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17 Things to do on Smith Island, Maryland

Smith Island is an archipelago located approximately 10 miles off the coast of Crisfield, Maryland. With a population of around 276 people (2010 census) spread over 4.5 square miles of habitable land space, you might think that there is nothing to do. However, adventure is all in the eyes of the beholder. The island is a playground for the curious explorer and nature lover. There are countless things to do on Smith Island.

Before I get into all the cool activities, which is why you are reading this article, it is important for visitors to know that Smith Island is a place of residence, not a tourist attraction. Villagers are not interested in attracting tourists to their island with fancy tours, trendy food, and boutique shops, they are just living their lives and welcoming you to experience it. When you arrive, engage with the community, appreciate the small things in life, and enjoy each moment. That’s what it is all about.

We spent three days on Smith Island, kayaking between the three towns of Ewell, Rhode’s Point, and Tylerton.   During our time there we had the opportunity to speak with watermen, innkeepers, and island women who would bake Smith Island cakes, the official dessert of Maryland.

Here are some of the highlights of our trip as well as other popular things to do on Smith Island.

Things to do on Smith Island

Kayak around the creeks and inlets surrounding the island

Smith Island is a kayaker’s dream. To put this in perspective, Smith Island is about 9.2 square feet, 4.5 of which is land and the remainder of which is comprised of marshy waterways and inlets. Take your kayak down to the remote village of Tylerton (about a 2.25 trip) or just paddle through the “guts” of the island among tall grass and wild birds. Paddle Smith Island has a great kayaking guide and map outlining recommended routes along Smith Island.

Kayakers be warned, the waterways are highly subject to the daily tides. While we were paddling along the Tylerton-Ewell Run route at sunset, the water quickly began to recede. We were forced farther and farther away from the shore where the water was deep enough for us to continue on. Luckily we made it back, but always be conscious of wind and tide when planning your trip.

Things to do Kayaking Smith Island

Visit the Smith Island Crabmeat Co-op

While you are down at Tylerton, be sure to visit the Smith Island Crabmeat Co-op. This small business was formed by the wives of the watermen who wake up each morning to harvest crab and oysters around the Chesapeake. Unlike most crab processing facilities, this Co-op picks and packages the entire crab in one container – claw, backfin, lumps and all.

Watch through an observation window where the women work side by side to process the freshly caught Maryland crab. You can also pay $3 to enter the main area where crabs are picked clean, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and even sample the freshest crabmeat around.

Crabmeat co-op Smith Island Maryland

Try Smith Island Cake

Smith Island Cake, a recipe dating back to the 1800’s, is the official dessert for the state of Maryland. Traditionally, the cake consists of 8-10 thin layers of yellow cake with a fudge frosting slathered between each layer and then coated over the entire cake. New versions have emerged including Devil’s Food cake with dark chocolate fudge frosting and dark chocolate cake with peanut butter fudge frosting.

There are four main eateries on Smith Island: Bayside Inn, Harborside Grocery, Smith Island Bakery, and Drum Point Market. Each has their own recipe made by a different island woman. Try a piece at all four locations and see if you can choose a favorite.

Smith Island Cake Bakery

Try the crabcakes

Knowing that the main occupation on the island is crabbing, it only makes sense that you should try the crab cakes at all the eateries including the co-op.

Pro Tip: When you visit Bayside Inn, go all in and order the family-style luncheon. Not only are you served fresh crab cakes, but you are also served the Smith Island stewed tomatoes, a traditional recipe local to the island. I have never had tomatoes cooked like these and they were without a doubt the highlight of the meal.

Bayside Inn Crab cakes Smith Island

Admittedly, we tried the fried chicken at Harborside Grocery rather than the crab. They must not be used to people ordering anything other than the crab cakes, because they told us “It will be about an hour for the chicken so that we have time to take it out of the freezer to thaw.” We ended up eating some Smith Island Cake while we waited so it was a win-win situation.

