Block Island: A World Apart
Scenes from a Summer Day on Block Island
With its shimmering turquoise waters, elegant Victorian architecture and laidback island vibe, it's little wonder Rhode Island's Block Island is sometimes called the "Bermuda of the North." It was the tiny island's scenic natural expanses, however, that earned it an even more significant designation. In the early 1990s, the Nature Conservancy named Block Island one of the "Last Great Places on Earth."
I took the ferry from New London, Connecticut, to Block Island on a sultry July day and had a wonderful opportunity to meet islanders and discover this offshore hideaway's many charms. In these photos, you'll see some of Block Island's most famous and fetching sights.
With ferry rates to Block Island as low as $23.75 for a same day round-trip as of 2018, an escape to this offshore paradise is an affordable option for New England travelers. As you'll see from these photos, you can really manage to pack experiences into one day on Block Island.
Most visitors reach Block Island via ferry boat. Island Hi-Speed Ferry, which makes the trip between Galilee, Rhode Island, and Block Island in just 30 minutes, is one of the fastest ways to go.
Block Island was settled by 16 families, who left Boston in 1661 and arrived at their new island home in the spring of 1662. The names of these original Block Islanders are inscribed on Settlers' Rock, a monument located near the island's north end.
Block Island Historic Society
Inside an 1850 farmhouse on Old Town Road, the Block Island Historical Society exhibits diverse artifacts related to island history. Open daily from late June to Labor Day and weekends the rest of the year, the museum provides a nice island overview.
The northern tip of Block Island, known as Sandy Point, is preserved within the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. The sand and cobble beach that curves from the Settlers' Rock parking lot to Sandy Point is visible in this picture.
Block Island North Light
The 1867 Block Island North Light is the fourth beacon to stand upon the unsteady sands at the island's northern tip. The granite lighthouse was badly vandalized following its deactivation in 1973, but it was triumphantly restored and relit in 1989.
Great Salt Pond
The sheltered waters of the Great Salt Pond on the west side of Block Island are a popular mooring place for recreational boaters. Without a natural harbor, Block Island remained secluded until 1895, when the Great Salt Pond was opened to the sea.
An Agricultural Past
Block Island's first settlers were farmers and fishermen. The hundreds of miles of stone walls that grace Block Island are remnants of this offshore isle's agricultural past.
A Famous Sight
The Mohegan Bluffs are Block Island's most famous and breathtaking natural attraction. These sheer, 150-foot clay cliffs are situated on the island's south side.
Block Island Southeast Light
Seagulls enjoy bird's-eye views of the Block Island Southeast Light, which was moved back from its precarious position near the edge of the eroding Mohegan Bluffs in 1993.
Stairway to the Beach
Narrow, steep wooden stairs lead from the top of the Mohegan Bluffs near the Block Island Southeast Light to the secluded beach below.
Block Island Beach Heaven
Those who descend the steep stairs to the base of Block Island's picturesque Mohegan Bluffs are rewarded with the opportunity to enjoy one of New England's most secluded and remote stretches of beach.
Swimming in the cool Atlantic waters in the shadow of Block Island's Mohegan Bluffs is a truly unforgettable beach experience that makes the climb back up the bluffside wooden staircase worthwhile.
The Atlantic seems endless from this vantage point atop Mohegan Bluffs. If you're visiting Block Island for just a day, be sure to catch a cab near the ferry dock at Old Harbor for a trip to the bluffs on the island's south side.
The Bluffs' Bloody Story
Although the Mohegan Bluffs are a place of serene beauty now, they are named, as this monument describes, for a skirmish that ended badly for 40 Mohegan Indians, who were driven over the bluffs by Block Island's native Manisseans.
Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve
Block Island's Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve is a wonderful place for a hike. The Block Island Land Trust, the Block Island Conservancy, the Town of New Shoreham and The Nature Conservancy collaborated to save this 25-acre parcel from development.
The Spring House
Block Island is known for its sprawling Victorian hotels overlooking the sea. The Spring House isn't just a hotel: It's an island landmark. Block Island's oldest and largest hotel has been an elegant retreat for luminaries from Mark Twain to Billy Joel.
The Hotel Manisses is a Victorian gem that welcomes guests seasonally. The native people who first inhabited Block Island called their home Manisses, which means "God's Little Island."
A Boating Destination
Tiny Block Island is one of New England's most popular boating destinations. Several island marinas serve visiting and resident boaters.
Cottage by the Beach
A footpath alongside this shingled cottage leads to Block Island's two-and-a-half-mile Crescent Beach, which is just a short walk from the ferry dock at Old Harbor. In total, Block Island offers visitors 17 miles of scenic sand beaches.
Block Island is a popular destination for daytrippers. Even in July during the height of the tourism season, the stretch of Crescent Beach closest to the ferry dock is nearly deserted by early evening.
As day's light began to fade, I took this photo from Crescent Beach of Block Island's tropical blue ocean waters rippling and swirling around sea-chiseled rocks. The seagull on the third rock seemed to be posing for me.
Parasailing is a popular Block Island water sport. The island views must be phenomenal from up there. Call Block Island Parasail & Watersports at 401-864-2474 for reservations if you'd like to experience parasailing while on Block Island.
Block Island Moped Rentals
It's very difficult to bring a car to Block Island, so many visitors rent mopeds or bicycles for their stay. Island Moped on Water Street is one of several rental companies located near the Block Island ferry dock.
Rebecca at the Well?
In 1896, Women's Christian Temperance Movement members erected this statue of Rebecca at the Well on Block Island's Water Street. It was ironically later discovered that the statue is actually of Hebe—cupbearer for the Greek gods.
The Last Ferry Back
I took the earliest ferry from New London, Connecticut, to Block Island and the last ferry back, and I really managed to pack experiences into my day, from viewing Mohegan Bluffs to walking the beach to shopping to sipping a beer at a waterside bar.
Block Island Skyline
Block Island's charming skyline is a lovely sight as the ferry edges away from the dock at Old Harbor.
Farewell to the National
Block Island Block Island's landmark National Hotel, a Victorian gem on Water Street, begins to fade from view as the ferry departs from Block Island.
Strolling the Breakwater
For those fortunate enough to stay on Block Island overnight, a stroll along the breakwater at Old Harbor is a lovely way to end the day.
A Great Place
In the early 1990s, the Nature Conservancy named Block Island one of the Last Great Places on Earth. Preservation-minded islanders strive to ensure that their petite offshore paradise remains forever elegant and pristine.