Smith Island

Smith Island

In October, I finally had a chance to arrange a trip to Smith Island for a quick overnight stay. For those who aren’t from the Bay region, Smith Island is a collection of three small barrier islands just over 10 miles off the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, near the town of Crisfield. One of the most storied places in the entire region, Smith Island is known for its people, who have been living on the island and working the waters of the Chesapeake, generation after generation, for over 300 years.

I’ve been curious to visit Smith for a long time, both for the scenery, which includes one of the greatest collections of working Bay boats in the entire region, as well as the people, who are as uniquely Chesapeake Bay as steamed blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning. Although visiting Smith Island today is different that it was even ten years ago, given the influx of "come here’s" who seek a taste of small town America, the island still retains the flavor that has been described in many books and documentaries, including Tom Horton’s An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake.

Perhaps the most intriguing (and famous) characteristic of the people of Smith is their dialect. It’s been compared to dialects such as Elizabethan, Tidewater English and even Ocracoke Brogue, each of which I know nothing about. All I can say is that it adds a mystique to the island and makes it one of America’s most unique places. My one evening on the island, I sat quietly eating dinner while soaking up the conversations going on around me and enjoying every second.

If you’re thinking of visiting Smith I highly recommend bringing a kayak. I brought mine along and was able to circumnavigate the island, exploring the many marshes and harbors around the island, as well as making a quick trip up to Martin National Wildlife Refuge at the north side of the island. I also suggest bringing a GPS unit of some variety if you’re traveling by boat. The islands that make up Smith are a maze of tidal creeks and wetlands that can be quite easy to get lost in, provided you make a wrong turn here or there.

From the ferry trip over to Smith on the Captain Jason II, which only cost $30 roundtrip (including transporting my kayak) to the accommodations at the Ewell Tide Inn (whose proprietor Wayne made me feel right at home), my trip exceeded every expectation.

For a sampling of many of the photos I took while at Smith, visit my Smith Island section.

15-January-2007 | Photo Shoots