assateague island ponies

Explore Ocean City Beyond the Boardwalk

Even More Adventures Await in West Ocean City and Assateague Island

By Arielle Patterson, with updates by Julie Matthews

If you think your days in Ocean City are limited to the beachfront and bayside main strip, think again. There’s even more to explore in West Ocean City and nearby Assateague Island. 

West Ocean City
Just across the Route 50 bridge is West Ocean City (West O as the locals call it), home to full-time residents, as well as shops, restaurants and amusements. Nearly a full day could be spent at the outlet mall in West O, filled with apparel for men, women and children, accessories, jewelry, home goods and more, at discounted prices. 

Enjoy some family-friendly competition with a game of mini golf. Race around the go-kart tracks for a thrilling activity. Kids will love being able to get behind the wheel and put the pedal to the metal. Not far from West O is a theme park with plenty of fun for the whole family, as well as a water park if you’re looking to cool down from the summer sun.

Just because you’re away from the beach doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy some of Ocean City’s water sports. West O is situated along the Sinepuxent Bay. Rent a jet ski and explore these waters on a thrilling ride. Or get a view of the area from above on a parasail adventure.

Indulge in a variety of dining options in West Ocean City. From Maryland seafood with a bayside view along the harbor, to smoky barbecue, mouthwatering steaks and so much more. These restaurants seamlessly blend the casual atmosphere of Ocean City with menus that exceed the average beach bite.

West Ocean City Harbor
Part of West Ocean City is the commercial fishing harbor where hundreds of sport and commercial boats dock and depart daily. There is also a public boat ramp if you would like to launch your own vessel.

The restaurants along the harbor offer coastal cuisine, straight from the docks, complemented by unmatched waterfront views.

Celebrate Ocean City’s maritime history and sport fishing industry during the annual Harbor Day at the Docks, located along the commercial fishing harbor, in October.

Assateague Island
Head south to Assateague Island, a seaside escape showcasing wind-swept sandy islands, salty marshes and lush maritime forests. Assateague Island is 37 miles long and spans across Maryland and Virginia. 

Assateague State Park is Maryland’s only ocean park. The park, located on Assateague Island, is the perfect getaway for those looking to escape Ocean City’s more crowded beaches.

Go swimming, surfing or fishing along the two miles of oceanfront beach. Lifeguards are on duty at the North Beach area from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Fishing is permitted along the beach or at the marina. Bay fishing and clamming are also allowed at Assateague State Park.

To the west, the Sinepuxent Bay is perfect for launching a canoe or kayak for bayside paddling. Explore the secluded coves and even spot wildlife along the way.

The marsh areas are home to a number of wildlife, including the Assateague wild horses. Over 200 species of birds have been sighted at Assateague Island, making Assateague State Park a great spot for bird watching. Whitetail and sika deer can be found on land, while dolphins, rockfish, blue crabs and more can be spotted in the ocean and bay.

Farther south is Assateague Island National Seashore, run by the National Park Service. Open year-round, Assateague Island National Seashore offers ranger-guided programs that are perfect for all ages interested in learning more about this barrier island environment.

Interesting fact: Assateague Island National Seashore reported that in 2021 they had a record 2,662,716 visitors to its Maryland and Virginia units. As a result, Assateague Island ranked 33rd of the 380 National Park Units that reported on visitation.

One of Assateague Island’s biggest attractions are the wild horses that roam free. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd of 80-100 horses that have lived on this barrier island for hundreds of years. You’re welcome to see these horses, and even snap a few photos, but be sure to maintain a safe distance.

Spend a night under the stars while camping at either Assateague State Park or Assateague Island National Seashore. Other popular activities at both destinations include hiking, shell collecting and surfing.