Last weekend, the pups and I went on a beach-hopping adventure in Maryland and Delaware. After doing some research about pet-friendly travel online, I settled on the two dog-friendly beaches we’d visit – Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. And on the way back, instead of re-tracing our steps on the highway, we’d take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey.
Assateague Island National Seashore:
Our first stop, dogs are allowed on many stretches of the beach. Not only was Assateague Island intriguing because I’d read that it’s very dog-friendly, but it’s also know for its wild ponies. I visited Chincoteague Island in Virginia a few years back with a girlfriend so I knew the wild ponies weren’t just a myth… but I didn’t expect them to be hanging out right at the entrance to the park!
If you’re a nature-lover like myself, you get how incredible it is to see animals in their natural habitat.
Quick backstory: wild ponies have roamed the beaches, pine forest, and salt marsh of Assateague Island since the 1600’s. While the event that brought the ponies to the island years ago is unknown – some believe the horses arrived when a Spanish cargo ship carrying horses sank offshore, others believe the horses arrived by early colonial settlers that allowed them to graze there – one thing is certain, they’ve become a much-loved addition to the island.
As much as visitors want to get close to the ponies, they need to keep their distance, and plenty of warnings of such are spread throughout the park. “KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. WE BITE AND KICK.”
Large natural dunes, a wide beach and crashing waves welcomed us. We strolled the beach, met a few other dogs and enjoyed the serene surroundings.
On our way out, as gray skies turned to blue, we bid adieu to the ponies, who had moved from the grassy roadside to the salt marsh.
Cape Henlopen State Park:
Our next stop was Cape Henlopen State Park, located about 45 miles north of Assateague Island on Delaware’s shore. Pets are allowed in the park year-round, but are not allowed on “sunbathing or swimming” beaches from May 1st through September 30th.
Luckily not all stretches of the beach are considered sunbathing or swimming beaches, so there are plenty of places for pups to frolic.
Cape Henlopen also boasts large dunes and wide beaches. Due to the weather – fairly chilly and grey for the end of April – the beach wasn’t very crowded but there were a number of folks out fishing. We basically had the beach to ourselves!
Cape May-Lewes Ferry:
Once we’d had enough fun at the beach, we made our way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, just a five minute drive from Cape Henlopen State Park. Open year-round, rain or shine, the ferry is a lovely alternative to the highways if heading northeast from Delaware.
Riders don’t pay an additional fee for dogs and they’re are allowed in all areas of the ferry except the food court. (I love a company that supports pet-friendly travel)
We opted to sit outside for the entire 85-minute ride since it offered more to see. The ferry wasn’t very crowded so we had almost the entire upper deck to ourselves. The pups quickly got used to the rocking motion and didn’t seem to have any concerns whatsoever!
Exhausted from a full day of fun, the pups stayed fast asleep for the rest of our journey from New Jersey to Connecticut.
Do you enjoy pet-friendly travel? If so, I highly recommend a trip to Assateague Island National Seashore and Cape Henlopen State Park!