Things to Do Smith Island

Visit the Smith Island Cultural Center Museum

The Smith Island Cultural Center Museum may be small, but it is well-organized and full of interesting history. Upon entering, you are seated to watch a brief documentary highlighting the history, culture and everyday life on the island. One of the coolest things was actually recognizing some of the people on the video. With Smith Island being only 2 miles long, you run into the same people constantly. Seeing the woman who lent us her bicycle air pump the day prior, now on the screen talking about crabbing was an exciting experience.

Following the video, visitors can take a peek around the museum viewing cultural artifacts and bits of Smith Island history including crabbing items, religious books, and skipjack models.

Things to Do Smith Island Museum

Send a postcard from the post office

The family-run post office in Ewell is quite possibly one of the smallest and most charming that you will ever see. We were told that mail is delivered by boat twice a day, yet we still couldn’t imagine that there wouldn’t be some sort of delay in the delivery time given the remoteness of Smith Island. We decided to test this theory out and send 2 postcards to my niece and nephew in Virginia. Lo and behold, one postcard arrived 3 days after being sent. The second postcard, which was sent at the same time, arrived about a week later.  

Fun fact: the post office is also the only place on the island where you will see a Christmas tree year-round.

Find the hidden beach on the nature reserve

While moseying around Rhode’s Point, the southern tip of the island, we chatted with a local who mentioned a hidden beach on Martin National Wildlife Refuge. We learned that this place is a hidden gem for locals who enjoy packing a picnic and splashing in the water. Having only a kayak and running out of daylight, we did not have the opportunity to search for the beach. If you happen to find this beach, do let us know!

Related Content: Adventurous Day Trips from Washington DC

Visit Goat Island

Biggest regret of the trip? Not visiting goat island! Honestly, we completely forgot that this was a thing. Scott and I love pygmy goats with their cute little hops and tiny legs, so of course we were thrilled to learn that there were over 30 wild goats inhabiting a small piece of land across from Ewell.

Because it is not a formal attraction there is nothing marketing “goat island” so once we were there, it completely slipped our mind. On a side note, this island is actually up for sale. For $1.5 million, you can own a 55-acre island in the Chesapeake, complete with 30 wild goats ready to be your friend.

Get your hair done at the one salon, Island Styles

While relaxing on Smith Island, you might as well pamper yourself with a new ‘do and set of nails. Island Styles is the one and only salon on the island, ready to fulfill all of your beauty needs.

Contact: Laura Evans
410-425-4881 | Ladylaurabud@aol.com

Visit the antique store

There are no strip malls or trendy boutiques, but there is an antique store. Located steps away from Harborside Grill in Ewell, the shop is owned and operated by a Smith Island resident out of his own home. Step inside and you will find a hodgepodge of miniature collector’s spoons, eclectic furniture, and vintage toys. All prices are negotiable.

Take your bike across the island to Rhode’s Point

Smith Island is a dream for kayakers, but also for bicyclists. With almost no cars on the island, you can enjoy a leisurely bike ride across the island without the fear of being sideswiped by a vehicle. The ride from Ewell to Rhode’s Point is about 2 miles along one flat open road. Most Airbnb’s and Inns have a selection of bicycles and kayaks for guests to use at no cost. If by chance, all the bicycles are rusted out or have flat tires, there are rentals available by Bayside Inn.

Charter a boat

If the ride to Smith Island tickled your fancy for another boat adventure, you can book a private charter tour. Sunset cruises are available to catch the sun slowly setting into the Chesapeake Bay. Also available are photo expeditions and nature tours where you can observe the large variety of wild birds inhabiting Martin National Wildlife Refuge.

Finally, there is also the popular fishing adventure where you are likely to catch some of the bay’s tastiest fish including striped bass, bluefish, croaker, flounder, black drum, rockfish, and sea trout.

Boat to Smith Island

Attend a church service

Religion plays an important role in the lives of many islanders. On 4.5 square miles of land, there are no police stations and no official town government, but there are in fact 3 churches. Each of the three Smith Island communities has its own Methodist church where local decisions are made, providing both political and religious cohesion.

Rev. Charles Richard Edmund, the only pastor on the island for 10 years, preaches at all three locations every Sunday. Residents are eager to share their faith with others and welcome visitors to join any of their services.

