There’s just something about Smith Island. I recently visited for the third time, but it hasn’t gotten any easier to describe this place. If you ask a handful of people, especially those that come back time and time again, chances are you’ll hear the words “magical” and “peaceful” more than a few times. When people ask me, I’m sure I get a wistful far-off look, trying and failing to put it into words. 

smith island
Smith Island is a pretty special place. It is the last inhabited island in Maryland that is not accessible by car. 

The three-by-five-mile island chain is located about 12 miles west of Crisfield, MD, but feels in a world all its own. It is made up of three distinct villages with a total population of about 200 year-round residents. Ewell is the largest of the three and is connected by a bridge to Rhodes Point while Tylerton is located on a neighboring but unconnected island.  

If you’re used to the bustling small towns of the Eastern Shore, this place has a wholly different vibe. But most visitors and locals alike prefer it that way. Smith Island is somewhere you go to slow down and experience a side of the Chesapeake you don’t often see anymore. 

Getting There

Smith Island is the last inhabited island in Maryland that is not accessible by car, which means you can only get there by boat—either a private vessel or a ferry. For each of my visits, we’ve traveled by personal boat, and this year, we made the passage from Crisfield in a 16-foot skiff (see below for more details). There are a few options if traveling by ferry.

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There are a few ferry options to get to the island.

The boat schedules to Smith Island from Crisfield and the Western Shore vary with the seasons and the weather. The cruise boats provide round-trip service from the mainland from late spring through early fall. The three passenger ferries operate year-round and make at least one daily round-trip from Smith Island to Crisfield. A second afternoon boat from the island to Crisfield is usually available during warm weather months. If you are planning a day trip to Smith Island via one of the local passenger ferries, the Smith Island Cultural Center strongly recommends calling in advance about schedules.

Also be sure to do some research before booking passage so you can choose your destination accordingly.

Destination: Ewell
Departing from Crisfield, MD

Smith Island Cruises
(410) 425-2771
Departs Somers Cove Marina 12:30 p.m. Memorial Day Weekend – October

Island Belle (passenger ferry, freight, and U.S. mail)
(410) 425-2422
Departs Crisfield City Dock 12:30 p.m. year round

Captain Jason I (passenger ferry and freight)
(410) 425-5931
Departs Crisfield City Dock 12:30 p.m. year round

Destination: Ewell
Departing from Point Lookout, MD

Smith Island Cruises
(410) 425-2771
Departs Point Lookout State Park at 10:30 a.m. June — August; Thursday — Sunday

Destination: Tylerton
Departing from Crisfield, MD:

Captain Jason II (passenger ferry and freight)
(410) 425-4471
Departs Crisfield City Dock 12:30 p.m. year round

smith island
There is so much beautiful marshland to explore on and around Smith Island. 

Navigating the Island and Tangier Sound by Personal Boat

By Zach Ditmars

smith island
You do not need a large vessel to get here; we made the passage from Crisfield in Zach Ditmars's 16-foot skiff. Make sure to check the weather conditions before departing.

The distance from the Somers Cove boat ramp in Crisfield to Ewell on Smith Island is approximately 11-12 miles depending on your course. The channel of the Tangier Sound reaches depths of over 60 feet and strong winds and currents can easily whip up very heavy seas. That combined with traffic leaving the port of Crisfield, including large ferries and commercial vessels, should make you mindful of conditions, especially when travelling in a smaller boat. 

Once you reach the island, navigating the shallows of the guts can be challenging, which is why flat-bottomed skiffs are a popular style of boat in these waters. It is important to have a GPS chartplotter with depths to help you find your way around the island. If you are in a larger vessel, be mindful of the narrow channels and pay close attention to the markers. Just remember when boating in the shallow flats of the lower Eastern Shore, it’s not IF you will run aground, it’s WHEN.

