24 Hours in Block Island, Rhode Island

With its white sandy beaches and relaxed atmosphere, Block Island, Rhode Island, is a great place for a quick getaway. Here are some helpful planning tips.

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If you’re looking for a classic New England beach getaway, it’s hard to top the charm and lazy pace of Block Island, nestled 12 miles off the shores of America’s smallest state. Once you step off the ferry, you’ll marvel at how time seems to have stood still here on this this tiny, pork chop-shaped island. It got its name from Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who landed there in 1641. Spending 24 hours on Block Island is like returning to another era, and you won’t run short on fun.

Scenery

There’s a reason why roughly 20,000 daily visitors join the 1,000 year-round residents every summer — the island is practically untouched, with about 43 percent of it preserved open space and only one fully developed incorporated town, New Shoreham. This earned the 7,000-acre island the Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places” designation in 1991. The 7-mile-long, 3-mile-wide island, dubbed “Bermuda of the North,” features white sand beaches, a relaxed atmosphere, and a leisurely island pace.

Local legend says that there are 365 freshwater ponds here — one for every day of the year. You also have 17 miles of unspoiled beaches that are free to the public and protected by antique lighthouses and bluffs. Plus, you can enjoy 32 miles of winding nature trails, and rolling roads make walking, hiking and biking popular activities, too. Whew! That’s certainly plenty of scenery to see and explore.

A lighthouse sits on top of the steep, grassy cliffs of Mohegan Bluffs, overlooking a white sandy beach and the ocean at Block Island, Rhode Island.

Planning

If you want to relax and enjoy the experience to the fullest, then you need to be organized from the jump. Make sure you book your hotel or cottage rental and make your vehicle ferry reservations months in advance. As a friendly tip, you may have a tough time finding last-minute overnight trip accommodations between late May to late October.

Ways to the island include private boat, small plane, and ferry. The island even has its own airport, Block Island State Airport, that accommodates small private and commuter aircraft. Here are a few recommendations for your round-trip reservations:

Air

  • New England Airlines: Take a 12-minute commuter flight to Block Island from Westerly, Rhode Island, which is accessible by Amtrak. Charter service is also available.

  • Action Airlines: This company offers “Airborne Limousine” private charter service between Groton-New London, Connecticut, and other private airports.

Ferry

  • Block Island Ferry: Departing from Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island, this ferry provides the only year-round and sole vehicle ferry service to Block Island. It also offers charters and summer high-speed, passenger-only service.

  • Block Island Express: Get seasonal high-speed service between New London, Connecticut, and Block Island right across from Amtrak. Pets travel free, but only in carriers.

  • Viking Fleet: Travel quickly between Montauk, Long Island, and Block Island using Viking Fleet.

Transportation on the Island

  • Bike/Moped: This is the chosen mode of transportation here. Escape the crowds in Old Harbor and bike or ride a moped to various destinations on the island.

  • Taxi: Grab a taxi for the short ride to most locations, or rent a Dollar car rental for to explore the full island on your own agenda.

Accommodations

Looking for a spot to lay your head? You have quite a selection of lodging options to choose from. Find bed and breakfast, home, and apartment rentals through Block Island Accommodations or real estate agents who handle private rental services. Here are some popular options:

  • 1661 House Inn: Live it up in 1661 House Inn’s resort-like environment, which includes a collection of 73 rooms and suites spread over nine unique properties. A breakfast buffet is included, and other amenities vary by room choice.

  • Ballard’s of Block Island: Stay in the center of Old Harbor action at Ballard’s of Block Island. It hosts daily summer beach parties, live music, oceanfront full-service dining, and business event spaces.

  • Spring House Hotel: If you’re looking for something quiet, Spring House Hotel is a serene spot to choose. The well-maintained main house dates back to 1852 and is part of the island’s oldest, largest hotel. The 10-acre property has a new luxury inn, several onsite and nearby offsite apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes for rent.

A sandy path with grass and fencing on each side leads towards the beach at Block Island, Rhode Island on a clear, sunny day.

Play Time

Scenery is great, but you also want to have a little fun while you’re here. Despite the sleepy pace, you can find endless activities and events on this tiny island. Whether you want to go shopping, see an art show, or hit the waves, Block Island has it.

  • Beach: Visit various beaches to enjoy some sun and collect glass orbs as keepsakes. Fred Benson Town Beach offers boogie boarding, showers, bathrooms, and food. For a more secluded experience, visit Mansion Beach, featuring big waves but no facilities. Go by bike because parking is limited.

  • Bike: Bike around the island with your own destinations in mind, or take a self-guided tour of nine spots on the 7.5-mile loop around the island.

  • Hike/Walk: Take a Nature Conservancy guided walk. Hike the Clayhead Trail. Explore Rodman’s Hollow, or look for glass orbs along Greenway Walking Trails.

Dining

If you ask a local, “Jeet?” (“Where did you eat?” in Rhode Island speak), you’ll get an earful. From casual cafes to fine dining, it’s all available on Block Island. Eat at your hotel, or stop at Bethany’s Airport Diner for breakfast or lunch. Or, tempt yourself at one of these hotspots.

  • Persephone’s: Chow down for breakfast at Persephone’s on Dodge Street. The café offers American, gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and vegan options.

  • Dead-Eye Dick’s: Head to Dead-Eye Dick’s on Ocean Avenue for the food, views, and indoor or outdoor seating. Best known for lobster and swordfish, the restaurant is open May through September.

  • The National Hotel Tap and Grille: Overlooking Old Harbor on Water Street, this eatery is legendary for its fresh seafood and thick, juicy steaks.

Do you have an upcoming trip to Block Island? Share your favorite vacation pictures by tagging Dollar Car Rental on Instagram.

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