7 Can’t-Miss Things To Do On Block Island

Block Island is a destination that somehow manages to defy time and stay beautifully preserved, offering an array of leisure and adventurous activities. Whether cycling around the scenic landscape, plunging into cool waters, or discovering wildlife, there is no shortage of incredible things to do on Block Island.

The smallest and closest of the New England Islands (along with Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket), it’s slightly over an hour from New London CT, on the high-speed ferry trip to Block Island, Rhode Island, a baby-chick-shaped chunk of land just 7 miles long and four miles wide.

In the late 1800s, Victorians built hotels overlooking the harbor and ocean; miraculously, many still stand, imbuing Block Island with the aura of another age. For years, tourists got around by bike or moped. Now, in season, you’ll be confronted with a fusillade of huge, gas-guzzling cars.

But on this pictorial walkabout, ignore the road-hog SUVs and discover the stone walls, clay bluffs, Andrew Wyeth-like lighthouses, cemeteries, ponds, and trails that make Block Island so alluring.

Looking for more weekend getaway ideas? Check out our curated round-up of romantic getaways in New England.

Block Island Ferry
The New London to Block Island High-Speed Ferry Docks in Old Harbor

How To Get To Block Island

There are several ways to get to Block Island from the East Coast for a day trip or longer vacation. Jump on the Block Island Hi-Speed Ferry from Point Judith, RI, Newport RI, or Fall River MA – foot traffic only, additional fee for bikes. 

Or, take the no-car Block Island Express from New London, CT.

FYI – Any Block Island Beach is one of the Getaway Mavens’ quirkiest places to propose in Rhode Island.

Best Things To Do On Block Island

Block Island Historical Society Museum

Start here for an orientation of the island. It’s stocked with requisite 10,000-year-old Native American arrowheads, along with artifacts from first settlers and photos of offshore boating disasters. Pictures of piles of frozen bodies from the Feb. ’07 Larchmont Steamship Disaster are particularly horrifying.

VISIT: 1661 Inn Exotic Farm & Garden

For travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind experience on Block Island, the 1661 Inn Exotic Farm and Garden is not to be missed. This fascinating establishment blends the comfort of an inn with the allure of an exotic animal farm, offering guests the rare opportunity to mingle with llamas, emus, and even a zedonk—a zebra-donkey hybrid.

Wander through the verdant gardens dotted with vibrant flowers and ornamental shrubs, where you can pause to soak in the serene ocean views. Whether you’re an animal lover, a garden enthusiast, or simply someone in search of something delightfully different, the 1661 Inn Exotic Farm and Garden provides a truly unique escape from the ordinary.

Stairway to Mohegan Bluffs Beach
Stairway to Mohegan Bluffs Beach

GO: Mohegan Bluffs

The Mohegan Bluffs trail is a haven for both nature lovers and bird-watching aficionados. This entrancing trail meanders through lush vegetation, leading to an observation point with sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean.

The bluffs are dramatic clay cliffs that soar up to 150 feet, offering unparalleled views and excellent bird-watching opportunities. To access the secluded beach below, visitors can navigate a steep wooden staircase that descends the cliffside.

With variations of landscape, from forceful surf, clay cliffs, silent ponds, yachting centers, salt marsh and stone walls, it’s a fantastic overview of the best of the island. (Legend has it that Block Island slaves built these walls to win their freedom, as told in a trio of historical fiction novels, Stone Wall Freedom by David Tucker).

GO: Mansion Beach

Mansion Beach on Block Island is prized for its expansive stretch of white sand and relatively calm waters, making it an ideal location for swimming and sunbathing. Set against a backdrop of picturesque dunes, this beach is less crowded than some of the island’s other spots, offering visitors a more serene experience.

Fresh Pond, Block Island

Stop at the Southeast Lighthouse, descend down to Mohegan Bluffs beach, see the gravestones of the original settlers.

WALK: Town To North Lighthouse Trail

Begin in town on Corn Neck Road, which shoots north for 4 miles to the northern tip of Block Island. You’ll pass a series of beaches, collectively known as Crescent Beach, on your right and will encounter an access-way boardwalk to Great Salt Pond on your left. 

Take it for unparalleled views of boats at moorings and salt marsh. 

Boardwalk from Corn Neck Road to Great Salt Pond
Boardwalk from Corn Neck Road to Great Salt Pond

A few miles up Corn Neck Rd, you’ll find The Labyrinth, a  meditative stone pathway. Stop for a few pensive minutes, then continue on to the North Lighthouse – a ¾ mile walk on a pebble-strewn beach. It’s like being inside an Andrew Wyeth Painting.

Sacred Labyrinth, Block Island
Sacred Labyrinth

On your way back to town, you can choose the Clayhead Trail, which runs along the ridge of the Clayhead cliffs on the north part of the island. Truly stunning.

North Lighthouse Block Island
It’s a 3/4 mile walk from the terminus of Corn Neck Road to North Lighthouse on a pebbly beach.

WALK: The Greenway

Inspired by the Greenway trails of England, the Block Island Greenway covers 30 miles of trails, winding through the southern half of the island. Nathan Mott Park, the Enchanted Forest, Turnip Farm, and Rodman’s Hollow can all be accessed via the Greenway trail system.

Access points can be found on Lakeside Drive, and along Old Mill, Cooneymus, West Side and Beacon Hill roads. Look for granite Greenway markers, turnstyles and steps over stone walls.

