Block Island may not be the best-known destination in New England, but it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a different beach getaway. Even though it is a small island, there are a number of secluded spots to relax, or there is plenty to do for people that like to keep busy! My cousin Jonathan and I went for a wedding a few years and enjoyed ourselves. I loved the laid-back vibe and the gorgeous scenery.
Block Island is located 13 miles south of the coast of Rhode Island and 14 miles east of Montauk, Long Island. The island is only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide.and is named after the Dutch explorer Adrian Block, who charted the area in 1614. The island’s main town is called New Shoreham. Block Island only has about 1000 year-round residents, but in the summer they can get 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a day. Most visitors will take one of the Block Island ferries.
In this post, you will find all the information you need to plan your Block Island trip including how to get there, where to stay, and what to do.
Block Island is a summer destination. The peak season runs from Mid-June to Labor Day, but it would also be nice to visit either end of the season – in May or September. Block Island winters are rough, many businesses close and there are significantly less ferry options.
Check out this list for more ideas for weekend getaways on the east coast.
Ferries to Block Island
There are a few Block Island Ferry options depending on where you are coming from and your budget. You can get a ferry to Block Island from:
- Point Judith (Rhode Island)
- New London (Connecticut)
- Newport (Rhode Island)
- Montauk (New York)
- Fall River (Massachusetts)
All the Block Island ferries dock in the Old Harbor, located in the center of town. I recommend purchasing Block Island ferry tickets in advance especially for travel on the weekends. During peak travel time, the Block Island ferries may sell out.
This table contains an overview of the different ferry options. More details about each ferry are included below.
Point Judith Block Island Ferry
From Point Judith in Rhode Island, they offer a traditional and a high-speed ferry.
The Point Judith traditional ferry is the only one that runs year round and also allows cars on board. To take a car on the ferry, call 866-783-7996 Ext 3 to reserve in advance and arrive an hour early. The charge to transport cars starts at $39.60 one-way but will vary depending on the vehicle’s size. Bicycles and surfboards all allowed for an additional fee. The Point Judith Ferry to Block Island schedule varies depending on the day and the season, so best to check online.
The high-speed ferry to Block Island from Point Judith only runs from mid-June through early October. They run 6 boats daily through Labor Day and even have some ferries the week of Thanksgiving – check the schedule here. Passengers are limited to two pieces of carry-on personal luggage with a limit of 30 lb. per person. If you need to take more than the luggage allowance, it’s probably best to take the traditional ferry.
Newport Block Island Ferry
There is also a high-speed ferry to Block Island from the Newport terminal, located in Perrotti Park, from the end of June through Labor Day. They have two trips per day and the crossing takes about an hour. Check the schedule here.
New London Ferry to Block Island
The New London Block Island ferry runs from May to September and takes about 1 hour 20 minutes. The schedule varies depending on the day, so best to check the schedule here. The New London to Block Island ferry does not accept cars, but limited parking is available at the New London terminal for $10 per day. Bicycles and surfboards are permitted for an extra charge.
We took the ferry from New London to Block Island and our experience was pleasant and uneventful. Next time, I will have to try Cross Sound Deli’s famous Bloody Mary which they serve onboard along with a wide variety of snacks. The Block Island Ferry from New London is a 160-foot catamaran so the ride was smooth. Whichever direction you are traveling in, get there early to get a window or outdoor seat.
Montauk Block Island Ferry
Viking Fleet runs the Block Island ferry from Montauk, on the end of Long Island, New York, during the summer. The Montauk to Block Island ferry runs daily at 10 am, with an additional 2 pm boat on Sundays in July and August. The return boat runs daily at 5 pm with an additional boat at 12 pm on Sundays in July and August.
The 120 foot long Viking Superstar takes passengers from Montauk to Block Island. It’s a high-speed ferry with a smooth ride. The ship can hold 225 passengers on its three decks. The interior cabin is air-conditioned and the upper deck is perfect for photography and sun-lovers! They have snacks and beverages available for purchase on the ship.
The ferry to Block Island from Long Island does not take cars, but parking is available in Montauk for $15 a day. Reserve the parking when you book the ferry. Bikes and surfboards are allowed on the ferry for a small charge.
