Block Island RI: Slow Down and Walk

Slow down! A Block Island 1.5 MPH Speed Limit Sign

Slow down! A Block Island 1.5 MPH Speed Limit Sign

WHY GO: 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 by high-speed ferry to this baby-chick shaped chunk of land just 7 miles long and four miles wide. In the late 1800’s, Victorians built hotels overlooking harbor and ocean, and miraculously, many still stand, imbuing Block Island RI with a “lost in time” aspect. For years, tourists walked or biked to explore. Then, mopeds and scooters became a preferred mode of transport. Now, in season, you’ll be confronted with a fusillade of huge, gas-guzzling cars. But on this Getaway Maven’s pictorial walkabout, ignore the road-hog SUV’s and discover the stone walls, clay bluffs, Andrew Wyeth like lighthouses, cemeteries, ponds and trails that make Block Island so alluring.

Block Island Ferry

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

GETTING TO BLOCK ISLAND: Take the no-car High Speed Ferry from New London, CT. It takes a bit over an hour – and brings you right into the heart of Old Harbor. $25 each way, $35 with bike.

Things to Do on Block Island RI

Block Island Historical Society Museum

Block Island Historical Society Museum

VISIT: Block Island Historical Museum and Gallery. 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. Open daily during the summer, 11am-4pm, $6.

Stone Wall Freedom Series, by David Tucker at Block Island Historical Society

Stone Wall Freedom Series, by David Tucker at Block Island Historical Society

WALK: 7 Mile loop tour – south from Old Harbor to Mohegan Bluffs, up to New Harbor and back to town. With variations of landscape, from forceful surf, clay cliffs, silent ponds, yachting centers, salt marsh and stone walls (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), it’s a fantastic overview of the best of the island. Stop at the Southeast Light, descend down to Mohegan Bluffs beach, see the gravestone of a 170 year old island woman, grab a bite and watch planes coming and going at Bethany’s Diner at the Block Island Airport, and mingle with the boat captains at New Harbor Marinas. Here are some photos to get you primed….

Spring House Hotel, Block Island

Spring House Hotel, Block Island

Southeast Lighthouse

Southeast Lighthouse, Block Island

Stairway to Mohegan Bluffs Beach

Stairway to Mohegan Bluffs Beach, Block Island

Mohegan Bluffs Beach

Mohegan Bluffs Beach, Block Island

Lemonade for a Cause, Block Island

Block Island walkers are rewarded with drinks at old fashioned stands that dot the roads. Here – Lemonade for a Cause, Block Island

Block Island Stone Walls

Block Island Stone Walls

Coveted House on a Block Island Pond

Coveted House on a Block Island Pond

Fresh Pond, Block Island

Fresh Water rendered Block Island attractive to Native Americans and First European Settlers in 1661

Mary Perry, Age 170

John Perry Gravestone at Indian Cemetery across from Fresh Pond. Note that wife, Mary does not have a death date, making her a hearty 170 years old this year.

Stone Wall House

Stone Wall Shack, Block Island

Honor System Farm Stand

Honor System Farm Stand, Block Island

Bethany's Diner at Block Island Airport

Bethany’s Diner at Block Island Airport

Block Island Sunset

Sunset over Great Salt Pond, New Harbor, Block Island

WALK: 8-mile round trip back and forth from Old Harbor to the North Lighthouse. Begin in town on Corn Neck Road, which shoots north for 4 miles to the northern tip of Block Island. You’ll keep 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. 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. 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.

Crescent Beach Access Block Island

One of the many sandy routes to Crescent Beach on Block Island

Block Island Home

Block Island House

Failed Enterprise, Block Island

Fresh Out, Free Lemonade Stand, Block Island

Modes of Transport, Block Island

Bike and Moped on Block Island road

Boardwalk from Corn Neck Road to Great Salt Pond

Boardwalk from Corn Neck Road to Great Salt Pond, Block Island

Sacred Labyrinth, Block Island

Sacred Labyrinth off Corn Neck Road, Block Island

North Lighthouse Block Island

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

WALK: The Greenway. Inspired by the Greenway trails of England, the Block Island Greenway includes 15 miles of cleared 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.

Greenway Entrance

One of the many marked entrances to The Greenway, Block Island

Beacon Hollow Animal Rescue Farm

Animal rescuer, “Doc” Willis, at his farm, Beacon Hollow – just off the Greenway on Beacon Hill Rd., Block Island

Pull out on Beacon Hill at Beacon Hollow Farm – an animal rescue sanctuary owned by retired doctor, John Willis. Say hi to the horses, donkeys and goats that “Doc” Willis has saved, but try to stay away from the black goat, Piggy, who’s prone to butting visitors with her sharp horns. The red barn is one of Block Island’s most photographed buildings.

Beacon Hollow Farm

Animal Sanctuary, Beacon Hollow Farm, Block Island

Best Restaurants on Block Island RI

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.

Topside Cafe on top of Poor People's Pub, Block Island

Topside Cafe on top of Poor People’s Pub, Block Island

BREAKFAST/LUNCH: Topside Café (on top of Poor People’s Pub) for great and healthy Acai Bowls and fresh, fresh Hawaiian style Poke fish.

Aldo's Delivery Boat

Aldo’s Pastry’s delivery boat, Block Island

BREAKFAST: Aldo’s Bakery. Aldo’s Old Harbor location is a long-standing BI 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/Great Salt Pond every morning in season bearing fresh-baked goods.

Poor People's Pub

Poor People’s Pub, Block Island

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 ($13). On the other, Veggie Burgers. You decide.

Rebecca's on Block Island

Rebecca’s on Block Island

LUNCH/DINNER. Rebecca’s. 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, Block Island

LUNCH/DINNER: The Beachead – 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 BI mainstay – this one in New Harbor overlooking Great Salt Pond.

The Oar, Block Island

The Oar in New Harbor at the Block Island Boat Basin

LUNCH/DINNER The Oar. 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, Block Island

DINNER: Eli’s. 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, Block Island

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

Where to Stay on Block Island RI

Old Harbor, Block Island

National Hotel and Old Harbor section of Block Island from ferry landing

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.

RENT A HOUSE: You can find a range of prices 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, Block Island

STAY: 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 Hotel Manisses and 1661 Inn on Spring St. and the venerable Spring House Hotel, with arguably the best view on the island.

In Category: Rhode Island

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,, 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.

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