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Chesapeake Bay’s Smith Island has been isolated for so long, accessible only by boat, that its residents are said to have a sort of relic accent. An island that comes and goes with the tide itself, transportation is dictated by the daily ebb and flow of its waters.
This doesn’t mean that visiting Maryland’s mysterious Smith Island is out of reach, you’ll just need to plan properly for your trip east of Point Lookout State Park.
Plan for flexibility and a slow-paced way of life, and don’t miss out on trying Smith Island Cake!
About Smith Island
Made up of three communities, Tylerton, Ewell, and Rhodes Point, Smith Island is on the border of Maryland and Virginia’s territorial waters.
You can spend lots of time exploring the island and its towns by foot, but make sure to get out on the water- the main attraction of Smith Island!
We recommend taking a walking tour through Ewell, kayaking from Tylerton, and enjoying a fresh seafood meal that may have likely been caught by crabbers you saw on the way to the island. Or, head out and do some fishing of your own!
Bring your own kayak on the ferry or stay at a B&B that provides you with one because this is a must-do activity around Smith Island.
Getting to Smith Island
This isn’t one of your attractions near Sandy Point, up north, but is much further south in the Chesapeake Bay, closest to Crisfield, Maryland.
You’ll take a boat or ferry to Smith Island, with the closest access point being Crisfield, of course. Three different ferries depart from the area and take you into Ewell, though you can also get there by departing from Point Lookout, on the other side of the bay.
There is also an option to get to Tylerton, if that suits you.
Ferries from Crisfield to Ewell:
- Smith Island Cruises
- Island Belle (also a U.S. mail carrier)
- Captain Jason I
Ferries from Crisfield to Tylerton:
- Captain Jason II
Ferries from Point Lookout to Ewell:
- Smith Island Cruises
You can get to Crisfield, Maryland via Route 13 South below Salisbury, before taking the exit for Route 413 / Crisfield Highway all the way into the city before catching your boat to Smith Island.
It’s important to note that the water dictates daily schedules and can easily lead to unexpected changes. Since the island itself is only accessible by boat, it is by far the main method of vehicular transportation.
As you get around the island, you’ll find that boats are second only to walking across the land. Golf carts and bikes are available too, as secondary modes of ground transportation.
The Impact of the Tides
Regardless of whether you’re traveling to the island via the water, or navigating the small chunk of land, rising and lowering tides will control every aspect of your scheduling. It’s important to be mindful of this not only from a safety perspective, but so that you can have the most convenience.
For example, lowering tides will make it much more difficult for you to make it back to the dock if you’ve gone out on a boating excursion. Let’s say you take out a fishing boat or opt to go kayaking around sunset. You’d be able to leave just fine, paddling easily or enjoying a smooth boat ride, but as you head back to the island the lowering of the tide will nearly guarantee your boat scraping the mud below, if it doesn’t get stuck altogether.
Of course, this could end up being a fun vacation story of mishap and adventure, or you could really have a tough time figuring out what to do. To stick to the safe side of things, go out into the water around midday!
Alternate Smith Island Ferry – Reedville, VA
Of course, our focus is on Maryland, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to access and explore the Chesapeake Bay. With Smith Island bordering the nautical territories of both states, we can’t forget about Virginia!
Hop about the Captain Evans boat from historic Reedville, at the tip of Virginia’s Northern Neck and just 13 miles from Smith Island.
Smith Island Vacation Rentals
Whether you choose to stay at the Smith Island Inn, which provides guests with complimentary kayaks during their stay, or one of many other B&B’s on the island, we think that this is the best way to stay! You can always look at online booking sites, but with a small population of about just 220 locals, part of the Smith Island experience lies in this sort of quintessential space offered by kind, welcoming hosts.
Smith Island Highlight – Fishing
Fishing from a motorized boat is recommended, though we urge you again to keep the tide in mind and venture out closer to midday.
To start, you can launch your boat at Little Boat Harbor (02 Brick Kiln Road, Crisfield, MD 21817) or Somers Cove (715 Broadway, Crisfield, MD, 21817.) There are paved parking lots near both boat launches.
There are plenty of tidal bays and a creek that bisect Smith Island, and provide opportunities to fish striped bass, speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and bluefish
Using the Tides to Your Advantage
The tides around Smith Island may dictate your comings and goings, we recommend lodging on the island overnight once you’re in nearby waters, but they also help you find the best places to fish.
Currents will give way to lots of predator fish just waiting for schools of prey to swim by. So, navigating the ebb and flow of the tide is not only a factor when it comes to your personal timing, but also affects how successfully you’ll fish.
Enjoy a Getaway on Chesapeake Bay
Now, Smith Island may be the most unique, even mysterious, island we’ve encountered but it is by no means the only highlight of the Chesapeake Bay.
In fact, we recently talked about sailing from Annapolis and its proximity to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay.
Whether its water-based activities or a quick getaway you seek, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay has so much to offer that its easy to keep coming back.
If you’re a local and think there’s anything that we could do well to share, let us know on socials @Marylandrecommendations and we’ll be all ears.
For more helpful resources about lesser-known gems in Maryland, take a look through our blog!