Fall River to Block Island Ferry
Fall River is located about an hours drive south of Boston. From late June through Labor Day, they have once daily ferry service to Block Island. The boat leaves Fall River at 8:30 am and then departs Block Island at 5:10 pm. It is a high-speed ferry and bikes are allowed for an additional fee. Get more information here.
Best Way from NYC to Block Island
If you are going to Block Island from New York City without a car, the best option is to take an Amtrak train to New London and catch the ferry from there. The Block Island Ferry from New London is located right by the Amtrak train station. Still, I would allow extra time to make the transfer in case the train is delayed.
Travel from NYC to Block Island takes about five hours. It’s a three-hour train ride from NYC Penn Station to New London, then connecting to the ferry and traveling across the Block Island Sound takes another two hours. If you are coming from NYC, plan on spending at least one night on Block Island. I think it’s too much travel time to do a day trip to Block Island from New York City.
Block Island Flights
You can also fly to Block Island! New England Airlines has provided daily scheduled air service to Block Island from Westerly, Rhode Island, since 1970. During the summer, there are 20 flights to Block Island each day! The flights cost $109 for an adult round trip (or $59 each way) and $55 for a child or senior one-way ticket.
If you are driving to the Westerly Airport, you will be happy to know they have free parking. Amtrak also goes to Westerly, but the station is an eight-minute drive from the airport, so you would need to take a taxi from there.
You can also charter a flight to Block Island from other airports using Resort Air or Action Airlines.
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Where to Stay on Block Island
When we visited Block Island, we stayed at The National. It’s located in the center of downtown Old Harbor across from the ferry landing. I loved the classic Victorian style so it’s not surprising that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another selling point of the National is the bar/restaurant at the hotel, it’s a popular place to hang out and enjoy the view. Click here to check prices and availability for The National or click here to read Tripadvisor reviews.
If you are looking for Block Island lodging a little way from all the action, consider the Spring House Hotel. It’s only a seven-minute walk to the Old Harbor area but it’s quieter. This hotel is located on a hill, so has beautiful views over the ocean. Click here to check prices and availability for the Spring House Hotel or click here to check Tripadvisor reviews.
If you are looking for a bed and breakfast in Block Island, the Blue Dory Inn looks charming. It is located right by Crescent Beach. In addition to breakfast, they serve wine, hors-d’oeuvres, and their famous Block Island Barnacle cookies every afternoon in their parlor. Click here to check prices and availability for the Blue Dory Inn or click here to check Tripadvisor reviews.
Note: Book accommodations well in advance for trips during any of the major Block Island events, like the Fourth of July celebration.
What to Do on Block Island
It’s a small island but there are plenty of things to do on Block Island especially for outdoor lovers.
Beaches on Block Island
There are 17 different Block Island beaches to choose from. Some will have lifeguards, restrooms, and food, while others feel very remote. Be sure to check out my beach packing list for tips on what to take to the beach.
Ballard’s Beach is probably the most popular Block Island beach. It is located close to the ferry terminal. There are several bars and often some live music. They also serve food and rent lounge chairs. Walk past all the activity, and you can usually find some quiet space too.
A few more of the best beaches on Block Island are walking distance from the town including Surf Beach, Baby Beach, and Fred Benson Town Beach, and Scotch Beach. You may need to get a taxi or bike if you want to explore more of the island.
When we visited, we walked along the coast from our hotel in the opposite direction of Old Harbor. The beaches we passed through were pretty and serene. I did go in the water briefly. Even in the summer, the water was cold for me. I grew up in Texas, so I am more accustomed to the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico.
Biking on Block Island
Block Island is very biker-friendly. All the ferries will allow bikes onboard for a small additional charge. If you don’t want to bring your bike, there are several Block Island bike rental places right by the Old Harbor dock.
Outside the main town, you may see more bikes than cars. Plus, bikes can go on the island’s dirt roads which are off-limits to mopeds. I love this self-guided bike tour that goes to some of the top attractions on Block Island.
Block Island Hiking
More than 43% of the Block island is preserved, and hiking is an excellent way to take in the beautiful natural scenery. It’s a good idea to pick up a hiking map from the Chamber of Commerce, which is located in the Block Island Ferry parking lot, or the Nature Conservancy on High Street since some of the trails are not well marked.
