Why We Love Block Island (Hidden Gem of New England)

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From the Author: Our family has been taking week-long vacations on Block Island for 6+ years. We love this island and know it well. If you have any questions, we respond quickly to comments!

My wife and I were born and raised in Massachusetts.

Ask most anyone around here where the best Summer vacation spot is, and they’ll enthusiastically tell you, “Cape Cod!”.

Up until recently, we were enthusiastic “Cape people” too.

Growing up my parents had a house in Hyannis Port, and my wife’s family rented the same house in Dennis every Summer.

As I got older, I started tagging along with my wife and the in-laws more and more.

The house they rented was directly on Mayflower Beach.

It was perfect – only a handful of steps to the ocean.

And there was just enough space for all the “kids”. It was tight, but we made it work.

But there was a problem.

Us “kids” starting having kids of our own…

We simply no longer fit.

The following year the older family members stayed at the rental on Mayflower Beach, and us “kids” got separate rooms at a nearby B&B.

But it just wasn’t the same.

So at the end of vacation that year we had a talk.

It was time for change – a new tradition.

We decided Summer vacation 2019 would be different.

Block Island was my Mother-in-laws idea.

We’d never been before, but had heard good things.

We decided to give it a shot – if it didn’t work out, we’d just try a new vacation spot the following year.

But that wasn’t necessary – we fell in love with Island almost immediately.

Admittedly, it’s challenging to put into words why I care about this place so much, especially when so many feelings are tied up in years of shared memories – lots of little moments, that by themselves aren’t all that significant, but together are everything.

So, I’m going to leave out most of the sappy stuff (being with Family, and people you just enjoy being around in general, is, in my opinion, what makes any vacation great).

The amazing company we keep, and vacation with aside, here’s why we love Block Island…

NOTICE // We try our best to keep the information in this guide as up to date as possible. If you notice anything has changed, please leave us comment down below.


Ease of Travel

All vacations begin (and end) with some sort of travel – so it’s only fitting that we start there.

Getting to and from Block Island is easy.

There are a few modes of transportation you can take – a 12 minute flight out of Westerly, RI, charter a private boat, etc.

But by far the most popular way to get there is via the Block Island Ferry.

We take the the ferry out of Point Judith. The entire process is relatively painless.

If you’re not taking your car to the island, the ferry parking lot is directly across the street, so you’re only a short walk away. Which is great, especially if you kids and luggage.

Block Island Ferry Point Judith

The ferry ride is short – it takes about 30 minutes if you’re on the Hi-Speed Ferry, and an hour if you’re not.

There’s both indoor, and outdoor seating, with food and drinks served once you’re onboard.

Some people might be turned off by having to take a Ferry to get to their vacation destination, but we love it.

There’s a great mental shift that happens when you leave the “mainland”. You leave all your work and stress behind you and enter “vacation mode”.

And the kids get so excited during the journey over!

Walk Everywhere

As soon as you dock in Old Harbor and get off the ferry, you find yourself in the middle of downtown Block Island.

Restaurants, bars, shops, beaches, hotels, etc are all just a short walk away.

Even New Harbor, where Payne’s Dock, Dead Eye Dicks, The Oar, etc. are, is only a 30 min walk from the ferry (9 min bike ride).

This is one my favorite things about Block Island – you can walk EVERY WHERE.

The entire island is less than 10 square miles – it’s 7 miles long, and 3 miles wide.

And the two main destinations on the entire island, Old Harbor and New Harbor, are just 1.5 miles apart.

Walking on Block Island with Declan

We still choose to bring our car over when we stay for the week for those Mansion Beach days with all the kids and our beach stuff.

But most of the time, you’ll find us walking.

Beach Variety

Block Island has the best beach variety of any place I’ve ever been – and they’re all within a few minutes of one another.

I love a good beach day, but going to the same beach, or even the same type of beach for a week straight gets old.

We are never bored with the beaches on Block Island.

There’s your “traditional” beach experience at Fred Benson Town Beach – sand, ocean, swimming, beach shack food.

Declan in the water on Block Island

Then there’s your “hideaway”, secluded beach at Mansion Beach – our favorite. It’s about 3 miles from downtown but it’s always worth the trip. It’s a beautiful beach, with not so many people!

When you’re done with the typical beach experience, you can go to Great Salt Pond via Andy’s Way and go clamming, or just walk through the marsh looking for sea-life.

Then there’s Charlestown Beach, where you can go and watch all the boats come and go all day long.

Or, if you’re up for an adventure and a bit of a hike, try Black Rock beach.

Mike at the beach Block Island

I could go on, but you get the point – you can visit Block Island for a full week and have a unique beach experience every single day.

Adventure Awaits

When you’ve had your fill of relaxing and lying around on the beach all day, adventure awaits.

Go for a mini-hike along the Bluffs. Take a lighthouse tour. Or visit The Scared Labyrinth.

Rent a moped, and spend the day cruising around the Island.

Moped on Block Island

Or, if you’re into running/biking, take the 5 mile journey down Corn Neck Rd. to North Light and take in the views.

If you’re looking for something a little bolder, consider chartering a boat and go fishing! There are plenty of Stripers and Blues to be had just off the coast.

