Not more than an hour drive from the large urban centers of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquil world of small islands where time has practically. For centuries fishermen have coped with the temperamental weather, and birds have nested in the area year after year. Today connected by bridges and ferries, the Maryland Islands, most of which are in Chesapeake Bay though some are in the middle of the Potomac River, serve as an escape for urban dwellers. Visitors can bring their boats, take children to hike mile-long beaches, observe egrets and ospreys, watch the spectacular sunsets over Chesapeake Bay, and feast on fresh fish. Photo: Stephen Bonk/Fotolia

»Assateague Island

Assateague Island

Assateague Island is a protected 37-mile long barrier island near Ocean City in Maryland and Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Actually, two thirds of the island belong to Maryland and one third to Virginia. The island declared Assateague Island National Seashore as a national park in 1965 to protect the birds’ nesting areas along with over 300 wild horses. The island has more than 37 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, dense pine forests, and vast salt marshes, and it is tantamount to paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. The best way to explore this pristine area is by kayak or hiking. There are organized wildlife tours, and visitors can see not only wild ponies roaming freely but also egrets, peregrine falcons, osprey, waterfowl, and many other birds. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Andrea Izzotti/Fotolia

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»Cobb Island

Cobb Island

Cobb Island is a small secluded island about 45 miles from Washington, D.C. where the Wicomico and Potomac rivers meet. It is connected to the mainland by a 0.11-mile-long bridge on Maryland Route 254. The island is divided from the mainland by Neale Sound. The sleepy island’s population has a small post office, a volunteer fire department, a Baptist church, a small playground for children, and a large community green space known as Fisherman's Field. Local restaurants have a marina attached, so those who visit by boat can dock right in front of establishments overlooking the water. The island has a small art gallery that is also a local bakery. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Double Image Studio/Fotolia

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»Deal Island

Deal Island

Deal Island is a three-mile long island on Tangier Sound in Somerset County, Maryland. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge, but you’ll feel like you’re in another world entirely. There are three small communities on the island – Chance, Deal Island, and Wenona.  Visitors to the island can spend their time in the Deal Island Harbor on the north end of the island and watch the fishermen as they unload the catch of the day, work in the oyster hatchery, and pick crabs. Nearby is the island public beach. The best time to visit the island is during the lively two-day island festival for Labor Day when they have traditional Deal Island Skipjack Races. Skipjacks are traditional sailing oyster boats. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: ArenaCreative/Fotolia

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»Hart-Miller Island

Hart-Miller Island

Hart-Miller Island is an uninhabited 1,100-acre island on Chesapeake Bay close to the Middle River mouth. It can only be reached by boat, and there is a safe mooring on the western coast where you will also find the island’s beautiful 3,000-foot long fine sandy beach. The island is part of the Hart-Miller Island State Park, which also includes Pleasure Island and Hawk Cove. The park offers a campsite, eight miles of hiking trails around a large pond, and breathtaking views of Chesapeake Bay from every corner. The popular 1.8 mile Long Trail Loop has interpretive signs with information about the wildlife and ecosystems on the island. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Jeramey Lende/Fotolia

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»Hooper's Island

Hooper's Island

Hooper’s Island is actually a chain of three islands between Chesapeake Bay and the Honga River. The islands are fairly remote and are known for rich wildlife, great sport fishing, and crabbing. It is one of Maryland’s oldest settled areas. The main community, Fishing Creek, has about 400 people on Upper Hooper’s Island. Lower Hooper’s Island is uninhabited. The islands are a popular destination for hiking and enjoying the views of Chesapeake Bay, especially at sunset. The 1901 Hooper's Island Lighthouse is the island’s most visible feature and is one of America’s rare pneumatic caisson lighthouses.  Local company Sawyer Charters & Tours offers fishing charters and cruises around the island. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Double Image Studio/Fotolia

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»Jane's Island

Jane's Island

James Island is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, near Crisfield. It includes more than 2,900 acres of saltmarsh, about 30 miles of water trails and large tracts of isolated, magnificent beaches. The island is wild and looks untouched by human hands – it is a haven for birds, crabs, fish, and other dwellers of the large saltmarsh. James Island is a great place for those who want to observe the wildlife of Chesapeake Bay, do some crabbing or fishing, or take a kayak around the island. The island is part of the James Island State Park, which also has a mainland portion with a campground, picnic areas, a marina, and a boat ramp. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Double Image Studio/Fotolia

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»Kent Island

Kent Island

Historic Kent Island is separated from the Delmarva Peninsula by Kent Narrows and from Sandy Point near Annapolis by four miles of water. Chesapeake Bay Bridge connects the island with the mainland at this point. Kent Island is the largest island in Chesapeake Bay. The Chester River runs through the island until it spills into the sea at Love Point. The island is a popular tourist destination for visitors from Baltimore, Washington, and Annapolis.

