Pocomoke River State Park
Have you ever headed toward the Eastern Shore with thoughts of pitching a tent on the sand, falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing ashore and spotting wild horses only to find . . . Assateague Island National Seashore and the nearby state park are booked? Patches of the popular stretch of sand are reserved months in advance, meaning chances are minuscule that you can just drop in.
But don’t resign yourself to a chain hotel in Ocean City just yet. On the other side of the Chincoteague Bay in Maryland is Pocomoke River State Park, and it’s only 30 minutes beyond Assateague. There may not be a beach, but this secluded oasis can satisfy your desire for an outdoorsy, rustic getaway and serve as an inexpensive launching point for trips to Chincoteague, Ocean City and, of course, Assateague.
The park is divided in two: the Milburn Landing Area and the Shad Landing Area. If seclusion is what you seek, head for Milburn Landing, which offers cabins and 32 tent sites and little else but woods.
Shad Landing is easily the more popular of the two areas, and camping is permitted year-round. It’s anchored by a two-story camp store that, in addition to being an air-conditioned haven, offers staples, pizza and a plethora of Hershey’s Ice Cream flavors. The store overlooks Corker’s Creek, a boat dock and pier. Not far off, trails and roads wind through the woods leading to 175 campsites, a public swimming pool and a small stocked pond.
Be sure to rent a kayak for the two-mile trip along Corker’s Creek and the Pocomoke River. Pure heaven is hanging your feet over the side of the kayak on a warm day and enjoying the cool water on your toes. This ecologically fascinating paddle runs by a bald cypress swamp — no creepy swamp creatures here, just a diverse ecosystem to explore.
Paddling not your thing? Take an easy 0.7-mile walk along the Trail of Change, which winds through a grove of loblolly pines before descending into a cooler bald cypress swamp and a tunnel of mountain laurel bushes. Along the way, 11 markers note areas of historical and natural interest. Be sure to keep an eye out for frogs, snakes and migratory birds.
The park’s nature center, which offers activities several times a week, is also worth checking out. Snakes and turtles call the center home, and displays on ecology and the environment cover the walls.
For a cool way to end a strenuous day, head to the pool for a dip (swimming isn’t allowed in Corker’s Creek). The fee is $3 for campers, and lifeguards are on duty. The pool closes on Labor Day.