[y] Block Island Visitors Guide
Nestled in the Atlantic, only 15 miles from the coast, Block Island, Rhode Island offers the vacationer what does not seem possible anymore – simple relaxation in a startling, beautiful place. The Island is famous for its miles of public beaches, myriad of outdoor seaside activities, dining opportunities, stores, and specialty shops that display their tributes to Block Island in various mediums, found in the numerous galleries.
Block Island is “One of the last great places in the Western Hemisphere…” only three hours from New York and two hours from Boston (plus a relaxing one-hour ferry ride from the mainland) – may be America’s best-kept secret.
From its majestic 200-foot tall Mohegan Bluffs in the south to rare birds that call the Great Salt Pond home to the inviting maze of woodland trails at Clayhead in the north, this 11 square mile island offers both the rare and the wonderful. Perfect for the romantic getaway, corporate retreat or group tour.
Some twelve miles off the coast of Rhode Island, close to Connecticut, and Long Island, with New York just off in the distance, this tiny island is a true, New England oasis. Vacationing at Block Island has become a tradition for many visitors who return year after year to take in the sea and salt air, lounge on the beautiful beaches, nose around in the quaint shops and dine on fresh seafood.
Occasionally, Tall Ships of Rhode Island make their appearance in the waters off Block Island. These giant, floating pieces of history are certainly a sight to see. The Tall Ships Festival takes place in Newport, RI.
How to Get There
Block Island is easy to visit. A short ferry ride from either Point Judith, RI or Montauk, NY will deliver you to the shores of the island. In addition, air service is available from Long Island, NY and Westerly, RI. Tired of fighting summer crowds? Block Island has plenty of quiet country homes available as summer rentals.
Block Island Things to Do
Block Island is an irresistible destination offering recreation, culture, outdoor adventures, and natural beauty. One of the best-kept secrets in the vacation travel industry is Block Island with its vintage hotels and accommodating “Islanders.” Block Island is the perfect destination for a group tour, corporate meeting or all-inclusive packages with its majestic 200 foot Mohegan Bluffs in the south, rare birds that call the Great Salt Pond home and the inviting maze of woodland trails at Clayhead in the north.
Each year, the summer kicks off with Block Island Race Week, a national event. Usually the third week of June the island is flooded with competitors who come here to race and have a good time. Join in on the festivities or watch the daily parade of colorful sails from the shore.
There are many fun things to do on Block Island, almost all of them outdoors. The island is at its best when the sun is shining and vacationers can enjoy the spectacular beaches. There is something for everyone. Biking, hiking, kayaking, and recently the stand-up paddleboard has become a favorite summer activity. There are many sights to see on this historic island, so whether you like to explore on your own or hook up with an organized tour or activity, the choice is yours.
Getting around Block Island for all the fun things to do and see can take place on foot, by taxi, bicycle, moped or car. Use the links below to find out about each sight or activity from an insider’s perspective. It’s always good to get the scoop before you go so you can make the most of your Block Island vacation.
Hiking is a great way to really see Block Island. Since almost half of this paradise is preserved, there are a lot of great places to walk that are available to the public. Starting with the Greenway Trails, there are approximately 25 miles of trails that provide easy to moderate treks around the island. Since Block Island was formed by glaciers a gazillion years ago, its shrubland, beaches, and open grassland are now habitat to many species, some endangered. This place is a haven for birdwatching.
The island is great for hiking. Getting around this way is a fun family activity. There are no difficult hikes on Block Island. You can get a good map at the Chamber of Commerce. (located at the Block Island Ferry parking lot) The Nature Conservancy on High Street has maps with the Greenway Trails marked.
The Mohegan Bluffs
This is a must-see. Past the southeast lighthouse is the entrance. There are stairs that go down to the beach – it’s quite the hike back up! Unbelievable vistas of the sprawling Atlantic ocean await.
This a great hiking spot. There are several Greenway Trails that weave in and out of the hollow. When the glaciers melted from Block Island, an area known as Rodman’s Hollow was created by mother nature. This 230-acre piece of protected land is a great place to hike, with Greenway trails providing walkers with full nature experience. Trails are clearly marked and easy to navigate for the beginner to a moderate hiker.
