Smith Island is Maryland’s sole inhabited island. A true island community twelve miles west in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is accessible only by a 45-minute boat ride. The marshy archipelago, just three-by-five miles, is home to 200 year-round residents in the communities of Ewell, Rhodes Point, and Tylerton. Smith Island is a paddlers paradise, with a dozen marked water trails meandering through the “guts,” or creeks, of the island’s 8,000 acres of tidal marshland teeming with wildlife. As a car-free island, the flat, cross-island avenues provide enjoyable walks or smooth cycles through the marshes with spectacular views to the Chesapeake Bay.
Opportunities abound for crabbing, fishing, birding (including viewing nesting pelicans) and scenic photography. Authentic Smith Island experiences include touring with a local waterman, progging the area for arrowheads–evidence of Native American occupation for over 12,000 years–or just talking with an islander to hear the distinct dialect and phrases unchanged since the European settlers arrived in the 17th century.
A visit to the Smith Island Center and Cultural Museum is a must. This museum celebrates Smith Island’s extraordinary natural environment and maritime culture with exhibits about watermen’s work and families, traditional regional watercraft, and an examination of the island’s unique lifestyle–past and present. Enjoy a meal of the freshest seafood around and Smith Island Cake, a nine-layered frosted cake unique to the Island and Maryland’s State Dessert. Matchcoat Sojourner, a Chesapeake Bay Storyteller, provides culinary tours of the island. Participants meet resident watermen, crab pickers and chefs, and learn about authentic Chesapeake lifestyles and cuisine. Smith Island retains the natural charm of an historic port–but it is very much active–with crab shanties housing soon-to-be soft-shelled crabs and workboats harvesting the bounty of the waters. Life here still moves to the age-old rhythms of time and tide.
May through September is the best time to visit Smith Island. Located approximately 12 miles offshore from Crisfield, several boats leave at 12:30pm daily in season. Visitors are encouraged to visit www.visitsomerset.com or call 800-521-9189 for additional information.