On each of my visits, we have been greeted with the kindest and most welcoming people you could ever hope to meet, from the fuel dock to the restaurants and even just walking down the street. This most recent visit was to participate in the Third Annual Smith Island Fishing Tournament. Chris Harte, one of the tournament organizers, jokes that you can’t go anywhere on the island without it taking an hour. And not because of golf cart traffic, though that is a popular mode of transportation, but because you often keep stopping to have conversations with everyone you pass. There’s such a strong sense of family and community here that’s not found in too many places these days. 

Post-tournament I caught up with Chris to discuss the inspiration behind the event, and what drew him to the island.

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Team FishTalk/PropTalk had a triple hookup while fishing the Big Annemessex River the final day of the Smith Island Fishing Tournament.

The Smith Island Fishing Tournament

Chris Harte first visited Smith Island around 2013. He says, “I hadn’t been back for a bit but then I met Dr. Robert Floros at a medical conference. We started talking about fishing and he mentioned that he had an oyster farm on Smith Island. He says ‘hey, if you ever wanna come down and check it out…’ And I said, ‘be careful what you say because I just might take you up on it.’ So, my dad and I took the Albemarle down and we checked out his oyster farm and we caught rockfish and puppy drum, and I was just amazed that I wasn’t even trying and caught so many different fish. I was hooked. 

“So, I kept coming back, often for Memorial Day or Fourth of July, and then I started taking my family there. Then the Pearl came up for sale (available to rent on VRBO: and it had a dock (which is rare), so I pulled the trigger in 2020.”

Fast forward a little, Chris started talking to Laura Evans at the Smith Island Cultural Center and they thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could start a fishing tournament?’ Laura reached out to her son, Caleb, who loves to fish, and the seeds were planted. 

“We had no idea what we were doing initially,” says Chris. “I talked to Lenny Rudow (FishTalk Angler in Chief) and Zach Ditmars (PropTalk and FishTalk production manager), and Zach was a huge contributor getting this off the ground, helping us with iAngler and the initial tournament graphics. Then I talked to the folks at the Tangier Classic and they could not have been more kind. Adam Corry basically gave me the recipe for the tournament; everything we needed to get started. 

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The new covered pavilion in Ewell was the site of the tournament captain's party.

“We laid down the fundamental principles that it would be a charity event run by volunteers to promote the island. That first year we started with Smith Island United as the charity, and this year we changed the charity to the Smith Island Fire Department and its first responders to spread the love and because the Cultural Center just got a huge grant this year.

“That first year, we had 18 or 19 boats and Laura got us some great sponsorships; she is just amazing. Last year we had 28 boats and this year 35. So, it literally started from absolutely nothing and now it’s really become something. We raised about five or six thousand for charity this year and last.”

The Smith Island Fishing tournament is a Bay-wide event, but the ultimate goal is to celebrate the culture of this iconic Chesapeake Bay community. Prizes are awarded for the top “Smith Island Slam,” which consists of a three fish stringer of redfish, rockfish, and speckled seatrout. Stay tuned for details on next year’s event at

3 Knots Marine 

Since our first visit back in the spring of 2021, we have seen how the island changes a little each year, such as houses being bought and renovated, but the spirit of the island remains the same. One such positive change is the addition of 3 Knots Marine on Caleb Jones Road in Ewell. We caught up with the owners Patrick and Lucinda Welsh during the tournament, and similar to many other people we’ve talked to, they say the same thing: “there’s just something about Smith Island.”

Patrick first visited the island when he was in Elementary School. His father worked for the state government and was tasked with inspecting all the schools in Maryland, and that brought them to Ewell Elementary on Smith Island. He says, “My mom and I came with him, and she just fell in love with it, so we kept coming back. The last time I visited was in 2003 when I was on leave from Iraq. My wife wanted me to have somewhere I could go and be at peace, so she surprised me by buying a house on Tyler Road in Ewell.

“I had my captain’s license but never really used it. I needed a place to keep my boat, so it went from buying a house to buying a marina. Then we bought an Airbnb, and next we want to open a coffee/breakfast place. 

smith island
3 Knots Marine in Ewell. 

