A litter of kayaks nuzzles Maryland's shore not far from where a biodiesel-powered bus marks the intersection of Stephen Decatur Memorial Highway and Rt. 311, better known as Assateague Road. The ocean here is calm but intrusive; salt fills the cracks in the road and the smell of the Atlantic is full and fishy.

The bus and the kayaks belong to SuperFun EcoTours, which rents out all the equipment that paddlers need to spend a few days camping among the bays and dunes of Assateague Island National Seashore, a 37-mile-long, 1.5-mile-wide strip of unspoiled barrier island. Overnighters, who secure backcountry permits from the National Seashore ranger station two miles south of the Verrazano Bridge on Rt. 611, can catch and cook their own ribbed mussels, Quahog clams, and Maryland blue crabs while drifting over healthy populations of eels and stingrays. The only thing to remember is a copy of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration coastal map (number #12211).

Kayakers are a rare enough sight here that the 300 feral horses that have been grazing on the island for centuries watch visitors suspiciously, preparing to bolt down the beach. That means most groups have a grassy bank to themselves when they hunker down for the night.

Explorers with less time on their hands can take guided day trips out to the island before spending the evening at the nearby Burley Oak Brewery and sip SuperFun Stout or Aboriginal Gangster IPA. Free tours are offered to anyone interested in seeing a different variety of local wildlife.

More Information: Superfun EcoTours is a mere six miles south of Ocean City, Maryland. Kayak rentals run from $50 a day, the same price as tours. Backcountry permits cost $6 per person.