GO: Fred Benson Town Beach

About a 9-minute drive from North Light, the Fred Benson Town Beach, also known as Crescent Beach, is a go-to destination for beach lovers visiting Block Island. Stretching over a mile along the island’s eastern shoreline, the sandy expanse is framed by gentle surf, making it an ideal spot for both swimming and beachcombing.

Equipped with lifeguards, a pavilion, picnic tables, and rental options for chairs and umbrellas, it caters to visitors looking for a comfortable and safe beach experience. And for those who get hungry, food trucks and a concession stand are readily available, offering an array of snacks and refreshments to make your beach day complete.

Best Block Island Restaurants

Paynes Killer Donuts, Block Island
Move over Krispy Kreme! Payne’s Donuts on Block Island takes the cake.

BREAKFAST/SNACK: Payne’s “Killer” Donuts

These small, warm, crunchy outside soft inside granulated sugar encrusted beauties are worth blowing any diet for. Move over, Krispy Kreme, Payne’s is here.

Aldo's Delivery Boat
Aldo’s Pastry’s delivery boat

BREAKFAST: Aldo’s Bakery

Aldo’s Old Harbor location is a long-standing Block Island tradition, and even those who arrive by boat thrill to the Aldo’s delivery launch, which makes its way around the moorings in New Harbor every morning in season bearing fresh-baked goods. It’s also the go-to spot for the creamy, homemade ice cream that makes it a summertime favorite for both locals and visitors.

Garden seating Kimberly's Block Island RI

EAT: Kimberly’s

Kimberly’s proves that casual Block Island fare can be sophisticated and innovative. And incredibly good. It’s topped many a Block Islander’s list of Best Restaurant. 

Poor People's Pub

LUNCH/DINNER: Poor People’s Pub

On the one hand, it’s got Junk Fries, smothered sandwiches and the specialty crazy-good Chili Mac and Cheese. On the other, Veggie Burgers. You decide.

Rebecca's on Block Island

LUNCH/DINNER: Rebecca’s Seafood

It’s just a shack in town, but has earned its chops by going beyond the typical fried clam fare and into “Hummus With Veggies” to suit a variety of eaters.

Beachead Restaurant
Beachead Restaurant overlooking Crescent Beach

LUNCH/DINNER: The Beachead 

Beachhead is the only restaurant with Crescent Beach at its front door. A perfect stop before and after your North Lighthouse trek.

Dead Eye Dicks
Dead Eye Dicks, Block Island

LUNCH/DINNER: Dead Eye Dicks

Another Block Island mainstay – this one is in New Harbor overlooking Great Salt Pond.

The Oar, Block Island
The Oar in New Harbor at the Block Island Boat Basin


Open on all sides – essentially a covered deck, the Oar has some surprisingly inventive and pulled-from-ground fresh cuisine. A favorite of boaters, it’s right in the Block Island Boat Basin Marina.

Eli's Fresh Tomato Tart, Block Island
Eli’s Fresh Tomato Tart


Intimate, innovative, sophisticated and “resort casual” – Eli’s is a hot ticket on summer nights, so make reservations far in advance.

Winfields Restaurant Block Island
Winfields Restaurant Block Island

DINNER: Winfield’s

A Ye-Olde Tavern style fine dining meat, potatoes and fish spot always a hit with tourists and summer residents.

Yellow Kittens
Yellow Kittens Tavern

DRINKS On Block Island

Yellow Kittens – if only for the name. Spring House porch for sweeping ocean views. Surf Hotel back deck for Crescent Beach sunsets.

Block Island Hotels

National Hotel Block Island RI
National Hotel

In season, the nicest hotel, inn and B&B rooms can start at $500 per night, even for small ones. Old-fashioned breezy shore, no a/c hotels with squeaky beds and shared baths are around $200 per night in season. Consider coming in early May or in September after Labor Day for the best rates and, in the view of many islanders, for the best weather.

There are a few dozen places to stay ranging from the charming Blue Dory Inn and Victorian-era National Hotel in town, the shore-fancy 1661 Inn. And, of course, there’s the alternative of renting a house through VRBO. If you don’t have a car, best to find a place a block or two from Old Harbor.

Spring House Hotel, Block Island
Spring House Hotel

STAY: Spring House Hotel

The Spring House Hotel stands as one of Block Island’s most iconic establishments, offering a blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. Situated atop a hill, the hotel provides sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, a sight best enjoyed from its expansive veranda lined with classic rocking chairs.

With a history dating back to 1852, the Spring House Hotel has welcomed guests with its elegant interior design, spacious rooms, and a restaurant that prides itself on farm-to-table offerings sourced from the hotel’s own garden. The serene setting and top-notch service make it a sought-after venue for weddings and special events, while also serving as a tranquil escape for those looking to unwind in a picturesque setting.

STAY: Ballards Beach Resort

Ballard’s Beach Resort is a cornerstone of Block Island’s vibrant social scene and offers far more than just a spot to catch some sun. Located steps away from the ferry landing, this resort seamlessly blends beachside relaxation with a lively atmosphere. With its own private beach area complete with lounge chairs and beach service, Ballard’s also boasts a renowned restaurant and outdoor tiki bars serving an array of cocktails and seafood dishes.

Live music performances are a regular feature, creating a festive environment that draws both day-trippers and overnight guests. Whether you’re looking for water sports, dancing, or simply a beautiful place to watch the sunset, Ballard’s Beach Resort offers a comprehensive experience.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

1 thought on “7 Can’t-Miss Things To Do On Block Island”

  1. I love BI ! I have been going there since I was a teen, got married there and bring our kids there when we can, unforgettable!

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