Kark Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun photo
Assateague Island, the national park best known for its undeveloped seashore and wild horses, is a nature-lover's paradise. "It's one of the only places on the East Coast where you can experience the edge of the continent without development in the background," says Kelly Taylor, science communicator at the Assateague Island Visitor Center. "It refreshes your soul." Distance from Ocean City: 8 miles What to do: Start at the Visitor Center to get oriented and learn about how to make the most of your time on the island. "We have a touch tank, fish tanks and a great 20-minute movie about the horse management program," says Taylor. Then set out to explore the island, from the dunes to the forest trails. During your visit, keep in mind a few guidelines: stay a safe distance from the horses, don't approach them or try to feed them, always obey the speed limit, and bring bug repellent and sunscreen. When to go: The seashore is open 24 hours a day all summer; campsites are available for overnight guests. Tourists tend to visit the island during the day, says Taylor, but she recommends the park during the early morning or evening hours, when it's not quite as busy and the sun isn't as strong. "You can also come for a midnight stroll," she says. " On a clear night looking south, you can see the Milky Way." Where to eat: Though food is not available for purchase on the island, picnickers are welcome. However, there are a few rules: no glass on the beach, take all of your trash with you, and watch out for the horses. "Sometimes horses will raid a picnic basket or cooler," warns Taylor. "Don't leave everything out while you run to the water's edge." Don't miss: "Going on a ranger-guided program is always a lot of fun," says Taylor. "We have ones offered throughout the day during the summer, every day of the week." She recommends exploring the forest trails as well as the coastline. Info:
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Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun photo
Berlin, just outside Ocean City, opens up on to another world. Budget Travel magazine recently deemed Berlin "America's Coolest Small Town, 2014" after a nationwide contest in which tens of thousands cast votes online.
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A week, or an entire summer, at the beach is a blast, but even die-hard beach bunnies tire of the sun every once in a while. Fortunately, there's more to the shore than sand and waves. During your summer vacation, mix it up a bit with a day trip to one of these away-from-the-beach destinations. -- By Kit Waskom Pollard, For The Baltimore Sun