Life on an Island?

How many of us sometimes dream about getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, not to mention the horror of politics, and enjoying a peaceful retirement on a deserted island–or maybe even just a nearly deserted one?

Dreaming that way seems safe enough because few people are in a position to fulfill that dream.

And those who can afford to can also afford to return to civilization if their dream getaway turns out not to be the Utopia they expected.


Smith Island isn’t a deserted island. Maryland’s last remaining populated island group in the Chesapeake Bay has fewer than three hundred residents, however. Most of them work on the water, although some make the forty-five minute commute by boat twice daily to work on the mainland. And of course there are folks who bake Smith Island cakes for exportation to markets in Crisfield and other places.

The island has a school, but kids above a certain age commute by boat to Crisfield to complete their secondary schooling.

Smith Island has a very attractive and informative museum. But the entry fee must be paid just to come in and purchase a sweatshirt. It’s worth it, though.

Smith Island’s only two restaurants close at 4:00 p.m. because that’s when tourists leave by ferry to return to the mainland. The seafood is wonderful, though. Fresh and tasty.

And the Smith Island cakes? Just as amazing as they’re rumored to be. Yum!

The islanders are big on church. The pretty little United Methodist church has a graveyard out back. The headstones go back a number of years, but fighting off the mosquitoes makes a lengthy examination too much of a nuisance to undertake.


Visitors aren’t allowed to bring cars. (The “ferries” are actually just regular boats big enough to carry a few passengers and occasionally some cargo.) Some of the residents have their own cars, but golf carts are popular there, too. So are bicycles.


The island is actually small enough to walk almost everywhere.

Birds in abundance are always visible. And so is the Chesapeake Bay itself. Since the Smith Island group is less than ten square miles in size, having an actual waterfront home is probably not considered overly special. And at time of flooding, maybe not even desirable.


Just like the island Devon in James Michener’s Chesapeake, Smith Island has been eroding for centuries. Efforts are being made to protect the island from being washed away entirely.


What do you think? Would Smith Island be a satisfactory substitute for a deserted island paradise?

In some ways it could be. With no crime, no law enforcement, and vehicles that don’t require license plates, life is safer than in what we think of as civilization. (I don’t mean to imply that Smith Island isn’t civilized–just that the resources are more limited.)

But wouldn’t we eventually take the simplicity and beauty of our surroundings for granted? Is it possible we might even grow tired of seafood and Smith Island cakes? And how would we feel about having to ferry to the mainland just to go to a mall (I’m not sure whether Crisfield even has a mall), a movie theater, or even a real grocery store?

And what about hurricanes? How could three hundred people be evacuated when the water gets that rough?


Don’t get me wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed our overnight visit to Smith Island in May. We stayed at a very adequate Bed and Breakfast, took a private boat ride around the Island, and enjoyed walking around looking at what there was to see. The residents were unfailingly nice.

Nonetheless, I don’t think Smith Island is where I’d want to live. And if a place like Smith Island won’t do, I guess I’ll have to quit dreaming of a deserted island, which would be even more limited.


Any comments? I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

Links you might be interested in: