Smith Island – Smith Island, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

Smith Island

Smith Island, Maryland

An isolated island home to one of the oldest English-speaking communities in the region and Maryland's state dessert. 


Twelve miles west off the coast of Crisfield, Maryland, and accessible only by boat, is Smith Island. Once home to almost 1,000 occupants, the population has dwindled to around 175 people.

Due to its remoteness and to its population spending centuries largely cut off from the mainland, the island has its own distinct dialect. The version of English the locals speak is believed to most closely resemble that of the original Jamestown settlers. It sounds similar to the dialect you’d expect to find in England’s West Country or Cornwall, the area where many of the island’s original European settlers came from.

Most of the island’s residents make their living by crabbing and oyster dredging. The majority of families on the island have either the surnames Evans or Tyler, names whose lineages trace back to the first families who permanently settled on the island in 1686.

But crabs and oysters aren’t the only grub this small slice of land has to offer. Smith Island is arguably best known for its cake, a distinctly crispy eight-to-15 layer confection, which has since been sanctioned as Maryland’s state dessert. 

Know Before You Go

Round-trip ferries depart from the Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield seasonally from Memorial Day weekend until October. While cars are not permitted on the island, bikes and golf carts are easily hired to explore the picturesque architecture and surrounding marshland perfect for spotting ospreys and herons. 

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