Lobster avocado BLTs, bike trails, birdwatching and beaches — Block Island’s summer months are absolutely bustling with tempting bites and outdoor activities. Local Rhode Islanders and fellow New Englanders flock to its shores like seagulls to a picnic. Settled 10 miles off Rhode Island’s southern shore, Block Island is surrounded by chilly Atlantic currents and captivating beaches.
How does one access these iconic shores? Without roads or bridges, mainlanders must rely on a different course. Thankfully, there are several transportation options available for visitors and long-term residents, and the Block Island Tourism Council provides up-to-date contact info for the various resources.
A Block Island Ferry Tale
While Block Island itself boasts plenty of recreational and food-related activities (the ice cream alone is worth the trip), the experiences of traversing the 10-mile journey via ferry tops many must-do lists. The most prominent route is from Galilee in Point Judith, Rhode Island. Galilee, a classic, tiny New England town best known for its lighthouse, offers daily traditional, 55-minute ferry departures all year-round. Reservations are not required; rather, visitors can check the daily departure schedule and purchase a ticket at the dock. During the winter months, ferries are somewhat less frequent; still, daytrippers can hop a 6:30 a.m. ferry and grab a return trip at 6:30 p.m. Summertime schedules include more frequent trips and extended hours. Return ferries leave from Block Island’s Old Harbor, located right downtown. The traditional Block Island ferry is the only transportation method that allows personal vehicles — something to keep in mind for folks spending a summer on the island.
A Need for Speed
If the traditional ferry sounds too slow, one may consider one of the high-speed ferries. Ferry riders have options and can depart from Perrotti Park in Downtown Newport (a one-hour voyage), Fall River via Newport (a two-hour voyage) and New London, Connecticut (a one-hour voyage). This high-speed catamaran also runs routes from Point Judith, escorting visitors to downtown Block Island in just 30 minutes! All of Block Island’s ferries, whether the traditional or the high-speed routes, allow passengers an open-air deck to enjoy the ocean views and salty breeze. Leashed pets are also allowed on deck. Children can partake in the onboard concession stands (and parents may indulge at the ferry bar).
Sailing the High Seas
Block Island is one of New England’s most renowned destinations for maritime enthusiasts. Those hoping to sail to the island have two harbors at which to dock: New Harbor and Old Harbor. New Harbor is situated on Block Island’s western shore and allows ample room for private boats up to 50 feet in length. Staying overnight (or longer) costs just $40 per night to moor. Spots are first come first serve. On the opposite shore, boaters can access Old Harbor. The space in Old Harbor is much more limited than New Harbor, so visitors should be mindful of additional restrictions on anchoring. Kayakers are also able to paddle to Block Island from Rhode Island’s shores, though experienced paddlers caution against unpredictable regional weather. New Englanders know it’s prudent to prepare for heavy winds and fog no matter the season.
For individuals who’d prefer to fly, Block Island is home to a small state airport. New England Airlines provides year-round, daily routes for visitors and residents, and local Block Island companies offer chartered rides between the terminal and the island’s popular attractions. Mainlanders depart on the 12-minute journey from Westerly, Rhode Island, an easy destination via train from most major New England cities. Drivers can park for free at the Westerly Airport as well. There are 20 flights per day, and reservations are required. An adult round-trip ticket costs $118 and dogs are allowed for an additional fee.
So Which Is Best?
It really depends! Nautical navigators may prefer the freedom of their own boats, coming and going as they please. Longer-term residents may appreciate the super quick accessibility of flights, especially for short-term engagements or more urgent matters on the mainland. And the ferries have a following of their own; ferry lovers can purchase items from a full line of T-shirts, caps and even Christmas ornaments featuring the Block Island Ferry. Those visiting Block Island for the very first time are encouraged to opt for the ferry ride, as it’s truly a rite of passage for the full experience. Lucky folks moving to the island more long term will likely prefer the ferry as well to transport vehicles, bikes, mopeds and even motorcycles