Ewell United Methodist Church – Main Service at 9 AM Sundays
Tylerton United Methodist Church – Main Service at 10:45 AM Sundays
Calvary Methodist Church in Rhodes Point – Main Service at 12 noon Sundays

Church Smith Island Maryland

Rent a golf cart to see the island

While you may find a few vehicles on the roads, the main modes of transportation on the island are by foot, bicycle, and golf cart. Head on over to Bayside Inn where you can rent a golf cart for up to 2.5 hours. You can easily walk across the island in a few hours; You can bike it in about an hour; and with a golf cart you can see everything in about 20 minutes. Therefore, this is an ideal option if you are short on time.

I will go ahead and give an advanced warning that the company restricts where you can go depending on the time of day due to rising tides. When the water levels are up, the main road connecting Ewell and Rhode’s Point becomes flooded and impassable.

Watch a sunset in the middle of the bay

We had the absolute pleasure of watching the sunset over the Chesapeake Bay while on a kayak in front of the Tylerton dock. This was the ideal location to capture an unimpeded view of the rich colors setting into the water. Witnessing a sunset from Smith Island where the land is flat and construction is minimal, gives you a clear panoramic view of sunsets which are hard to compare.

Kayaking at Sunset Smith Island

Pick up some souvenirs at Bayside Gifts

Aside from the aforementioned antique shop, the other place for you to pick up a Smith Island momento is at the Bayside Inn gift shop. Located inside the restaurant, you can peruse a selection of handcrafted items as well as branded t-shirts, hats, and other souvenirs.

Get up super early and watch the watermen in action

If you are an early riser, and I mean early, you can wake up to watch the watermen as they start their work at 4 am. The docks are filled with crab traps and bustling boats preparing to leave. A few hours later, the crab shanties, which are otherwise quiet and empty, are filled with the day’s freshest catch. Sleep in and you could miss all of this activity which is central to the Smith Island way of life.

Waterman crab boat on Smith Island

Where to Stay on Smith Island

Many people ask “can you stay overnight on Smith Island”. The answer is yes and it is highly recommended to experience the breathtaking sunset over the bay! While there are no hotels on Smith Island, there are a handful of cottages and B&Bs. These historic homes are typically right on the water with access to kayaks, bicycles, and other amenities to help you explore the island.

Bizzy’s Bungalow

This little bungalow is one of the cutest places to stay on Smith Island. Although built in 1925, the house maintains many of its original features adding to the character of the home. Guests will enjoy riding the provided bicycles and seasonal golf cart around the island.

Everything from the kitchen and Kitchenaid stand mixer, to the bedsheets and the golf cart come in a soft pink color. You’ll fall in love with Bixy’s soft pink accents and vintage charm. Bixy’s Bungalow has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.

The Pearl on Smith Island

The Pearl is a completely restored 1900’s Eastern Shore Farmhouse. It is spacious with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a well-stocked kitchen. The dock is a short 4-minute walk from the house where you’ll find 3 kayaks available for use during your stay. The Pearl is an ideal stay for families and those traveling by boat who need a place to dock.

Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Smith Island, Maryland

What is Smith Island known for?

Smith Island is known for its amazing people, unique culture, and beautiful wildlife. It is also known for being the birthplace of Maryland’s official dessert! People come to Smith Island to experience the simple life of Chesapeake watermen.

How do you get to Smith Island?

Smith Island is only accessible by boat, adding to the charm of this unique destination. There are two departure locations: Crisfield and Point Lookout. From there, the ferry typically takes around 50 minutes.

How much does it cost to get to Smith Island?

The simple ferry to Smith Island costs around $20 each way. Look for Captain Jason.

Smith Island Cruises also offer site-seeing excursions which stop on Smith Island before returning to the main land on the same day. These cruises cost anywhere from $16 for children to $60 for adults.

Can you kayak around Smith Island?

Smith Island is a prime destination for kayaking, however it is important to keep in mind the tides. We paddled 2 miles down to Tylerton just fine, however as we paddled back with the sunset we found it harder and harder to paddle. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the bottom of our kayak was now scraping against the bottom of the inlet. Luckily, the center of the inlet provided enough depth for us to make it back to Ewell, however, we might not have been so lucky had we left an hour later. 


