About 12 miles off the Maryland coast, a group of marsh islands collectively known as Smith Island can be found. Only approximately four feet above the water’s surface is the highest point on this salt marsh-covered island.
In spite of this, Smith Island is home to less than 300 people who are determined to maintain their way of life off the Chesapeake Bay through crabbing and roistering, and to add a little bit of tourism to the mix, as well.
Ewell is where the harbor is located. To get there, the ferry cautiously navigates the waterway past deserted marsh islands.
There are a large number of Smith Island families who have made the island their home for many generations. Unless you want to remain overnight, you won’t be able to hear the Cornish-based American that they speak, as they speak Maryland-English to tourists.
The rise in water levels that have eroded Smith Island and its distinctive way of life has made the island famous in recent years, however. Until the year 2100, it is predicted that it will be fully buried.
EWELL: SMITH ISLAND’S BIG VILLAGE
Restaurants, souvenir shops, a bakery, and a museum may all be found in Ewell. All of the town may be walked in a single day.
Smith Island may be explored in around two and a half hours if you’re taking the day boat.
However, you will need transportation if you plan to have lunch at the Ewell shops and cultural centre as well as explore the marshes or Rhodes Point. Those two hours fly by.
Several island girls generally sit in golf carts at the side of Bayside Inn, where the ferry drops you off. If you’d like a guided tour of the island, they’ll be waiting for you when the ferries arrive. The tour costs money. If you want to know the price, just ask the ladies.
For a later tour, make sure to let them know when you come so they don’t leave to do other things.
Golf cart and bicycle rentals are also available. For a slight additional fee, you can board the ferry with your bicycle.
WHAT TO SEE IN EWELL
Behind the Bayside Inn sits the Smith Island Cultural Center. Learn more about island life at this location. If you have the time, the museum offers a short video with island people that provides a nice insight.
Every day from May through October, it’s open. The price for adults is $3, while children under the age of 12 are not required to pay anything. Free walking tour maps are available upon request. Always remember to request it.
The Methodist Church’s spire may be seen from the museum’s back door. Visiting the cemetery close to the church is an enjoyable experience. It is a request from the islanders that you do not trample on the gravestones or take rubbings of them.
On either side of the Cultural Center are Ewell’s residential districts. You may freely traverse them.
Many of these are the dwellings of active watermen. During the ferry’s docking hours, you won’t see many guys on the island. On the river or in their huts, they’re at work. Crab holding tanks, stocked with live crabs, are a common sight along the shoreline.
There is no public beach on Smith Island. Kayaking is possible in the sand.
RHODES POINT: THE ‘OTHER’ SMITH ISLAND VILLAGE
To reach Rhodes Point, you must go across a vast marsh on Smith Island Road, which is only slightly wider than a one-lane road.
In the distance, the tops of houses can be seen peeking out from the grass, making the journey through the marsh beautiful and expansive.
As soon as the land is high enough, Rhodes Point residences are built. To the tip of the island, there are a smattering of residences lining the shoreline.
Shopping and dining options are nonexistent. No hotels, motels, or other lodging establishments. Some have been well cared for. Others have been forgotten.
TYLERTON: THE VILLAGE ON A SEPERATE ISLAND
The photo shows Ewell at the bottom (above). Rhodes Point can be found in the lush greenery to the right. Up in the left-hand corner is Tylertown.
There is only one settlement in Tolerton, which is located on a distinct island from Ewell, the largest one. You can’t take the Crisfield ferry to get there; there are no other options. There are two options for getting to the charter boat, Captain Jason II, at Crisfield: You can catch it at City Dock, or you can organize a ride from Ewell. The captains can be reached by phone.
The Smith Island Crab Co-op is located in Tylerton, where the ladies hand-pick crabmeat. When it’s available, you can purchase some of their crabmeat. You may witness crabs being picked by professionals for a price.
SMITH ISLAND LIFE
Smith Island has a more laid-back pace of life. If you want to experience the Chesapeake Bay as it was meant to be experienced, this island is not for you.
Visitors are urged not to cross the marshes, as they can be dangerous. It’s also recommended that you lie on your back and use your elbows and hands to lift yourself out of the water if you get stuck.
During the summer, the primary industry is the harvest of soft-shelled crabs. Crabs are harvested from the grasses and stored in shanties by watermen. Until they molt, the crabs are kept in containers and monitored every three to four hours. Soft-shelled crabs are gathered by islanders and shipped to the Eastern Shore for consumption.
Smith Island is a “dry” marsh island, meaning that no alcoholic beverages are sold there. However, bringing alcohol inside one’s home does not prevent guests from doing so. Visitors who bring their own should keep their belongings to themselves. Innkeepers at island B&Bs and inns can provide you with this information.
Cell phone coverage can be spotty in some areas, so be mindful of this.
Some people are open to the idea of arriving on the island earlier and departing later than originally planned. While aboard the boat, you’ll have access to the cooler’s refreshing drinks and a comfortable plastic chair to relax on.