One of the most popular hikes is the Clay Head Trail. There are dramatic views from the cliffs with an option to go down to the beach. Another option is to go hiking in Rodman’s Hollow for wildlife spotting and impressive views over the water towards the end.
Glass Float Project
Each year, as part of the Glass Float Project, hundreds of glass balls made at the studio used by Eben Horton (a Rhode Island artist) are randomly hidden across Block Island. Fans of geocaching will love the challenge of finding them. The rules of the Glass Float Project are simple. If you find a glass ball you can keep it!! You should also register it online so that they can keep track of the floats. If you find another, please leave it so that someone else has the chance to find it.
Block Island Fishing
Block Island is a fisherman’s dream! There are countless opportunities to fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, mahi-mahi, shark, and more. You can rent a boat or go on a chartered fishing trip on the Great Salt Pond, the Block Island Sound, or the Atlantic Ocean. If you prefer, fish from one of the sandy beaches or anywhere else along the shore. Charleston Beach is known for its fishing.
Block Island Clamming
For clamming on Block Island, head to the Great Salt Pond. The best spot there is Andy’s Way Beach. Get a license from the Harbor Master’s Office at the Block Island Boat Basin before you go clamming, or the Clam Warden will confiscate your clams! They will give you a little metal rectangle with a hole in it. Any clam that fits through the hole needs to be thrown back so it grows for next season. Pick up a Block Island tide chart so that you know when it’s low tide as that’s the best time to find clams. Don’t forget to bring along a clamming rake like this one.
Block Island Lighthouses
Block Island has two historic lighthouses, the Southeast Light and the North Light. The Southeast Light is slightly more famous because it had to be moved 230 feet inland from the cliff in the early 1990s that it didn’t fall over the ledge! A big boulder close to the Mohegan Bluffs marks the original location of this National Historic Landmark when it was built in back in 1875. Since it is located atop Mohegan Bluffs, its light shines over 200 feet above the water even though the tower is only 52 feet tall. From the Southeast Light you get the island’s best perspective on the new Wind Farm located three miles offshore. During the summer, the lighthouse and its gift shop are open to the public and you can take a tour. Tours cost $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and children.
The North Light is on the other end of Block Island, about four miles from the center of town. This location is surrounded by sand dunes and conservation land, right in the heart protected grounds. To get to the lighthouse, you have to walk about 20 minutes from the parking area on a sandy beach. The lighthouse tower is not open to the public but there is a museum (North Light Interpretive Center) in the lighthouse which is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day on the weekends and every day late June to mid-September.
Shopping on Block Island
The main town is located a short walk from the dock and has several interesting shops on Water Street. They had lots of Block Island souvenirs and some fun novelty items. Some of my favorite Block Island shops are Block Island Trading Company, Star Department Store, and Wild Flowers Boutique.
Block Island Bars
I was impressed with the nightlife on Block Island. It was fun, relaxed, and everyone seemed friendly. Since I was staying at the National, I mostly hung out mostly at their bar. If you are the kind of person that likes live music, make sure you explore some of the bars to see what they’ve got on, such as Captain Nick’s Rock ‘n Roll Bar and McGovern’s Yellow Kittens Tavern. Some other popular bars on Block Island are Poor People’s Pub, Club Soda, and Ballard’s Inn.
What to Eat on Block Island
You are on an island in the middle of the ocean, so be sure to take advantage of the fresh seafood. The lobster was delicious. It was less expensive than I’ve seen in many places, so I ate as much of it as I could when I was on Block Island. For breakfast, I even had a lobster frittata. If you are not a fan of seafood, don’t worry, the restaurants on Block Island have other options on the menu.
Some of the best Block Island restaurants are National Hotel Tap & Grille (where I had my lobster frittata), Dead Eye Dick’s, The Manisses, and Finn’s Seafood Restaurant.
Getting Around Block Island
You don’t need a car to visit Block Island. We walked everywhere. There are plenty of things to do in Block Island without a car. If you want to explore the island more or get tired of walking, get a taxi. Taxis line up outside the ferry terminal. They also have bike, moped, and vehicle rentals available in downtown Old Harbor.
Expert Tips for Visiting Block Island
- Book ferry or flight tickets in advance, especially for travel on the weekends.
- Take advantage of the fresh seafood, the lobster was amazing.
- You don’t need a car on Block Island, you can get around by walking, riding a bike, or call a taxi if needed.
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