Hard to believe, but hubby and I just celebrated ten years of marriage last Thursday! TEN! We wanted to celebrate a little, without being away from the kids for too long. Block Island is just about 2 hours (by car, then ferry) from us, so it made for a perfect weekend couples’ retreat!
We both felt we chilled out AND packed a lot into our 48 hour stay (ferry in Friday afternoon, ferry out Sunday afternoon), and there’s still so many things we haven’t done yet, that we’ll certainly be back (with the kids!). Although both times we’ve visited Block Island we have stayed over for two nights, you could just visit for the day. Depending on how long it takes you to catch a ferry… you might even get a solid 8-10 hours to enjoy the island life!
For first-timers, here’s your basic ways of getting to Block Island:
- Traditional Ferry from Point Judith (1 hr, 15 min, about $30)
- High Speed Ferry from New London (about an hour, $50)
- Plane – who even knows. But it can be done!
- On the ferries, all cars, bikes, wagons, are an extra fee. Luggage didn’t seem to be extra. Ferries run about every 3 hours from morning till evening. You’ll also pay for parking either if you leave your car or take it – something to consider. The narrow roads on BI did not make me want to bring a car over!
Here’s 10 Things to Do on Block Island
Monica’s Taxi Island Tour – Monica is a local older woman, descendant of the original settler’s to the island. She’ll take you on a 60-90 minute tour (depending on how long you stop at some of the spots), and fill you in on all the local history (both past and present!). She certainly knows a lot of facts and details that made the island come to live a bit more for us! Her Suburban can hold about 5-6 people, and as the trip is $55 for two, then $10 for each additional person, it would benefit you to fill the car and split the fare! We enjoyed our ride and saw the gamut of island artifacts in just about 90 minutes. As the day was chilly and windy, it was well worth the fee for us!
Walk the Mohegan Bluffs Staircase – if you dare! There’s 157 wooden stairs that lead down to the beach at the bottom of Mohegan Bluffs. We only saw the stairs from the Bluffs overlook, as we were on our taxi tour, so we didn’t go down them (and with the cold/wind I didn’t want to!). But it looks like a great beach! You can also see the lighthouse from the overlook, and we did walk up to the lighthouse and looked inside (tours to the top for $10 pp).
Enjoy a local restaurant – here’s what we tried:
- Finn’s Seafood – the salmon was great and hubby enjoyed the mussels. The fries and veggies were just basic fare, nothing special.
- The Surf Hotel breakfast – good portions, tasty breakfast – we had egg platters and corned beef hash.
- Persephone’s Coffee – great smoothies, great coffee. Free wifi. Small place but good to chill out if you are waiting around
- Payne’s Killer Donuts – about 1 mile from Old Harbor, and definitely (for me) an oversell on the “killer” part. They are just like most apple cider donuts I have tried. I wish we’d skipped it to be honest.
- Mohegan Grille – had some tasty nachos and French Onion Soup here one night when we weren’t feeling too hungry. All good, except I wish they didn’t use rye for the French Onion Soup – bleh!
- Aldo’s Bakery – definitely the spot for baked goods (Sorry Payne’s!), and also ice cream. And also weekend brunch. And also Italian gelato. And also Italian restaurant. Basically if you don’t know where to go, go to Aldo’s b/c they have everything. Also arcade. Located in Old Harbor. Prices are good too!
- Old Harbor lunch stand – we had fried whole belly clams and a fried fish sandwich here. It was more of a convenience stop than anything, but the food was tasty. This is the first spot for food you can find getting off the ferry in Old Harbor, so if you’re really hungry! They serve smoothies and Del’s too.
Hike some open spaces – Block Island has dedicated gobs of land to be permanent open space – no building! No wonder housing prices are extravagant here! But the open spaces are truly beautiful, whether by the shoreline or surrounding the islands many freshwater ponds, which are usually dotted with lilypads. The island maintains these spaces with wooden stairs that allow you up and over stone walls (for their protection, not yours!), and by mowing ten foot wide “trails” throughout the open spaces. The majority of these trails lead right to the beach. Enjoy!
