For centuries, Smith Island was isolated. Tourists arriving by ferry can sleep in a guest house and enjoy seafood meals. Visitors are also charmed by the islanders' hardy fishing livelihood and devotion to the Methodist church. One visitor, the author William Least Heat-Moon, described his conversations with islanders in his best-selling book Blue Highways.
People traveling to Smith Island can only access it by boat. Passenger-only ferries connect Smith Island at Ewell to Point Lookout, Maryland, to the west, and Crisfield, Maryland, to the east.
Because the island is so small, visitors must walk or bike. There are no cars for hire, but informal transportation arrangements can be made with the residents.
The most notable feature of the island is the local dialect which is like the dialect of the West Country of England. The dialect contains some relict features indicative of its origins but is not, as is often claimed, a surviving pocket of Shakespearean era English. This dialect is like the Ocracoke Brogue, sometimes referred to as the Outer Banks Brogue off the coast of North Carolina.
Because of recent exposure to the neighboring Eastern Shore (Maryland), the dialect has become more southern in sound, than its other isolated neighbor, Tangier Island.
Explore the island. It's small and safe.
Smith Island has its own region-specific traditional cuisine, which is now the official dessert of the state of Maryland. The most famous dish is a locally produced cake featuring 7 to 15 thin layers filled with creme, frosting and/or crushed candy bars. The cake is iced with a cooked chocolate icing. The cake is often made using a commercial cake mix but with unique additions such as condensed milk. It can also be made from scratch using flour. The most common flavor is yellow cake with chocolate icing but other flavors such as coconut, fig, strawberry, lemon, and orange are also common. Known simply as the Smith Island Cake, the dessert is baked for any occasion and not reserved only for holidays.
Never mind the "grocery store" names; in addition to the B&Bs, you can get full meals at the following:
- Harbor Side Groceries & Deli, 4061 Whitelock Rd, ☎ +1 410 425-2525.
- Ruke's General Store and Seafood Deck, Main St, ☎ +1 410 425-2311.
- Smith Island Cake Co., 20926 Caleb Jones Rd, ☎ +1 410 425-2253.
- Drum Point Market.
- Chesapeake Sunrise B&B, 20880 Caleb Jones Rd, Ewell, ☎ +1 410 425-4220. A kid friendly B&B by the cake shop, with its own private marina. Free kayaks. $110-125.
- Inn of Silent Music, 2955 Tylerton Rd, Tylerton, ☎ +1 410 425-3541. A charming old farmhouse right on the water by the docks, with a fabulous breakfast, welcoming hosts, and home cooked dinners on demand. A/C, fridge, free bikes, canoes, etc. No phone, no TV, just as it should be. Closed during the winter. $110-130.