Located off Cooneymus Road, the trail beginning is marked by a wooden sign. You may hike straight through the hollow all the way to Black Rock and the ocean, or take the long or short loop and hike up to the top of the knoll for a great panoramic view of the hollow and the ocean.
The North Lighthouse
At the very tip of the island, about a 25-minute walk from the parking area, tours are available in this historic building. Block Island’s North Lighthouse was originally built in 1829. It was rebuilt 8 years later further inland to protect it from the ocean and erosion. In 1857 another building went up but was wiped out by shifting sands. The granite building that is there now was completed in 1868.
The Southeast Lighthouse
Located on the southeast end of the island near the Mohegan Bluffs, this historic landmark is open to the public. It is also a popular spot for wedding ceremonies. Block Island’s Southeast Light is one of two on the island and is the highest above sea level of any in New England. Built in 1875, it has one of only 12 working first-order Fresnel lenses in the country flashing green every five seconds. The lens was originally used in the Cape Lookout Light in North Carolina.
The Historical Society
Open daily during the summer and weekends during the shoulder season. A short walk through town brings the visitor to this center of BI history.
The cemetery is located on the corner of West Side Road and Center Road, high on a hill with spectacular views of the island, ocean and the great salt pond. It is easy to get to from town or the marinas. As you walk the rows of graves -some dating back as far as the 1600s, you will recognize many island surnames.
Kid Family Vacation Fun
Abram’s Animal Farm
Open to the public, this little farm is just past the Manisses Hotel. Visit Abram’s animal farm on Block Island and see a host of exotic animals. Located next to the Hotel Manisses on Spring Street, this family farm is owned by the Abrams family and is part of the hotel.
A very short walk from town, hang out and watch llamas, camels, goats, emus, kangaroos, and donkeys. It’s free. The farm also has sheep, ducks, and chickens as you would normally expect to see on a farm. The farm grows vegetables for the hotel’s restaurant. The owner, Justin Abrams began collecting exotic animals years ago. A few islanders help him to care for the animals. This isn’t a petting zoo so you will not be able to go inside but there is plenty of action to enjoy from the outside the fence.
We can’t say enough about our beaches, they are 360 degrees of amazing. Most days on Block Island are spent on the beach body surfing and building sandcastles. Island summers are warm and breezy, perfect for outdoor fun. Check out our Block Island Beach Guide
An interesting experience. It’s all that you make of the opportunity to walk in meditation. The views are fabulous from this point along the north end of the island. The seeker uses the winding path to explore the self. Contemplating questions of life and finding answers within is the purpose of walking the winding paths. Prayer, mantra (chanting) and breath practices can be combined with walking.
The labyrinth of Block Island is located off Corn Neck Road, just past West Beach Road or the transfer station. Marked by a wooden staircase and sign, this garden-like maze is on private property though open for Block Island visitors to enjoy.
Whether by boat or on foot, visiting the marinas is a good time. There are four marinas on Block Island. Choosing a harbor to dock your boat depends on when you are arriving, how long you are staying and what amenities you require.
Champlin’s is one of the most family-friendly places on the island. You do not have to have your boat at the marina to enjoy most of the amenities. This is a great place for a kid. Free outdoor barbecues and picnic tables, video arcade, a restaurant and snack bar, pool, daily entertainment by the pool or at the tiki bar at the end of the dock, state of the art playground. For a fee, you can ride the bumper boats, rent sailboats or kayaks or play tennis. *recently the pool has only allowed guests with boats in the marina.
Island Free Library
The Island Free Library is always a busy place. There many programs for kids and quiet areas for getting some studying done.
The Ocean View Pavilion
This eco-tourist site is tucked up behind the post office building and overlooks all of the towns to the north and Ballard’s Beach to the east. Ocean View Pavilion is a non-profit organization that has activities that connect children to nature. Nature walks, birding and bird banding, night sky viewing and art programs are a few of the offerings here.
