Block Island in Rhode Island swells from a community of about 1,000 year-round residents to become a summertime playground that hosts up to 20 times that during the peak season months of June, July, and August. We took advantage of our ability to visit for a 3-day September stretch during what’s known as shoulder season to experience this popular spot for the first time.
While Block Island temperatures hovered in the low 70s most of the time, strong winds and often gray skies made for less of a beach vacation and more of an exploring one. We biked, hiked, ran and walked the beach, visited lighthouses, shopped, came across interesting wildlife and domesticated animals, had a great view of a sailing regatta, and just missed most of the action planned for the island’s first Pride celebration that spawned rainbow flags seemingly everywhere.
All in all, the trip was a success. I even finished reading a book I started back in January, so it must have been a relaxing getaway.
We took the ferry from Point Judith, R.I., a sub-2-hour mid-morning drive from Natick. For the price of about $20 round trip for the regular 55-minute ferry, plus $7 per bike, we were off. (Impatient types can hop on the 30-minute high-speed ferry for about $50.) Parking cost $10 per day across the street. Overall, the process was smooth.
We walked just around the block in Old Harbor to our B&B, the Blue Dory, a charming old house at the start of Crescent Beach that earns a mention in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (under the Block Island section).
Given that the island was relatively quiet during our stay, noise outside our B&B was toned down, too. We were serenaded nightly by a singer with a regular gig across the street at The National, a hotel and restaurant with seating around fire pits in the back. He really knew how to cover James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and more, so we didn’t mind.
We had our first meal during our visit at The National, sitting on the front deck, which was mostly full and had a friendly buzz going at lunchtime. I took advantage of a buttered lobster roll and didn’t regret it. The menu also listed lobster roll with mayo, so all the bases were covered.
We didn’t have a bad meal during our stay, and found most of the restaurants on our list to be open despite the summer winding down. Other places we where we dined:
- The Oar, where we sampled their seafood, infamous (and strong) mudslide, and grabbed a great view of the sunset from the New Harbor section of the island. The Oar has a fun tradition of honoring wedding parties with customized oars that decorate the restaurant and bar.
- DeadEye Dick’s, another New Harbor restaurant, where we were initially mistaken for sailors sidelined by too-strong winds to take part in a regatta around the island (and there we were thinking wind was good for sailing). On our ferry ride back to Port Judith we luckily later caught the regatta in action, with dozens and dozens of boats taking part (or are they yachts asks the non-sailor?).
Nice view from ferry of regatta around Block Island pic.twitter.com/zMVO3BL4TG
— Natick Report (@NatickReport) September 19, 2021
- Poor People’s Pub, one of those “Natick could use one of these” places, where we ate outside on picnic tables and hit the Shazam app more than once to capture songs from their playlist. Lobster & corn chowder and a burger hit the spot for us at this casual setting.
- Bethany’s Airport Diner at the island’s airport is a classic cozy diner run by locals and offering menu items such as plate-sized pancakes. Unfortunately for us, the rain and fog that day nixed our plans to watch planes take off and arrive.
We made our way around the island largely by foot and bike. Dedicated cycling paths aren’t one of Block Island’s offerings, so you need to share the road with cars and mopeds, and that’s easier to do during the off-peak season given the reduced traffic. Still, within 10 minutes of our arrival I saw a woman wipe out on her bike, and possibly break her wrist. I was among those who helped her to the sidewalk to await an ambulance.
We hit the big sights, including lighthouses on the north and south shores. We walked from our hotel to the Southeast Light, a brick and granite structure. One thing about going off-season is that sights like this have more limited access, with tours only available on weekends.
From the lighthouse we walked down the road a bit and then down 141 steps to get a better look at the dramatic 200-feet high Mohegan Bluffs.
We took advantage of some of the island’s many dirt roads for shortcuts and to make our way to the waterfront, which is much more wide open to the public than beaches in some other northeastern vacation destinations. In walking down a dirt road called Beacon Hill Road we stopped at a bench to watch the action at a beautiful farm populated with ducks, chickens, cats, goats, and even a horse that peeked out of a barn just before rain drenched us during a hike on the nearby Greenway trails.
While not exploring the island’s natural beauty, one of us (not me) hit some of the shops, some of which were out of stuff (a pottery shop) and others of which were offering great end-of-season deals.
While Block Island isn’t that far away from Natick (friends more adventurous than us make a day trip of it), it felt like a legit getaway. It was definitely one of those trips we’ve been meaning to check off our list, and are glad we did.