Kent Island was once a trading post for the Maryland’s first permanent English settlement. It later developed into an important seafood processing and packing area. Stevensville, the island’s largest town, is home to the historic Stevensville Train Depot and Maryland’s oldest congregation Christ Church, founded in 1631.

The Chesapeake Exploration Center on the Kent Narrows waterfront is home to the Queen Anne’s County Office of Tourism with a range of interpretive displays about Chesapeake Bay. The island’s best beach, Matapeake Beach, is located on the western shore and is surrounded by a small park with nice views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It also has a public swimming beach, an outdoor amphitheater, a picnic area, and woodland trails. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: jonbilous/Fotolia

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»Smith Island

Smith Island

Located in Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is separated from the Crisfield on the mainland by about 12 miles. Visitors coming to Smith Island have to come to Crisfield to board a ferry or boats going to the island. There are a few boat slips at Smith Island Marina, so you can also come in your own boat. Smith Island is the only inhabited island in Chesapeake Bay that is not connected to the mainland by a causeway or a bridge. There are only about 200 permanent residents and three distinct communities: Tylerton, Ewell, and Rhodes Point.  Ewell, the largest, is the place where tourists land. It has a visitors’ center and a few restaurants. The island has more than 4,000 acres of marshland, protected in the Martin National Wildlife Refuge. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Double Image Studio/Fotolia

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»Solomons Island

Solomons Island

Located about an hour and a half from Washington DC at the mouth of the Patuxent River, Solomon’s Island is a popular destination for boaters cruising Chesapeake Bay. You can also reach the island by crossing the impressive 135-feet long Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge. The view of the island from the bridge is spectacular. Calvert Marine Museum is a great place to learn about life on the Bay. The Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Annemarie Garden Sculpture Park are also interesting places to visit.  Get the feel of the island spirit by taking a stroll along the River Walk Boardwalk on the banks of the Patuxent River. You can also grab something to eat or just enjoy the view. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: DSL/Fotolia

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»St. Clement's Island

St. Clement's Island

St. Clement’s Island is part of the St. Clement's Island State Park, which also includes an uninhabited Potomac River island about half a mile from Colton's Point on the mainland. The park’s most visible feature is a 40-foot stone cross built to commemorate the beginnings of religious freedom in the States and a reconstruction of the Blakistone Island Light.  The light and the cross are part of the St. Clement's Island Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The island is the site of the 1634 landing of Maryland's first colonists, who came from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England. The island can be reached by private boat or by water taxi from the St. Clement's Island Museum in Colton's Point. The island is fun for hiking, fishing, hunting, and picnicking. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: flownaksala/Fotolia

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»St. George's Island

St. George's Island

St. George Island is located in the Potomac River in southern Maryland. The island has a long and turbulent history that dates back to 1634. During the Revolutionary War in 1776, the island was a site of the battle between the British forces that attempted to land in Maryland and Maryland’s Flying Camp militia. In 1812, the British occupied the island and made it their headquarters, cutting down the trees on the island for their ship masts and raiding the local shipyard and river plantations. Today, the island is a popular tourist destination offering excellent fishing, boating, crabbing, and camping. There is a bridge that connects the island with Piney Point on the mainland. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Oleksii Astanin/Fotolia

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»Tilghman Island

Tilghman Island

Tilghman Island is a three-mile long sandy stretch of lowland between Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, just a short drive from Washington D.C. Located at the tip of Talbot County, the island was settled in 1707. Throughout its history it was a watermen’s land, with rugged clam boats, skipjacks, and buyboats that are still bobbing in the water in Dogwood Harbor. Today, they will take you fishing, sailing, or hunting, and they can also show you the lighthouses around the island. The island’s pristine nature is great for those who love solitude. You can go hiking, kayaking, or join one of the guided eco-tours. To learn more about this unique place, visit Phillips Wharf Environmental Center or the Tilghman Waterman’s Museum. Local restaurants will delight you with fresh seafood on their decks overlooking the water. 12 Best Islands in Maryland - Photo: Chris/Fotolia

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12 Best Islands in Maryland