Block island, located off the coast of Southern Rhode Island is easily reached by air or sea. Scheduled summer ferry service runs from New London, Connecticut; Montauk, Long Island; Providence, Rhode Island and Port Judith, Rhode Island. Year-round service and closest departure is from Port Judith.
From South: Take I-95 north to exit 92, bear right on Rt. 2 to Rt. 78 (westerly bypass). At Rt. 1 turn left and travel to Rt. 108 (signs to Galilee and Port Judith). Travel south 3 miles on Rt. 108 to the Block Island Boat sign and turn right, then left.
From North: Take I-95 south to Rt. 4, to Rt. 1; take exit for Narragansett and Rt. 108. Travel south 3 miles on Rt. 108 to the Block Island Boat sign and turn right, then left.
Block Island, an 11-square-mile oceanside resort off the Rhode Island Coast is the perfect summer romantic cycling get-away. Bike to the beach on bike paths and scenic trails that wind around the island and hug miles of pristine coastline. Highlights include beautiful ocean views, secluded beaches, windswept bluffs, wildflower preserves and historic lighthouses.
There are about 800 year-round residents on Block Island. During the height of the summer season, the population peaks at around 25,000 and Old Harbor is transformed into a bustling port as ferries come and go all day. Instead of motel chains, beautifully restored Victorian-era hotels, inns and romantic B&B's line the winding streets. Some are situated on hills overlooking the harbor. Tourist services, bike rentals, shops, boutiques, restaurants, ice cream parlors, beaches and several "island highlights" are located within walking distance of the ferry landing. However, to really discover the island, you will need to get on a bicycle. Pick up a map of Block Island at the Chamber of Commerce office, just up the street from the ferry dock.
Once you put some distance between yourself and the busy harbor (summer), the outside world melts away. The island today is much the same as it was 100 years ago due to a concerted preservation effort. Known as the “Last Great Place”, Block Island offers a classic New England island cycling and mountain biking experience. One quarter of the island is protected natural habitat. There are 350 freshwater ponds (from natural springs) and 17 miles of sandy beach. What better way to complement a bike tour of the island than to enjoy the cool breezes and clear ocean waters.
What to do with your car:
There is really no need to take your car by Ferry to Block Island. (For Ferry information visit Interstate Navigation Co.). Since the island is a compact 7 miles long by 3 miles wide, most people prefer to get about the island on foot or bicycle.
Port Judith, RI: We park our car for the weekend at one of the parking lots located directly across the street from the Ferry. They are privately owned and operated. They do not have a phone and space is available on a first come, first serve basis. The price varies from $5 to $10 per day. We prefer to take our own bikes with us (bike rentals are available on the island) and pay the extra $5.00 ferry surcharge (round trip) per bike for the privilege.
Newport, RI: There is no charge to park at Fort Adams State Park.
The Montauk, Long Island Ferry lands at New Harbor. The Port Judith, Providence, Newport, R.I., and New London, CT. Ferries land at Old Harbor, Block Island's colorful and historic "home port".
The Trails: Self-guided bicycle tours of Block Island
The island is a bicyclists paradise. During the summer, Block Island becomes a popular seaside vacation resort town as people are drawn to its 17 miles of pristine beaches and charm. Come mid-week or off-season in the Spring or Fall for a quietier, classic New England island cycling experience. There is traffic on the roads (the speed limit is 20 to 25 mph) but drivers are relatively considerate and cautious as almost everyone here travels by bicycle including lots of children. When we came here for a weekend getaway and bike trip with our eleven year old nephew, we rode with him placed between us. That worked rather well. It is a good idea to bring reflective gear such as a vest and a bike light in case you return after dark. The terrain is generally hilly and riding a bike around the island is often a succession of gradual ascents and descents which most people can handle.
Take lunch with you for this bike tour. Begin your island explorations by heading north on Corn Neck Road. The route travels up the narrow bone of this pork chop shaped island to the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. It encompasses the northern tip of the island (Sandy Point) and includes the North Lighthouse. If you're starting out from Old Harbor, you'll get fantastic views of the sea as you crest the hill and ride along the high ground past Crescent Beach. Along the way to the Lighthouse, you'll pass numerous beach access points and trails. Save these side trails for the return trip.
After an exhilarating ride, you'll arrive at Settlers Rock. This stone monument marks the historic landing site of the European settlers who first colonized Block Island in 1661. Across the road is Chaqum Pond, a fresh water pond which serves as a rookery for the local seagull population and supports a variety of other wildlife.
The parking area is also the access point to the Wildlife Refuge and the Lighthouse. Leave your bikes here. This is an environmentally sensitive area. Please stay off the upland vegetation and out of the dunes. It's a scenic quarter of a mile hike to the North Lighthouse along the sand/cobble barrier beach that extends from the Settler's Rock parking area to Sandy Point. Built in 1867, the lighthouse stands as a quiet sentinenal at the northern tip of the island. There is a small fee to enter the Lighthouse Interpretative Center which houses a martime museum. The lantern tower is not open to the public.