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Top 17 things to do on Smith Island www.lovicarious.com

Cecilia

Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Dada

    Smith island in Maryland seems like a place where my family and I would spend on our vacation! We are outdoorsy family and love whatever the nature has to offer so therefore Smith island sound wonderful!
    We would definitely go kayaking around and hopefully also find that hidden beach the local was talking about! A bike cycle tour sound great too! I have never tried crab cakes before so I guess there is another reason for us to visit Smith island! Really great place to spend our family vacation!

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    I think I would like to visit a place like Smith Island that is not trying to cater to tourists. Kayaking would be fun. But the tides would require some planning. Of course, I could not leave without trying the crab cakes. Even without knowing there is a long wait for fried chicken. And after keeping busy, it would be great to try the Smith Island Cake. I would be looking for dark chocolate and peanut butter variations. Maybe take my cake to watch the sunset in the middle of the bay.

  3. Indrani

    Interesting activities! I am sure I want to try the crab cake, love crab meat. ) Wonder what different hairstyles you can get at their salon, I want to try that too. I am an early riser some days, would love to watch the watermen in action. Lot of photo opportunities then for sure. Great place, hope I can visit.

    1. Lovicarious

      Admittedly, we didn’t wake up early enough to see the watermen in action. I bet you are right about the photos though. The sunsets were some of the most beautiful I have seen so I am sure the sunrises are just as beautiful.

  4. Lisa

    I’ve never been to Maryland, or heard of Smith Island, when in the US, so this was a really interesting read. From the list of things to do, I most like the look of the crab co-op and of course the crab cakes! The Smith Island cake also looks delicious!

    1. Lovicarious

      Most people haven’t heard of Smith Island, even in the US! We actually only found out about it a year ago. We love the small fishing town vibe. It is truly a great experience.

  5. Kristy Bullard

    These are all fun ideas! I would love to visit Goat Island and try the Smith Island Cake. That sounds like a perfect day to me!

    1. Lovicarious

      The Smith Island Cake is so yummy! Definitely worth trying next time you see it on a menu!

  6. sherianne

    I love the idea of visiting a location that is not targeting tourists. It would feel more like going to see a friend in another city. I love crab, I love the idea of super fresh crab even more! Bummer that you didn’t make it to goat island, that would be a must see for me

    1. Lovicarious

      Ugh don’t remind me! That is one of our biggest travel regrets! lol

  7. Stephanie Granados

    Never heard of this place before but it looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Thanks for the recommendations on what to do here, will have to check them out!

    1. Lovicarious

      Glad you found it helpful!

  8. Stephanie

    I live so close to Maryland and almost never visit. I’ve never really known what there was to do there, but always the idea of seafood allured me. Now that I have so many ideas from your blog post, I’ll be sure to be planning a trip there this summer!

    1. Lovicarious

      And while you are at it, you should add Tangier island to your list too! It is just a mile or 2 south of Smith Island and is supposed to be a similar experience (just bigger). We haven’t been there yet, but it is on our list for sure!

  9. Ron Dobransky

    Just got back from 3 nights at “The Pearl” and we’re already Homesick for the island. AMAZING Time for an extended Angie Birthday Weekend! Being able to meet and speak to many of the super friendly locals was Priceless!! Go to the museum and watch the video. Such a shame the Waterspout turned Tornado damaged things but thankful it wasn’t worse. Biked down to Rhodes Point and met John Tyler on the way back checking his crabs. He explained the “Softshell” process and so much more!! Captain Pastor Everett Landon gave us a SPECTACULAR Sunset Cruise along with his Mate Brian from Tylerton. Speaking of Tylerton, we Kayaked down from Ewell and grabbed some Cakes (Crab and Smith). Wonderful all plainly marked thru the marshes but be careful, cell service is sketchy!!. And so much more….!!! How have we not visited Smith Island before this living here in Maryland?!?!?

    1. Lovicarious

      We are from Virginia and had only learned about Smith Island a few months prior to our trip. It is definitely an underrated Maryland destination. I’m glad you had a great experience and were able to meet so many locals. That’s always one of our favorite parts about travel! Next up we will need to explore Tangier island!

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