The Ocean City Boardwalk Empire

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We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday

When a sunny weekend or a summer vacation rolls around, most towns or regions seem to have their go to destination. In some parts of New South Wales it might be Byron Bay or the south coast. In Glen Innes, where I grew up, these holidays saw locals making the pilgrimage to quaint Yamba on the east coast.

And in Maryland, I’m was told by my beautiful girlfriend, everybody packs their cars and makes a mad dash for Ocean City and the famous Ocean City boardwalk as soon as work draws to a close on Friday afternoon.

With Heather having some free time and our road trip still a few days distant, we decided to follow the swarm of people flooding out of Annapolis and head out to Ocean City and nearby Assateague for a day of sun, fun, and entirely unhealthy food.

Sounds like my kind of day out!

Relaxing with the Wild Ponies at Assateague

At the urging of Heather as well as a small but vocal selection of my Twitter following, it was decided that our first stop of the day would be the beautiful beaches of Assateague. Known throughout the region not only for being quite beautiful as a beach destination in its own right, Assateague has the added draw of its famed wild ponies that play on and around the beach.

I’ve said in the past that I feel like American beaches are mediocre at best when compared to an Australian one, but Assateague wasn’t so bad. The sand was white, the water was not nearly as bathwater warm as the beaches in Florida, and there was actually something resembling surf!

Assateague beach
The crowd out in force at Assateague on a bright and sunny Maryland morning.
Assateague Beach
Waves rolling in on Assateague Beach.
Umbrella on the beach at Asseateague
Relaxing on the deck and looking back toward Assateague’s surprisingly beautiful beach.

With the sun beating down and the beach crowded even though it was a weekday, we still got a pleasant few hours of swimming and lying around in. I can definitely see why Assateague is a popular destination in Maryland – it’s a nice, quiet beach without the bright lights and crowds that choke the Ocean City Boardwalk and its beach.

And the wild ponies? We didn’t have time to explore the national park that acts as their home, but we did find some… evidence of their existence, and even got to snap a shot or two from the car window as we drove away and headed on towards Ocean City.

Assateague ponies
Ponies leave their… mark on Assateague Beach

Onward to Ocean City!

With a healthy sunburn already starting to color my arms and bald head, we were back in the car and on our way to Ocean City and the Maryland icon that is the Ocean City Boardwalk. I do believe there was a pit-stop for some much needed Chick-fil-A along the way as well. Man, that shit is good.

And then we’d parked and the sounds and smells of the Ocean City Boardwalk were flooding down the surprisingly quiet streets towards us. The mixed scents of popcorn, fries, candy apples, burgers, and other boardwalk delights intermingled with the sounds of laughter, the cries of barkers and hawkers, the rattle and noise of amusement park rides, and the tinny music of arcade games spitting out tickets to lucky players.

Ocean City candy shop
An orgy of candy on the Ocean City Boardwalk. We stocked up on delicious saltwater taffy to fuel our evening.
Ripley's Believe it or Not on the Ocean City Boardwalk
Ripley’s Believe it or Not on the Ocean City Boardwalk

I’ve long been enamored of anything boasting a carnival atmosphere – whether it’s a simple county fair (or ‘show’ as they’re called in Australia), a big state fair such as the Arizona State Fair, or a festival or street market. The Ocean City Boardwalk certainly lived up to the hype, and I wasn’t the only one out to enjoy the atmosphere.

The lengthy stretch of boardwalk lines the broad expanse of white sand that leads down to a beach that Heather described as ‘not very good’, but I daresay the beach isn’t the reason people turn out in such numbers. With eateries, bars, arcades, amusement parks, souvenir shops, and boutiques lining the entire length of the Ocean City boardwalk – there was certainly no shortage of things to see or places to spend money.

Play equipment on the beach in Ocean City
Some unique play equipment on the Ocean City beach
Kites flying over the beach at Ocean City
Kites flying over the beach at Ocean City
Ocean City sunset
The Ferris wheel dominates the skyline as the sun sets over the Ocean City boardwalk.

Our first port of call would be to one of several old time style photo places along the boardwalk. Much like paying to have our portrait sketched during our day in New York, this was another cheesy tourist indulgence I would normally steer clear of – but when in Rome, you do as the Romans do.

It took a few tries to get it right, but in the end we were both satisfied with the result. What do you think?

Old style photo in Ocean City
Mixing genres as a gangster and moll in a wild west saloon. Just a normal day on the Ocean City boardwalk.

With apologies for the shoddy iPhone photo of a photo.

From there it was time for a romantic stroll along the boards with a pit stop for some of the orgasm inducing Fisher’s caramel-peanut popcorn. Sweet Lord, it might have been the best $4 I ever spent.

Along the way there was plenty to see as well. We watched as a proud father waited patiently for his son’s huge win in the arcade to pay out, spent a half hour watching a street magician cast his spell over a crowd, and snapped a few pictures of the brightly lit Jolly Roger amusement park that dominates the skyline.

Fisher's popcorn
Fisher’s popcorn is orgasm inducingly good. Sweet Lord!
Roller coaster at night
The roller-coaster at Jolly Roger runs forwards and backwards. Epic!
Pretty girl and a pirate
I can’t leave her alone for five minutes…

A few hours (and a hundred dollars) later and our feet were feeling a bit sore. With an abundance of options along the Ocean City boardwalk, we contemplated a seafood dinner overlooking the beach but decided the cost was just a bit rich for our blood.

Instead, we added another stop to my fast food journey across the United States by hitting up Five Guys for a burger and some amazing fries. Then it was back to the car for a weary and slightly sun-burned ride back to Annapolis.

A day on the Ocean City boardwalk is definitely not something for those who want to avoid tourist traps, but I’m a sucker for bright lights and shiny things – so I got a real kick out of it. It was definitely something I’d do again, although I’m damned if I can figure out how Marylanders do it as often as they do.

Your Say

Ever been to a boardwalk (or a pier, as they’re called on the west coast)? What did you think?

Are boardwalks like this a celebration of Americana? Or do you believe they’re touristy eyesores that detract from a beach’s natural beauty?




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