It was only a few months ago I “discovered” the existence of Block Island. This cozy little coastal retreat for many New Engladers was completely unknown to me until I zoomed in on it on Google Maps one day…
Block Island? What the heck is this? And it’s part of Rhode Island? You mean the smallest state in the U.S. isn’t too small to have its own island. What can possibly be out there?
So, naturally, I had to go.
(A quick aside – A friend of mine from Connecticut wore a Block Island t-shirt soon after my discovery. When prompted he said he had visited some years ago. He was unaware of what state it even belonged to and thought it was an area unto itself – which, after visiting the island, doesn’t feel too far from the truth).
The saddest part of Breeah and I experiencing Rhode Island for the first time is that she came down with a rather nasty flu – leaving her nursing her health back at the hotel for the majority of the stay at Block Island. This left me with lots of “what to do”-time on my hands and I tried to make the most of it. Luckily, Block Island offers a lot for those seeking a rather impromptu adventure.
I guess I’ll start from the start of our day – at Point Judith near Narragansett (which took me awhile to pronounce right – I kept wanting to say Narangaset or Orangutan). $20 for overnight parking (especially after doling out nearly $40 in tolls the previous day) is the only pock mark in what is otherwise a pleasant – albeit it crowded – 50-minute ferry ride to New Shoreham (the official name of the town on Block Island).
The Hotel Manisses (which we were lucky to get – as I booked the last room available) was just down Spring Street near the pier. I have nothing bad to say about the charming Victorian-style hotel except we didn’t get a TV (we didn’t need one), the shower was always cool (or at most lukewarm) and I could hear most conversations and general television noise in the room next door. Yeah, I know that sounds like three strikes and you’re out – but I’ll forgive it. The room was cozily outfitted and had a great view (albeit from the bathroom window) of the animal farm. Seriously, one could do their business and gaze at a camel – that’s gotta be a first. Breakfast is at the 1661 Inn further up the street and is free (and does the job). I’d stay there again.
My first order of business (on a very foggy early afternoon) was to walk out to the Mohegan Bluffs on the south side of the island. I had figured a 30-minute walk but it turned to 45-minutes as I stopped to snap pictures and generally admire the scenery. Half the time I felt I was transported somewhere in the UK as this place borrows a lot from the British Isles playbook. I walked around the historic South East Lighthouse for a bit, looking for shelter from the light rain before making my way to the adjacent bluffs. Y’know, rocky coastlines are my thing and these bluffs were worth the price of admission alone.
I was actually surprised at the relative danger of the walk to get down to the beach at Mohegan – especially for a popular site such as this. There is series of wooden steps and then just steep and slippery rocks and mud. They even give you a short rope to hang onto as you descend but the last little bit of maneuvering is entirely up to you. I was fine, but had to be a little extra careful – so I wasn’t surprised to see a few people stop short at the overlook. If you make it down, you’ll be witness to an area that was the sight of a good handful of shipwrecks over time. If the weather wasn’t so crummy this day I might have sat down and contemplated my surroundings a little more – but I was on a mission to see as much of the island as I could in one day.
I went back to the hotel to check on Breeah and we both headed “downtown” (as in the one or two streets flocked with businesses). Block Island is renowned for catering to absolutely no chain stores or restaurants as everything is unique and local to the island. For some odd reason we could never find the grocery store but we did walk by a variety of eateries, souvenir shops (though a little more classy than your typical boardwalk variety) and the Island Free Library (which had just closed for the day at 3). We ate an early dinner at the Harbor Grill which provided some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever dined on (not to mention an unbelievably tasty Blue Crab Bisque). I’m not a foodie – I just like to eat when I’m hungry, quality grub or not. But I know when I’m being served a good dish and the food at the Grill was definitely a treat!
5 p.m. rolled around and I figured with three hours of daylight (and Breeah worn out by the flu) I had enough time to walk to another part of the island and do a little exploring. I did just that, walking up past the island cemetery to where I could get a good view of the Great Salt Pond – that big body of water in the middle of Block Island. After that my quest was to reach the western coast – which I did at around 6:45 p.m. Oh, I failed to mention that the skies finally cleared up for the evening and it was absolutely perfect weather for a walk, nice and cool (but no jacket necessary) and not a drop of rain.
I definitely overestimated my daylight time and underestimated the length of the walk. When you get on such a walker friendly island such as this (sans sidewalks – but the rare traffic is easy to avoid) you just want to own the place and keep going wherever the road takes you. The western shore was completely deserted and it was just me and the water (and the dried up sting ray that floated ashore, among other things). I walked at least a mile through sand and rocks before realizing I should probably start heading back.
It was on the walk back that I discovered Rodman’s Hollow – and unbelievably beautiful slice of nature tucked away here on Block Island. A forested meadow would be the best way to describe the view of the Hollow – which has a trail right through it (that leads to various encounters with wildlife, I assume). If I go back – I’m hiking the Hollow.
Speaking of wildlife – I had a couple staredowns with the resident deer. A group of four of them stood across the road from me – with the front two eying me for a good 30-45 seconds before scampering back off into the woods. Later on, as night approached, I caught the glint of a deer’s eyes just a few feet from me near the Mohegan Bluffs road I had walked on earlier. It too stared at me for a good ten seconds before bounding off.
Word to the wise (of which I apparently am not) – don’t go walking around Block Island at night. One, there are no streetlights (save for a rare few). I failed to realize this when I set out during the light of day. Two, no one else is wandering about. If something happens to you (i.e. some crazy deer charging you) – you’re kind of stranded. Three, since there are no sidewalks, it’s a bit more difficult to get out of the way of the odd car or two driving at night. At one point I had to practically hug a bush just to get out of the way.
All that said, my 12+ miles walked around Block Island was more than I bargained for (in a good way). I saw far more of the island, on foot no less, than I figured I would. It’s unfortunate Breeah couldn’t have the same experience as me – because Block Island was truly worth the 14+ hour roundtrip drive.
More pictures below…