Smith Island is a little island in the middle of the Chesapeake with a population of about 300. Most people on the island work as watermen, and make their living commercial harvesting crabs, fish, oysters, and other creatures from the Bay. Smith Island is also famous for its 9 layer Smith Island Cake, which is delicious, but more on that later.
Visiting Smith Island is like stepping back in time and into another way of life. Everything is slower and centers around the waterman lifestyle. I highly recommend a visit, but the logistics can be a little complicated.
Here is everything you need to know to visit Smith Island:
Smith Island is only accessible by boat, and you must take a ferry from Crisfield, Maryland to the island. Due to the ferry schedule, you pretty much have to spend at least one night on the island. There is only one guaranteed ferry that leaves Crisfield and goes to Smith Island every day at exactly 12:30 pm, and one ferry that leaves Smith Island and goes o Crisfield every day at 7:30 am. I found that one day on the island was enough, so I recommend taking the 12:30 pm ferry to Smith Island, spending the night, and then taking the 7:30 am ferry back to Crisfield the next morning.
To get to the Crisfield dock, follow Route 413 to Crisfield Maryland. Take route 413 to the end which will bring you directly to the Crisfield City Dock. Park in the JP Tawes Lumber parking lot, which is the tan building with an orange roof. There is a dropbox in the front, where you are supposed to place an envelope with $3/night.
After you park, walk back to the dock and look for the Captain Jason, which is a red boat. The ferry costs $20/person each way, and the captain only accepts cash. He will depart at 12:30 pm SHARP, so make sure you are on the boat in time! The ferry ride itself takes about 40 minutes, and you can see birds in the marsh along the way. I also recommend eating lunch in Crisfield before taking the ferry.
There are a few places to stay on the island, including the Smith Island Inn and a few Airbnbs. There are three towns on the island: Ewell, Rhodes Point, and Tylerton. Ewell is the main town on the island, and I recommend staying there, as Rhodes Point is rather away down a long narrow road and Tylerton is only accessible by boat. Most inns and Airbnbs are within a short walk or drive from the ferry dock. Try to find a place that includes bikes and kayaks. If your accommodation doesn’t include bikes, you can rent bikes at a rental place right next to the dock.
The island is small, but is worth exploring! Our Airbnb included bikes, and we easily biked everywhere on the island Here is what we did:
Smith Island Cultural Center
This little museum gives you a nice history of the island and shares stories about the culture of Smith Island. The museum is open from 10am-4pm, so I recommend starting here.
We literally biked every road on the island. Make sure you bike all the way out to Rhodes Point, which is a more remote area of the island with more shanties and boat docks. If the road is flooded over, just bike through the water. We also biked around Ewell.
Several accommodations on the island include kayaks, and we took our own sunset paddle, which was awesome. Kayaking gives you a different perspective of the island, and allows you a closer look at the many cab shanties around the shore of the island. You can kayak all the way around Goat Island, which is the island directly across from Smith Island. You may even see some actual goats! We stayed out on the water until sunset, which was beautiful.
While I didn’t do it, you can also take a boat tour around the island. Tim Marshall seemed to be a popular guide.
Make sure you eat at least one slice of Smith Island cake! Slices of cake are available at almost all restaurants on the island, and it’s easy to grab a slice. The cake comes in several flavors, but we tried Devil’s Food at the Bayside Inn Restaurant, and it was delicious. You can also get Smith Island cake on the mainland, from Smith Island Baking Company, but you can easily get it on the island too.
Smith Island is an interesting place. Here are some important things to know:
Some establishments on the island only accept cash, and there are no ATMs on the island. Get cash before you go.
That’s it! While it may seem a little complicated, visiting Smith Island isn’t too hard, and definitely worth the effort.
I'm Abby, a traveling photographer and writer, and I'm most passionate about connecting people with the outdoors, and I started this blog because I believe in the power of visual communication to move people from awareness of the outdoors all the way to stewardship of natural resources.