Oftentimes great bloggers think alike. I’ve been planning a day trip to Smith Island, Maryland for the longest time and it looks like I may have a window of opportunity this weekend to fit the other Chesapeake Island into my travelogue (I visited nearby Tangier Island, VA last October). I was looking at my personally compiled list of inhabited islands of the United States that cannot be reached via road (you can find that list along with others in my “travel checklist” here). Neither Tangier or Smith are connected by a bridge to the mainland, but neither have the means to bring a car over either, leaving travelers to fend for themselves on foot (or possibly rent a vehicle once they’ve arrived).

That got me thinking, of all the inhabited islands in the United States, which ones only allow pedestrian traffic to come over? Well, Twelvemilecircle is at it again, recently posting a great writeup touching on all the islands requiring ferry travel (populated or not).

TMC did the grunt work for me – for all intents and purposes. While there may be lesser populated islands with no ferry service at all, I think I’ve sussed out all the (privately) populated islands that have ferry service for foot traffic only. I haven’t included Alaska or Hawai’i and this might dismiss some Aleutian islands that don’t have car ferry availability. For now, take this list as being more representative of the Lower 48. The list (as follows):

  • Bald Head Island, North Carolina
  • Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts
  • Little Diamond Island, Maine
  • Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • Monhegan Island, Maine
  • Santa Catalina Island, California
  • Smith Island, Maryland
  • Tangier Island, Virginia

There you go. By my count (again, thanks to TMC) their are eight islands with year-round residents in the United States that only allow pedestrians to visit. The two most well-known are Santa Catalina (far and away the most populous of these eight, it’s home to a famous casino and is famous for its history of homing pigeons) and Mackinac Island, which I visited on a family trip many years ago. In fact, Mackinac forbids any motor vehicles – even for residents. The smallest of these is Maine’s Little Diamond Island, which boasts five year-rounders according to its Wikipedia entry. The greatest little bit of trivia though is that, from census estimations, about 6,000 people each year can say they live in towns with generally no road traffic! It goes to show how connected and modern the United States really is that only a slightest sliver of the population lives “off the grid” in this respect.

Of course, Smith and Tangier Island share a common bond as the only inhabited islands in the Chesapeake that are only accessible by ferry. They may be part of two different states but are separated by only 11 miles. Each has its own ferry operation, with most trips leaving Crisfield, Maryland (though there are ferries available that depart from the western side of the Chesapeake). In the offseason, travel is limited to mail boats and charter planes.

Tangier has about twice the population of Smith, but has a much smaller land area. Smith Island includes three named-places, the communities of Ewell (where most boats will take you), Rhodes Point and Tylerton. Rhodes Point is a two-mile walk or bike ride from Ewell, but Tylerton is accessible only via boat and would make for an interesting day trip excursion if you were staying a couple days in Ewell. I’m not sure how doable a day trip to Tylerton is from Crisfield, but their is one boat that goes that route.

As the season is just getting underway, it’s a perfect time to fit in a trip myself. Here’s hoping the Smith Island cake lives up to its legendary status as Maryland’s top desert!

4 thoughts on “YOU CAN’T TAKE A CAR HERE!

    • Inhabited islands without public transport is a topic maybe worth diving into further at some point. Off the top of my head I can think of Oak Island, MN as one without ferry as well – though it can be accessed via ice road in winter…

  1. Thanks for sharing this great information. I’ve “driven” past Mackinac Island a few times, but I’ve never been. I’ve heard it’s a beautiful and interesting place to visit. I also understand that it is expensive, is that true?

    • It’s been so long for me that I can’t quite remember – but I do remember the island having its fair share of expensive amenities if that’s your thing. You can also get by fairly cheap as well, especially for just a day trip.

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