Ball O’Brien Park
Located on West Side Road just past the cemetery, this park is popular with the locals. Swingset, jungle gym, skate park, and tennis court. Block Island’s only skate park is the Ian Kortbek Memorial Skate Park. Find it at the Ball O’Brien Park on West Side Road. It’s free. There’s also a swing set and jungle gym for the younger kids in your
Block Island waters provide some of the best fishing on the eastern seaboard. Anglers of all abilities can have great luck surfcasting or taking a charter trip. Learn to fish. Catch the biggest striped bass. Take a charter trip and see what you can catch. Block Island has several charter boats, captains & beach guides.
Besides the best free beaches on the East Coast, kids love all water-based recreation. No beach vacation is complete without a flight with Block Island Parasail. Snorkeling, Kayaking and Stand up Paddleboarding or a surf lesson is also fun.
Rent a surfboard and head to the beach. The east beaches have good waves to learn on, especially across from the Beachhead restaurant. The Diamond Blue surf shop on the corner of Dodge Street and Corneck Road rents surfboards, boogie boards, and paddleboards.
Many opportunities abound for taking a sail around the island. From Block Island’s Race Week in June to Block Island Maritime Institute to chartering a boat, it’s always a good time.
Located at Old Harbor, sailing high above the island sports one of the best views and provides a rush to the thrill seeker.
The Greenway Trails These trails weave throughout the entire island. Have fun finding and hiking them.
Parks & Playgrounds Join the island kids as they frequent their playgrounds too.
Don’t forget all the other fun things to do such as Shopping, at boutiques and shops, Block Island’s two Movie Theatre’s, and Video Arcades, Block Island’s Restaurants and Cafes, homemade Ice Cream & Candy the Farmer’s Market pampering Spa services and Block Island’s Night Life & Entertainment
A Block Island day trip typically begins with a ferry ride There are several ways of getting to the island. Once here, getting around the island is easy. If this is your first trip to Block Island, you’ll want to use this website to plan out your day. There are plenty of things to do. The day will go quickly so it really helps to know what you want to do and see.
Planning a day trip to Block Island is easy from almost anywhere in New England. There are many travel options for getting to the island from all points by ferry, private boat or plane. First, make a stop to the visitor’s center. Located right at the ferry landing and near the main drag, you can’t miss it. Pick up a map, get directions and ask questions.
During peak season, the ferries run hourly so there are lots of options for how long you will be on the island. Before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, the ferry schedule thins out so you’ll have to budget your time wisely.
- 360 Degrees of amazing beaches
- Hiking through the island’s trails
- Sightseeing the historic sites
- Fishing for trophy bass
- Parasailing or Banana Boating
- Shopping the many quaint boutiques
- Lunch of fresh seafood at an island restaurant
Staying the Night?
Check out one of the victorian hotels. There are also several other options for finding lodging for the night. The chamber of commerce is a good place to inquire about last-minute accommodations. They keep a daily list of vacancies. Often you will find a good last-minute deal for staying the night. Many a Block Island day trip has turned into a mini-vacation.
The Historic Block Island Hotel
The Block Island Hotel is part of what makes this island so special. A majority of the hotels on this New England resort island were built in the 1800s and retain their Victorian charm. You can smell the salt air in the wood of these lovingly restored antique structures.
Block Island National Hotel
One of the first landmark sites you’ll see as the ferry pulls into New Harbor is the Block Island National Hotel. This old victorian was restored to its original glory in the early 1980s. Prior to the renovation, this hotel was in great disrepair and only used for housing for summer help. The restaurant and bar were operating, there were stores on the porch but not underneath. The grand re-opening of the Hotel was marked by a parade, complete with characters dressed up in Victorian costume.
Block Island Springhouse Hotel
If you are not staying at the Block Island Springhouse Hotel, you’ll want to visit it as a historic site. Over 150 years old, this old Victorian is the island’s vintage hotel. The Springhouse has 50 rooms, studios & suites in addition to guest houses. Rooms have private baths and updated amenities. Guests enjoy a continental breakfast.
Block Island Manisses Hotel
The Block Island Manisses hotel, lovingly owned and operated by the Abrams Family, is a truly romantic getaway. The 17 guest rooms have private baths, some have telephones & t.v.’s, and feature authentic Victorian furniture. Children over twelve are welcome. The hotel is open seasonally. Just a short walk from town, this hotel is rich with modern antiquity. There are beautifully manicured gardens, an animal farm and a restaurant with garden dining, fine dining, a bistro and flaming coffee and dessert in the parlor upstairs.
