Block Island: Your funky, affordable Nantucket

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 18-24, 1996
Denali's alter ego: Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias
Doggy dos and don'ts in national parks
Block Island: Your funky, affordable Nantucket
Activities on Little Cayman Island
Backcountry in Arizona's Petrified Forest
Top trips for groups, from Utah to Maine

Block Island: Your funky, affordable Nantucket
Question: I'd like to visit Block Island, Rhode Island. Any advice on what to do there, where to stay, how to get there, etc.?

Name not given
New York, NY

Like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, minus their celebrities and prices.
Adventure Adviser: As the low-key alternative to nearby Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, Block Island may not offer much in the way of celebrity-watching, but what it lacks in showiness, it more than makes up for with rocky bluffs, great bird-watching, and miles of narrow footpaths that are perfect for ambling. You'll have your pick of hotels, from the slightly rundown, funky variety to the restored, upscale types, complete with wraparound verandahs and ocean views.

If you opt for the less expensive route, book a room at the famous Surf Hotel, an island landmark with small rooms and bathrooms down the hall--all for the bargain price of $60 to $70 for a double. Best of all, you can hear the ocean breakers from all 47 rooms. The Surf opens its doors to intrepid travelers on May 24; call 401-466-2241 for more information. If you're looking for a little more luxury, try the Narragansett Inn (401-466-2626), where after-dinner coffee on the porch is de rigeur and double rooms go for about $110, including breakfast.

For a homey little place that's close to the island's largest trail network, bed down in the Barrington B&B (401-466-5510). They rent bikes and kayaks and charge anywhere from $50 to $150 for a double room. Once you're settled in, stretch your legs on the Clay Head Trail, a great day hike that zigzags an 11-mile course around the northern half of the island. If you don't have that much time to spare, take a shorter section that leads you straight to the best birding action on the northernmost bluffs. From there you can navigate a confusion of unmarked inland trails throughout the ten-square-mile island. For beachcombing, head two miles north from the Surf Hotel along Crescent Beach--the island's best bet for swimming--then three miles over rubble-strewn sand beneath looming cliffs to the lighthouse at Sandy Point. If you want to do your exploring on two wheels, an hour's leisurely bike ride will get you pretty much anywhere you want to go. If you have an aversion to old clunkers, which are standard fare at most island rental shops, I recommend bringing your own bike.

Ferry service to the island runs from Point Judith, Providence, and Newport, Rhode Island; Montauk Point, New York; and New London, Connecticut. Expect a one- to three-hour trip from dock to dock; call 401-783-4613 for ferry schedules. For more information, contact the Block Island Chamber of Commerce at 401-466-2982 or check out our Rhode Island hike in "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations section of our April 1996 issue.

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