Watch a movie at the Empire Theatre – one of the oldest independent theaters in America, this theatre is over 100 years old. It was formerly a roller rink! They hold a couple showings a day of about two current releases. We saw Jurassic World. Tickets only sold 30 minutes before each showing. No food or drink allowed inside, but there is a snack bar once you get in (unfortunately I cannot recommend the popcorn, it tasted stale and the “butter” like really bad oil). It’s a tiny theatre but with new digital technology so the movie quality was great. Before the show a local piano player entertained us with many songs!
Stay in a historic hotel – which is to say, pretty much any hotel or B&B on the island! (Locals would take exception to the “new” National as that landmark hotel was completely rebuilt several years back. We have stayed at the Manisses in the past and this time at The Surf Hotel. Our room reminded me of Anne of Green Gables bedroom – and I think the wallpaper may have been that old! We were on the third floor, directly overlooking the ocean – The Surf Hotel is literally right ON the beach!
None of the rooms have their own bath, but you will have your own sink for washing up. Shared shower/bathrooms are on each floor and were overall very clean and well stocked. All hotel bookings are going to be outrageously expensive for what you get (think $250+), but be on the lookout for deals, because you can certainly snag them from time to time! The Surf Hotel has a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, light fare, and dinner, plus coffee to guests morning and evening. Also a gigantic chess set in the lobby (I taught hubby to play and lost – go figure!), and pretty green rockers out front to watch the world go by. If you’re just on BI for the day, wander through a few hotel lobbies to get the vibe!
Enjoy truly public beaches – all of the beach areas you see on Block Island are public and free. You don’t pay for parking to get beach access. There is only one beach pavilion however, despite the many beaches all around the island, because they want to keep the look natural. So if you need bathrooms and showers at the beach, you’ll want to go there. Otherwise, pack in-pack out!
Visit the Farmer’s Market – we hit a great Farmer’s Market on the walk back from New Harbor to Old Harbor – local artisans of all sorts selling really interesting and beautiful work like handmade cards, homemade sea salt (from the waters of BI), and every kind of craft and herbal mixture you can imagine. Oh yes, veggies too! So fun to look around!
Visit Settler’s Rock and other historic locations – as I mentioned, we took Monica’s Taxi Tour which was a great ride. But if you’re driving yourself around, be sure to tour all the spots marked on the tourism map. Settler’s Rock, the Bluffs, Lighthouse and more! Truly beautiful houses (that go for anywhere from one to twelve million dollars!), and beautiful scenery!
Go Shopping! (it’s why you’re there, right!?). Oh the shops – adorable, chotchky, artisan, and more! Generally expensive, but you can usually find great deals on sales (everyone has a 50% off rack or table!). The clothing is so beachy and sweet in most shops and always unusual brands so you can get something really unique (or go with the ubiquitous “Block Island” tees and pullovers – everybody’s wearing them! I swear, do people pack no clothing and just stock up on BI gear when they get there! LOL). There’s also tons of handmade items and decor – you could spend hours just looking at interesting do-dads. Of all the places I’ve traveled, the Old Harbor has the best “fun” touristy shopping! Visit Building Blocks for a great toy selection and Island Bound for interesting books! The shops were perfect for us with the blustery weather we had, and everyone was so friendly!
Other things to do on Block Island (but we didn’t have time for!)
- Ride mopeds around the island
- Ride bikes
- Go on a horseback ride
- Block Island Maritime Institute (offers weekday activities great for kids)
One other note about traveling to an island destination: Be sure you can get home! Ha! You think I’m kidding, but a storm kicked up Saturday night and Monica (from the taxi) said she heard gale force winds were coming and she didn’t know if the ferries would be running! Yes, they will cancel the ferries if they don’t think it’s safe! Sure enough, the high speed ferry had the first trip of the day cancelled, so we were holding our breath because we were on the second trip! We did make it out, but it was rough seas. And imagine if we hadn’t gotten off the island? I have no idea where we’d have spent the night – so it’s something we will figure out next time we go island hopping!
Fellow island travelers – where have you been and what was your island vacation like!?