Nearly equidistant from New York and Boston, this quaint isle off of Rhode Island is notably less sceney than Nantucket or the Vineyard — and therein lies the appeal. From biking to beaching; mopeds to mudslides, Charlotte Steinway rounds up the Island’s musts for a perfect weekend getaway.
Located 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island (and just 14 miles east of Montauk), Block Island is smaller than Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. But come Memorial Day, the island’s ferries fill up with mainlanders in search of bike trips, white sand beaches and lobster rolls. Coming from New York or Boston, it’s easiest to take the Amtrak to New London, CT, where the train stops just steps from the Block Island Ferry dock. If you’re killing time before your boat, head to Brie & Bleu on State Street (part of Thames River Wine & Spirits) to stock up on artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and to-go sandwiches for the one-hour ride. Then sip an espresso and play board games at the Muddy Waters Café’s outdoor waterfront deck (where you're sure to see your ferry roll in).
Still hungry once you’ve docked? Make your way across the street to Finn’s for a fresh array of seafood, sourced straight from the on-site fish market next door. Feast on littleneck clams, smoked bluefish pate and whole lobsters washed down with pitchers of Fisherman’s IPA or Rhode Island-brewed Narragansett. Keep an eye out for the wall next to the fish market: The colorful buoys and ropes make for quite the nautical Instagram opp.
Come nightfall, take a stroll through town up to Dodge Street, where you’ll find Captain Nick’s — a rock and roll venue/beach bar with a lively outdoor patio, frozen tropical drinks and nightly live music. Look out for the band sporting HazMat suits and the occasional bachelorette party: Either ensure you’re in for a fun night.
Jumpstart your morning over coffee (iced) and a bagel (everything pumpernickel with smoked salmon, chive cream cheese and capers) at the Old Post Office Bagel Shop, a local favorite housed, unsurprisingly, in the Island’s former post office.
If you’re looking to do a bit of shopping, wander over to the boutiques along Water Street: hit up Star Department Store for stone-washed tees emblazoned with the Island’s outline, the Mad Hatter for straw Panama hats, and Island Outfitters for swimsuits and scuba gear. The main drag itself is walkable, but you’re going to need wheels to access the island’s rolling hillsides, picturesque lighthouses and white sand beaches. Get the lay of the land via bike or moped at Aldo’s, the town bakery-cum-moped rental outpost. Once you’re on your way, drive through town up Spring Street, where you’ll find camels, kangaroos, and an extraordinarily long-necked black swan at Abram’s Animal Farm, the free public petting zoo next to the Hotel Manisses.
From there, continue your journey up Spring to the historic Southeast Lighthouse, a red brick structure dating back to 1875 that overlooks the windswept Mohegan Bluffs. Continue on Mohegan trail about a mile and a half west to another Island institution, the Painted Rock. Since 1962, the famous boulder has been painted and repainted by locals and visitors, commemorating birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. Needless to say, it’s BYOP.
Cruise back through the island towards the main part of town to Poor People’s Pub where all your needs at this point — namely hunger, thirst and cornhole — can be met. Pass the signature longhorn-adorned car parked out front and make your way to their outdoor patio. Choose from Texas-inspired grub like smoked pork shoulder mac n’ cheese, a BLT with enough B to feed a small army, or the “Soup and Sandwich” (a tallboy can of PBR and a Poor Burger). Drop your ID off with the bartender, and he’ll give you a set of Americana-themed beanbags to toss around.
If you’re seeking something slightly more refined for dinner, head to Dead Eye Dick’s, a staple seafood joint overlooking New Harbor, or Mohegan Café, an American restaurant with their own craft beer brewed on-site. For late-night (comparatively; bars close at 1 a.m.) dancing, head to Yellow Kittens. They've got darts, pool, pinball and Jägermeister on draft – no wonder B.I. locals lovingly refer to it as the "Litterbox."
No trip to Block Island is complete without lunch at the Oar, the casual restaurant known for its expansive New Harbor views, "shifties" (a mudslide meets iced coffee) and nautical décor. Much of the interior and back porch is decorated with oars adorned with cheeky patterns, sayings and designs from summer regulars over the years. Opt for a lobster club and a side of sweet potato fries – they're some of the best on the island. Be warned, though: The mudslides are strong and the waits can be long; it's best to get there right when it opens on weekends to ensure a table overlooking the boat basin.
After lunch, it's time to hit the beach. And the best part about Block Island is that all 17 miles sand are free – including the parking. Scotch and Mansion Beaches rank among the most pristine, and tend to be prime territory during the warmer months. If you're in need of beach gear, though, post up at Crescent Beach, where you can rent beach chairs and boogie boards for a nominal fee.
Before retreating back to town for the last ferry home, be sure to pick up a piping hot (or cold, if that's your fancy) lobster roll from the outdoor stand next to the ferry parking lot. Sure, it will set you back a cool $25, but its decadence is just part of the charm. If you're after a more economically sound meal, though, the clam chowder on the ferry is surprisingly excellent – and the perfect accompaniment to your final frosty Narragansett brew.