You could call us the “one-timers” I suppose. When my husband, the Papa of this empty nest, and I travel for vacation, more than likely we choose to visit someplace we haven’t been before. Somewhere new to us. Some different spot. We aren’t the kind of folks who vacation in the same place year after year.
So our summer trip was no different. Even though we’d been to Maryland several times, we ventured to the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay to places we’ve never been. While on my research quest to find interesting sights to see, I stumbled upon Smith Island and we added it to our trip itinerary. We’re so glad we did.
With only a couple hundred residents, there are three small villages on Smith Island, which is about 10 miles out into the Chesapeake Bay. Of course to travel to the island, which is actually made up of multiple salt marsh islands, you must go by boat.
No other form of transportation exists. So Papa and I scheduled a cruise departing from Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Maryland to this island where you must sight-see by foot, bicycle, or golf cart.
After a one-hour voyage on the bay, we docked at the village of Ewell and ate lunch at the Bayside Inn Restaurant, where Papa enjoyed the best fresh crab cake he’s ever eaten. As you can imagine, crabbing, fishing, and oystering are the main industry of the island. But Smith Island is known for something else as well.
After lunch, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the village, learning a bit about Smith Island history, visiting the museum there, and observing the natural marshy environment rife with birds like egrets, herons, and ospreys. And of course, I captured a number of pictures with my trusty camera.
But the best part of the trip was that ‘something else’ – a slice of Smith Island Cake for dessert, a cake like no other we’ve ever tasted. This distinctive, particular cake is Smith Island’s claim to fame, so much so that the state of Maryland declared it the official state dessert in 2008.
Eight to 10 thin layers of cake are sandwiched in between layers of filling making Smith Island Cake a one of a kind dessert for certain. Papa chose the strawberry and cream cake and I opted for the chocolate and peanut butter version. Decadent, delicious, moist, and oh, stacked so high, it was probably the best cake I’ve ever tasted.
After we attempted to walk off the many calories we consumed with just one slice of Smith Island Cake, we headed back to the Bayside Restaurant and waited to board the boat for our one-hour cruise back to the mainland. While seated on the porch, we began chatting with an older lady who was also waiting to board.
The conversation was delightful and we learned that she had actually grown up on Smith Island. She told us what life was like there as a young girl and young adult. She also related the story behind the Smith Island Cake.
When the island men set out to harvest oyster beds in the bay for long periods of time, their wives would prepare those multi-layered cakes to send with them. So even though those oystering fellows might miss family celebrations at home while out to sea, they would remember their families with this special cake.
Listening to this friendly and gracious lady was a treat as sweet as the Smith Island Cake, which she was taking home for friends on the trip back from the island. Surprising still was discovering that this lady’s son was our boat captain and her daughter ran the restaurant where we had eaten lunch.
None of that information would have been made known to us if we hadn’t taken time to sit and chat with our porch companion.
When we keep to ourselves and don’t engage with others, we just don’t know what we might be missing, which makes me realize I’d much rather be a piece of a continent of many than an island by myself.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” ~ John Donne