“We bought the marina in 2021. It had sat abandoned for seven years so we spent the last three years fixing it up. When I’m not busy I can fit a 60- to 70-foot vessel, but on average I see 40-foot trawlers. But you don’t need a large boat to come here; we’re trying to get more people with small skiffs as well because they are great for fishing around the island. At the marina, we have full electric, free Wi-Fi, a lounge, bathhouse with shower, frozen bait, and snacks and cold drinks. We’re called 3 Knots Marina instead of ‘marina’ because we are a one-stop shop on Smith Island. We also offer kayak rentals and tours, charters, and we are an independent towing and salvage operation as well.”

3 Knots Marine also offers an all-inclusive package, which would be great for any visitor but especially if it’s your first trek to the island. The package, for up to four people, includes a private roundtrip charter between Crisfield and Smith Island, two nights lodging at The Ungovernable Goose Cottage (Patrick and Lucinda’s Airbnb), a breakfast basket, a “seafood boil basket for the evening of your choice, two-day golf cart rental, private chartered sightseeing tour with Captain Patrick, a full day kayak rental, four prepaid passes for the Smith Island Cultural Center, and one whole Smith Island Cake in your choice of flavor. To learn more, visit

Note to Mariners

Because Patrick also runs a towing and salvage operation, he wants to make sure boaters are getting to and from the island safely. He sees a lot of people run aground in shoal areas when they think they are in the channel. 

Smith Island’s access channels and basin areas are dredged to seven and a half feet MLLW. Two large ferries travel these channels daily. Both the North and Eastern entry channels are skinny. The channel is approximately 40 feet wide. He says, “DO NOT ‘Ping Pong’ from marker to marker! The channel markers often mark the extreme edge of the channel. Stay in the middle of the channel, use current charts, and come in at a reasonable speed. If you bump or run aground, try backing off and changing course slightly. DO NOT throttle forward. And if you are unsure, coming in with the tide is always a good plan!”

You can reach 3 Knots Marine by hailing channel 78 or by (443) 797-2490 (text messages often reach the dockmaster when calls do not as cell service is limited on the island). 

smith island
Use caution when navigating the shallow waterways around Smith Island.

Where To Stay:

There are several home rentals and even a few inns and bed and breakfasts to choose from. The Smith Island Cultural Center has a great list of options at For the most up to date information, give them a call at (410) 425-3351. (For this trip we stayed at the Whalcome Home House.)

Where To Eat:

  • Bayside Inn & Restaurant, Ewell
  • Harborside Deli, Ewell
  • Smith Island Bakery, Ewell
  • Drum Point Market, Tylerton
smith island
Enjoying a beautiful Smith Island sunset from Jack & Pickles. 

What To Do:

  • Go fishing!
  • Rent kayaks.
  • Explore Martin National Wildlife Refuge, a 4500-acre wetland, covering the northern half of Smith Island.
  • Catch the sunset from the new covered pavilion just down the street from the fire department in Ewell. 
  • Go birding.
  • Eat Smith Island Cake (At the Smith Island Bakery, you can choose from a slice, half, or whole cake, and we recommend trying more than one flavor.)
  • Enjoy local seafood.
  • Head to Jack & Pickles for arcade games (small cover fee).
  • Explore the island by bike or golf cart.

Things to Note:

  • Smith Island is a dry island which means no alcohol is sold here.
  • If staying for a few days, bring most of the supplies you will need. You can buy some items if you forget anything, but we’ve found it’s best to be prepared (and the restaurants close early). Just make sure to save room for lunch on the island!
  • Pay attention to your fuel consumption if traveling by personal boat; the fuel dock is closed on Sundays so you’ll need to plan accordingly.
smith island
There's just something special about Smith Island. This shot was taken on 35 mm film. 

Smith Island might not be for everyone. If you want blazing fast cell service, luxury accommodations, and nightlife, you won’t find it here. But for the people who truly appreciate the beauty of this island, they know there’s not many places like this left. Smith Island certainly captured my heart, and I'm sure it'll capture yours as well. 

By Kaylie Jasinski