Smith Island lies in the Chesapeake Bay twelve miles west of Crisfield, Maryland. It is Maryland’s lone offshore island in the Chesapeake Bay accessible only by boat.
Everything that comes to the island must be brought over by passenger ferry service, from groceries and mail to golf carts and lumber. The five by three mile island has three communities with a total island population of about 350 people. Ewell is the largest and is joined to Rhodes Point by bridge. Tylerton is the smallest and can be accessed by boat directly from Crisfield.
Cruise and passenger ferry boats offer roundtrip passage daily throughout the summer and passenger ferries provide limited passage during the off-season. There are no car ferries. The cruise boat affords you the comfort of air conditioning and bathrooms on board along with a light narration of the scenery you are passing. The passenger ferries offer a narration of a different kind, the distinct speech of the residents. They are the main transportation for supplies and mail, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself aboard with the proverbial kitchen sink. You can bring along your bicycle or kayak (for an additional freight fee) to take advantage of the island roads and water trails.
What to take with you:
Don’t forget to pack the following must have items in your travel bag:
– Sunscreen & insect repellent – According to the time of year of your visit, it’s best to be prepared for anything.
– Camera & Binoculars – Photo opportunities abound as you tour the island and meet the people. You’ll also want to catch a peek of the many waterfowl, wading birds, shore birds, herons, and other wildlife that inhabit the island.
What to expect when you get there:
If you are hungry when you reach the island, be sure to stop at the one of the island eateries. Your meal won’t be complete, though, without sampling the famous Smith Island Layer Cake, Maryland’s Official State Dessert. After your meal, make time to visit our Museum. We offer a variety of exhibits depicting the history, economic, and social life of the island. Admission is $3.00. You can pick up a copy of the Smith Island Walking Tour or a waterproof copy of the Smith Island Water Trails (www.paddlesmithisland.com) when you’re there.
There are no shopping malls on the island, but there are just a few quaint gift shops to explore. They feature antiques, souvenirs, T-shirts, and local artwork. You may also find delicious homemade fig preserves and pomegranate jelly on the shelves. Both figs and pomegranates grow on the island.
Smith Island is a mostly residential island and is home to the hard working the Waterman and his family. While islanders are friendly to passersby, please observe the crab shanties and workboats from a distance, as this is their livelihood.
Tylerton is the smallest of the three villages, home to just around seventy year round residents. To visit Tylerton, please take the Captain Jason II from the city dock as this is the only passenger ferry that services this small community.
Tylerton is home to the Smith Island Crab Co-op, where the ladies of the island pick crabs on a daily basis (except Sunday) during season. For a small fee visitors can stop in to watch the process and listen as the women sing hymns as they work. Fresh crabmeat (when available) and souvenirs can be purchased there.
Spending the night:
If you decide to spend the night on the island, be aware that Smith Island is a dry community and that no alcohol is sold there. You are welcome to bring your own alcoholic beverages, but please be mindful of the place and its people.
Once you visit, it will be an experience you will never forget.