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Thirteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island awaits a small, pork-chop-shaped island with long views, steep dunes, and a pastoral feel. Visiting Block Island is a bit like visiting Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard of many moons ago, as zoning restrictions and serious conservation initiatives have kept more than 40% of the island free of development. Perhaps most significant, however, is that all of Block Island’s beaches and preserves are open to the public. Everything is a bit greener, a bit more open, and a lot more relaxed, making for a terrific island getaway for those in the know — and this guide to Block Island getaways will do just that for you.
As expected, the weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day are characterized by hot sunny weather, festivals, and crowds. The Block Island Music Festival is a free six-day event in June that showcases musical talent across many genres. June visitors can also enjoy restaurant week and race week, with the requisite July Fourth festivities taking place soon after. While most restaurants are closed throughout the winter and most of the spring, visitors can find a great sweet spot in September and October. The weather stays great during these months, if you don’t mind wearing a sweatshirt once in a while, and the humidity and the crowds break. The deep waters off of Block Island mean that the water stays warmer longer after the summer, too.
If you happen to have your own private boat, arriving in Block Island and docking at the marina is a breeze, but the ferry ride isn't bad either. In fact, there are a number of transportation options: ferries to Block Island depart from Port Judith, Fall River, or Newport, R.I., as well as from New London, CT, and Montauk, NY. You won't really need it to get around this diminutive island, but if you’d like to bring your car you’ll have to make a reservation on the Block Island Ferry from Port Judith. If it’s just you and your beach gear, no reservations are required.
As mentioned, it’s not necessary to bring a vehicle. The island is highly walkable and bikeable, and you can either bring your own bicycle or rent one on the island. Mopeds are also available for rent on the island and a fun way to zip around to its beaches, cliffs, and lighthouses. For those who prefer to get around by car, taxis are easy to come by and relatively affordable as well.
While Block Island isn't for fast-paced sightseers, there are plenty of things to do on a leisurely visit. The island's 12 miles of white-sand beaches are free and open to the public, making for great morning strolls or afternoon soccer games, and big waves mean great surfing and bodyboarding. Rodman’s Hollow offers a great hike through a wildflower basin, part of 28 miles of potential walking trails to explore around the island. The North Light and Southeast Lighthouse are great bookends to the island; their architecture dates back to the 19th century. For a creatively delicious dinner, head to Eli’s in Old Harbor. For something more casual, try the pub fare at the Oar.
Although just a short boat ride from the mainland, we recommend staying on Block Island for at least one night. A day trip, while lovely, makes it harder to get into the laid-back swing of things, and you will likely the peaceful sunsets and starry nights. The island's seaside atmosphere is reminiscent of the days of elegant, summer-long retreats. Block Island hotels offer a mix of stately Victorian-esque resorts, tidy B&Bs, and rural cottages, allowing you to capture a little of that feeling for yourself. Wherever you're staying, be sure to reserve well in advance if planning to visit Block Island in the summer.