Block Island Restaurants
When it comes to Block Island restaurants, seafood is the top choice. Coastal New England is famous for its fresh seafood. Fresh striped bass, codfish, bluefish, bluefin tuna, black sea bass, bonito and fluke are caught locally. When you order fish ‘n chips in any Block Island restaurant, you usually get fresh codfish or fluke. You may also find local scallops, clams, mussels, steamers and oysters on the menu.
When you order seafood in a Block Island restaurant, chances are it is either local or ferried or flown in from nearby. Restaurants here go to great lengths to get the freshest available. That’s why you’ll see special menus vary from week to week depending on what’s fresh and what’s local.
Located next to the ferry in old harbor, this Block Island restaurant is a family-owned institution is known for its fried seafood dinners. This place has been jammin’ day and night for over 30 years. Lots of seafood choices, including famous Rhode Island clam cakes & chowder. Great fish & chips, fried shrimp or scallops, lobster dinners. Open seasonally for Lunch & Dinner. Kids Menu. $$. Address: 212 Water St, New Shoreham, RI 02807
Mohegan Cafe & Brewery
This Cafe & Brewery sits on the main drag, Water Street, directly across from the Ferry Dock. It’s the only Block Island Restaurant with a brewpub and one of only 3 brewpubs in all of Rhode Island. Dave Sniffen, executive Chef, and Brewmeister, usually has 6 Varieties of his handcrafted beer on tap. You’ll see the locals here, especially at lunch on the offseason. Portions are generous, fresh seafood entrees and good salads. Fish & Chips (lunch only) is among the best on the island, so is the signature chowder! Indoor seating only but the air-conditioned is welcomed on those dog days of August. Open daily for Lunch & Dinner from Mid March-October. Kid’s Menu. $$. Address: 213 Water St, New Shoreham, RI 02807
Directly across from the beach. Spectacular views, outdoor seating. The service is very efficient here. Food is consistently good and comes out quickly. Husband & Wife team Kimberly & Norm run this eatery. Norm is the chef and Kimberly runs the front of the house…you may catch her behind the bar. The staff in this ‘locals’ restaurant will be familiar from year to year here, as are the bar patrons. You can get a good steak, pasta or fresh fish dinner. Try the shrimp with pasta or the mussels! Open Daily for Lunch & Dinner in Season, Weekends off Season, closed in Winter. Kids Menu. $$. Address: 598 Corn Neck Rd, New Shoreham, RI 02807
Boating is predominant and each June the island hosts Block Island Race Week, a highly competitive, week-long sailboat racing event.
Other events include the annual Fourth of July Parade and celebration as well as various running races and. During these times the island’s population can triple over the normal summer vacation crowd.
What has become known as Block Island RI was originally called Manisses Island which means: “island of the little gods.” Named so by the Narragansett Indians who inhabited the island long before settlers arrived in 1661. Block Island was also named one of the 12 last great places in the western hemisphere by the Nature Conservancy.
The island itself was formed by glaciers, and at some point broke apart from the mainland. The landscape consists of rolling hills lined with stone walls giving the appearance similar to that of Ireland. Wildlife abounds as the island is home to many species of migrating birds. Hiking trails crisscross the entire island providing ample opportunity to experience the abundance of nature available here.
When Block Island RI island settled, farming and fishing were the island’s mainstay. In the 1800s tourism became an active part of island life. The grand hotels were built and the rest is, well, history. Today a popular summer tourist destination and known for its spectacular beaches good seafood restaurants, a host of outdoor activities, shopping and seeing the historic sights.
The weather can be very unpredictable as island weather is. On any given day it could be 75 degrees and you’ll want to go for a swim or it could be windy or rainy or cool. The temperature can dip (especially at night) or suddenly the wind will pick up. Watch the weather before you embark on a day trip and remember that the weather on the mainland, as close as it is, could be different than here. Many a day-tripper canceled a trip due to rain only to find out the island was sunny and warm.