entertain yourself with games and shopping on the resort’s boardwalk. Sample saltwater taffy and caramel corn.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Ocean City, Maryland, Convention and Visitors Bureau and Department of Tourism at