There’s not a lot going on in Crisfield most days. The southernmost incorporated city in Maryland calls itself the “Seafood Capital of the World” and a lot of Chesapeake Bay oysters, crabs and rockfish are unloaded from waterman boats here but for most of us, Crisfield is what you explore while waiting for the Tangier Island or Smith Island ferries.
Crisfield was originally a fishing town. It was kicked into prominence in the 1800s with its seafood exports. Then, went into hyperdrive when the Pennsylvania Railroad built a line down the peninsula in the 1860s. The West Main Street Pier is built on oyster shells and train soot that filled in the marshland.
Crisfield is still known for its seafood packing houses. However, about 70 percent of the crab-picking houses have closed since the 1990s. Still, a few seafood wholesalers remain, and the town is known for large crab restaurants, especially near the city dock area.
The town itself looks like it’s a bit down on its luck. Lots of big Victorian and Gothic homes that have seen better days.
A unique town feature: drive-through convenience & liquor stores.
Crisfield has several festivals each year which pack the town, otherwise most visitors are there to catch a passenger ferry to Smith Island or Tangier Island.
Smith & Tangier Passenger Ferries
The passenger ferries to Smith Island and Tangier Island are separate companies located near Crisfield city dock. They’re not far from each other and everything in the waterfront area is within easy walking distance.
Smith Island Ferry
The passenger ferry to Smith Island is located at the Somers Cove Marina, but the ferry office shares space in the Capt. Tyler Motel.
The Smith Island ferry from Crisfield leaves 12:30pm from May through mid-October. But, dates vary.
- May 29 & 30
- June 5, 6, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 & 30
- July: Wednesday through Sunday
- August: Wednesday through Sunday
- September 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 & 26
- October 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17
The price is around $30 round-trip with an additional fee for bicycles. We recommend calling — 410-425-2771 — rather than clicking through their unsecure website, or click on the Smith Island website which has all the numbers and is secure.
Tangier Island Ferry
The Tangier Island Cruises office is off the main road on the way to the city dock. The boat leaves from the dock behind the office.
The trip to Tangier Island is about $30 round-trip with an extra fee for bicycles.
Cruises depart daily Sunday through Saturday at 12:30pm arriving in Tangier Island, Virginia, at about 1:45pm. Departure from Tangier is at 4:00pm arriving Crisfield dock at about 5:15pm.
Parking is located near each boat dock.
What to See & Do in Crisfield
Shopping is limited at the Crisfield waterfront. There’s a separate business district that shoots off the main street that takes you to the waterfront, but those buildings are mostly empty and none are shops (as of 2021).
There are a few places near City Dock, including Waters Edge Cafe and Crisfield Creamery.
Gordon’s Confectionary (831 West Main Street) remains a step back in time. It’s been there since 1924. However, the only candy still sold now are Hershey bars in the glass cabinet under the cash register.
It’s an old-timey sandwich counter for locals with teenagers busy behind the counter on the weekends keeping up with grill orders. The specialties are claim strips and corn nuggets.
What’s a corn nugget?
Fresh corn is off the cob in clusters. The clusters are then dipped into batter and deep-fried. These are different than corn fritters, where the corn is mixed into the batter. Corn nuggets can be found in restaurants throughout Crisfield, along with Smith Island cake slices.
Crisfield City Dock
City Dock is where Smith Island and Tangier Island shuttles load up every day at 12:30pm. These shuttles are cargo and mail boats. They’ll take passengers too, and you can arrange that with the captain, but it’s safer to arrange a shuttle to Smith Island or Tangier Island in advance. The passenger ferries are at other docks.
Crisfield is also known for its festivals. In May, it’s the Soft Shell Spring Fair. In July, 4th of July Fireworks and Claim Bake. Over Labor Day, Hard Shell Crab Derby, and Boat Docking Competition. And in October, there’s the Waterman’s Festival. And, of course, the Christmas Parade in December.
Crisfield Heritage Museum
The J. Millard West Historical Museum is just off Main Street (at end of 9th Street) and shows how life once was along the Chesapeake Bay from when Native Americans canoed the shore to the present time.
It also features a number of waterfowl decoys along with a waterfowl hunting and gun display. There’s an interesting video of two brothers who made Crisfield nationally known for their carved, wood-duck decoys.
The town beach is down Lorie C. Quinn Sr. Drive (turn down Hudson St. off Route 413). It faces west over Daugherty Creek between the mainland and Janes Island State Park, and has a playground for kids.
A pier juts into the water, providing an overlook for some amazing sunsets.
Janes Island State Park
Janes Island State Park – The entrance for Janes Island State Park is just outside of town. It’s a protected marshland known for kayaking and canoeing trails.
The section on the mainland is mainly a camp ground with a small harbor for kayak rentals and boat access to the Tangier Sound.
The main part of park is an island that’s only accessible by boat.
Swimming at Janes Island State Park is only allowed on the island. There is no swimming area on the mainland portion of the park.
Cycling In & Around Crisfield
Crisfield has bicycle lanes throughout town. They’ve also started a rails-to-trail route along the Crisfield-Eastover Rail line paralleling MD 413.
Crisfield Crab Houses
Crisfield looks sleepy during the day, especially between ferries leaving and arriving, but in the late afternoon, the crab houses start filling up. These big seafood restaurants are in and around former packing houses, and they fill up by nighttime.
Several have outdoor tiki bars with corn-hole, ring-toss, and other outdoor bar games at the ready.
Well worth a stop along the way, is Linton’s Seafood (4500 Crisfield Hwy) just outside Crisfield. It’s a store that cooks the seafood for you, along with hush-puppies, corn nuggets, or corn-on-the-cob. And, bonus, they sell beer.
Once you order in the little store, head to the screened-in attached porch, where you’ll find picnic tables. Crabs and beer show up in short order.