|Block Island, Rhode Island Travel Guide|
|A short ferryboat voyage or even shorter plane flight takes you to this delightful Rhode Island island for hiking, bicycling, beaches, and memorable experiences.|
Block Island, 13 miles (21 km) south of the South County shore of Rhode Island at Port Galilee (map), is a time capsule from the 19th century. Much of the Victorian-era architecture has been preserved, and new buildings have kept to the island style.
All businesses on the island—hotels, restaurants, cafés, shops, banks, car rental—are local. There are no formula or chain businesses such as Avis, Dollar Store, Hilton or Starbucks, just local folks doing business and keeping the money on the island.
You can't imagine how refreshing this is until you've experienced it.
Day Trip or Overnight?
The island is eminently manageable, being only seven miles (11 km) long at its longest point. You can enjoy a lot of the island on a day trip, more if you stay overnight, and all of it if you stay for few days or a week, perhaps in a Victorian-era hotel or vacation rental apartment.
Traditional car ferries and faster passenger-only catamarans travel from Port Galilee (Point Judith) RI, New London CT, Fall River MA, Newport RI and Montauk, Long Island, NY, to Block Island, and New England Airlines flies there from Westerly RI. More...
The ferry voyage to Block Island (30 to 55 minutes) is pleasant enough, with plenty of room to sun on the top-deck benches, and a small bar and snack counter on board.
As you approach Block Island, the character of the place becomes clear: sand dunes and tawny cliffs, low shrubs and grass with a few trees, ponds, and hillocks (highest point on the island is 211 feet/64 meters above sea level). And beaches all around!
Walking, biking, moped, taxi and rental car are all used to get around on Block Island. Most of the roads, excepting the paved main road around the island, are rough and sandy (nobody has to be in a hurry to get quickly from one end of the island to the other).
Old Harbor & New Harbor
Block Island, officially incorporated as the town of New Shoreham RI in 1672 (here's more history), has two settlements. Old Harbor is the larger, with docks for the ferries from Galilee/Point Judith RI and New London CT; and New Harbor, with several marinas, one of which (Champlin's) serves as the dock for ferries from Montauk (Long Island) NY. More...
The big old Victorian hotels come almost down to the water in Old Harbor, presenting a proud first view of the island to visitors arriving on the ferries to Old Harbor.
Several of the more distant hotels have vans which will be waiting at the dock to pick up passengers who have reservations, or those who want a room but have not reserved; and there is a taxi rank at the dock as well.
Most of the island's buildings— houses as well as hotels— date from the late 1800s or early 1900s. More...
On Block Island the pace is relaxed, and islanders have a strong sense of community. Here's how it got that way.
—by Tom Brosnahan