Kids love to explore among the cobbles and sand along the shore and it might take you a while to make the return hike back to the bikes. (no swimming at Sandy Point due to dangerous tidal currents).
From Settlers Rock, return by heading south on Corn Neck Road. Keep an eye out for The Clayhead Nature Trail which intersects on the left. It is marked by a "Greenway" granite post. Head east on the dirt road and go straight about .3 miles along a dirt road until you reach a parking area with bike racks. Leave your bikes here. Take your lunch with you and hike down the narrow, winding trail, marked by the Clay Head sign. The trail runs east toward the ocean for about .3 miles. After you pass Clay Head Swamp, with the scenic Littlefield Farm in the background, you will reach an intersection in the trail. Turn right to visit the beach at the bottom of the coastal Clayhead Bluffs. There are groups of huge boulders along the rocky beach, some of which make ideal picnic spots.
Block Island Southern Loop Tour:
From Old Harbor, head out of town on Spring Street and follow the road south. It's a long, steady hill climb to the Southeast Lighthouse. Pedal eastwards at the junction onto Southeast Light Road which heads out towards Southeast Point and the Lighthouse. There is a parking area on the left where you can leave your bikes. The lighthouse, built in 1873, is a short walk beyond that. This unique brick dwelling has a 52 foot octagonal brick tower and is a National Historic Landmark and museum. Entry to the mueum requires a nominal fee. The property around the lighthouse is open to the public and offers spectacular views of the ocean and Mohegan Bluffs.
From here you can backtrack to town (it's a nice ride downhill) or continue south on Southeast Light Road along Mohegan Bluffs.
Southern Loop Tour: Mohegan Bluffs:
Leave your bikes at the parking area. A short trail from the parking area leads to an observation platform at the edge of the bluffs. Rising 150 feet above the ocean, the dramatic bluffs stretch for several miles along the southern shore of the island. There is a long wooden stairway leading down to the beach. The Bluffs are exceptionally beautiful near sunset.
To continue, head west on the paved road paralleling the bluffs. It soon bends sharply toward the north onto Lakeside Drive. Snake Hole Road intersects on the left (junction of the Mohegan trail and Lakeside Drive) and provides an interesting detour that skirts the southeastern fringe of Rodmans Hollow Conservation Area before looping back onto Lakeside Drive.
Continue north on Lakeside Drive, passing several ponds on the left until you arrive at Isaacs Corner, the main junction with Cooneymus and Center Roads. Here you can either head west on Cooneymus Road or cut the Southern Loop Tour in half by heading north on Center Road.
Southern Loop Tour: Center Road Cutoff to Old Harbor:
From Issacs Corner head north on Center Road. After a short distance a side spur trail on the right leads east to an old Indian Cemetery with small headstones where Indians were buried upright with a pot of clams or oysters to sustain them on their journey.
Continue north on the main road past the Indian Cemetery. Nathan Mott Park is located .2 miles west of the entrance to the Block Island State Airport. Park your bike and take a walk. The trailhead is on the right. This area has beautiful fields of wildflowers and panoramic vistas to the west and south.
To close the loop, continue on the main road. Several roads intersect on the right and lead east back to Old Harbor.
Southern Loop Tour: Cooneymus Road to Old Harbor:
To complete the full Southern Loop, from Isaacs corner, head west along Cooneymus Road to Rodmans Hollow Conservation Area, a natural ravine scooped out by Glaciers. Turn left onto Black Rock Road and park your bike. About .25 miles down on your left, you will see a wooden gate and turnstile marking the trail entrance. A network of foot trails wind through the conservation area to the southern coast of the island.
You can also opt to continue riding south on Black Rock Road to Black Rock Point. You can access the beach at Black Rock Point via a steep, hiking trail down the bluff. This a popular surfing spot.
Continue west on Cooneymus Road to a junction with West Side Road and make a sharp right onto West Side Road. Many side roads intersect the road along the way and lead to various viewpoints and secluded, rocky coves (Cooneymus, Dory and Grace's Coves) along the western coast. A short distance past the Grace Cove Road intersection, after the route bends east towards the Great Salt Pond, Coastguard Road intersects from the left. Head onto Coastguard road which skirts along the western contour of the Great Salt Pond around Cormorant Point Cove. You may spot dozens of harbor seals sunning themselves out on the rocks. Continue past Charleston Beach and the Coast Guard Station. Stop to watch the boats as they enter the channel to the Pond from the Sound. Backtrack to West Side Road and continue east to the Block Island Historical Cemetery. High on a hill are the tombstones of 17th and 18th century adventures who forged the rich traditions of Block Island. The tombstones have interesting inscriptions. To close the loop, head east towards New Harbor, make a sharp right at the next intersection and cross the bridge over Trims Pond Head to Beach Avenue. Continue on Beach avenue circling around the eastern side of Harbor Pond back to Old Harbor.
That was fun, wasn't it?
Block Island Beaches:
Some of the best beaches around the island are:
Block island has a rich history and many Historical Points of Interest. I have described a few briefly in the trail descriptions above. For more details, stop by the Chamber of Commerce office, just up the street from the ferry dock.
For more information:
Block Island Chamber Of Commerce