Smith Island, MD - Somerset County, Maryland - Isolated Island Welcomes Visitors in Heart of Chesapeake Bay


Smith Island, MD, is the state's only inhabited island in the Chesapeake Bay. Less than 400 people reside on this island in the busy season. The island is accessible by cruises from Point Lookout or Crisfield in Somerset County, from Reedville, VA, or by private boat. Around 250 people live here year round.

The ferry from Crisfield is a 45 minute trip across 9 miles of water.

It is part of an island chain separating the Bay from the Tangier Sound.

Visitors wishing to spend the night or longer can find cottages for rent or may choose to stay in one of several bed & breakfasts in the area. There is also a marina where seafaring visitors can dock their private vessels.

Dining out options are extremely limited on this small and isolated island that occupies 4.4 sq. miles of land as well as more than 4 sq. miles of water. Two communities here are accessible by a short road and another community can only be reached by boat.

Smith Island, MD, was settled in 1600 by British colonists. An Elizabethan era English speaking influence can still be detected in modern speech by inhabitants. The population first farmed and grazed cattle. Today they live off the water, at the center of the soft shell crabbing and oyster industries in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2008, the local layer cake made here was officially pronounced the state dessert of Maryland.

Fishing, bird watching and beach combing are all popular activities among visitors as well a cooling off in the waters of the Bay.

Eight thousand acres of marshland provide for extensive exploration by kayak through the remote waterways on this island. There are seven trails mapped out as well as unmapped areas for exploration by experienced paddlers.

Bicycles and golf carts are also popular for traversing the island as well as walking from place to place.

The shifting shorelines from erosion are known to frequently reward beachcombers with Native American arrowheads and other modest treasures along the island shores.

Smith Island, MD, was not named for the English Captain and explorer John Smith who did find the island in the first years of the 17th Century but rather for Henry Smith, one of the early landowners here.

With rising sea waters Somerset County, the city of Baltimore and the US Army Corps of Engineers began a program to protect the island and its communities in the year 2007.

There are no police or local authorities on the island although the Methodist church in each of the 3 settlements are said to provide social cohesion for these inhabitants who can trace their lineage back some 12 generations.

The museum and cultural center on the island tells of its unique cultural and economic history with its modest exhibits.

Photo at Smith Island

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