Mackenzie and I went towards the end of June, and we couldn’t count how many fish we caught – no exaggeration we caught a fish every other cast.

Fishing for Stripers off Block Island

Kid Friendly

These days, you can bring your kids most places, but it seems like Block Island goes out of its way to make kids feel welcomed.

Like they truly belong. Like they are the rule, not the exception.

And we get that feeling everywhere we go – even the restaurants.

Decaln at the Oar on Block Island

Family is just engrained in this place.

You can take them to the Block Island Maritime Institute to look at fish, or to touch the horseshoe crabs and starfish.

Or take them to the Abrams Animal Farm to see the island famous “Zedonk”, and feed the ducks and other animals.

If it’s raining, go to the kids room at Island Free Library where there are books, toys and even kids movies you can take home!

There are endless places to go, and things to do with your kids here.

Food and Drink

I think if you asked the average person, they’d probably say Block Island food is just good. Not bad, not great – good.

I’m a little biased because I’m a seafood junkie – but I love the food on Block Island.

I usually eat some type of seafood every day, for 7 straight days. Lobster rolls, shrimp, muscles, oysters, clams – you name it, I’m eating it.

mike eating seafood at the oar block island

And no Summer vacation is complete without a great cocktail, or two – mudslides with a floater at the Oar, Painkillers at Dead Eye Dicks, and an Old Fashioned on the lawn at the Spring House.

Mike and Kenz Drinks on Block Island

Recently my brother-in-law and I have been grabbing an “end of vacation” Miami Vice at Ballards, while we wait for the ferry ride home 😂.

We’re Comfortable Here

But above all else – we’re just comfortable here.

That’s partly due to the fact that we visit just before the real Summer rush – we arrive the final week of June, and leave just before July 4th.

That means the beaches aren’t crowded and there’s no waits at any of the restaurants or bars – we never have to make reservations.

Empty Beach Block Island

There’s also a lot of comfort that comes from knowing a place so intimately.

We’ve been to many of the beaches, bars and restaurants here 10+ times.

We see familiar faces. Recognize changes. Hear the town gossip.

We care about the Island.

It’s crazy to think we’ve now spent 5 straight years vacationing on Block Island.

Here’s to the next 5!

cheers at Poor Peoples Pub Block Island
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Michael Donovan
Hey. I’m Mike, Mackenzie's husband, and dad to Declan and Maeve. I'm also a co-founder and writer here at Stay New England. I've been traveling across the New England region for well over a decade now and I'm excited to share all that I've learned!
Photo of author
Michael Donovan
Hey. I’m Mike, Mackenzie's husband, and dad to Declan and Maeve. I'm also a co-founder and writer here at Stay New England. I've been traveling across the New England region for well over a decade now and I'm excited to share all that I've learned!

24 thoughts on “Why We Love Block Island (Hidden Gem of New England)”

  1. Absolutely love BI! Been going since 2017 right after my mom passed. She always wanted to go but never made it and when she passed, I decided we’re going I’ve never looked back. It is the most wonderful place in the world as far as I’m concerned thank you for writing what you did. It was perfect.

    • Thanks for the kind words Holly! I’m so glad you still decided to visit BI back then – it’s one of those places you can’t just see once. I share your feelings – it’s one of my favorite places to visit.

  2. Took our 8 year old and 5 year old back in August. Immediately I wondered why we don’t visit more often. 10 years ago the wife and spent a weekend and stayed at The Gothic Inn (sadly closed now). Lots of great memories. Especially the food.

  3. We run a small B&B in Narragansett that is closest to the BI ferry, just 3 miles. Can’t tell you how many folks from Massachusetts we see who share a similar story, former Cape Cod vacationers who love the island as well as the local beaches and other attractions of our area. Mostly they love that there’s no traffic! Even during the height of summer.

    • I have to say, no traffic to AND on Block Island is such a plus. In recent years I feel like Cape traffic has gotten much worse. It can ruin a weekend! And it’s not just the roads – Cape stores, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, etc. all PACKED all the time during high season.

  4. Been going to Block for over 20 years . Never gets old , Love the atmosphere & no fast food joints . Feels like you are far away but close by . Every August is my time .,Thanks for your article , don’t tell too many people , Oops too late .

    • Wow! 20 years is a long time. I suspect we’ll match that number in another 15! There is a vibe on the island that’s hard to describe.

  5. Great article! Have been staying at Twin Maples with family and friends every summer for nearly 30 years! Such a family-friendly place and located about halfway between Old and New Harbor. You touched on so many of Block Island’s attributes, but there are so many more! I personally would choose Block Island over the Cape every day, but love that not too many have discovered this little oasis!

    • Thank you Laurel! WOWWWW 30 years!?! That is incredible. These days, I absolutely choose Block Island over Cape Cod. It’s part of my family’s tradition now, and always will be.

  6. Dumb but this brought tears to my eyes, simply because I share the same love of the island. I am from South Kingstown, RI and this is still where my family and I vacationed every summer growing up, and where my husband and I now bring our kids every summer. It’s even where my husband and I got married. There’s something about the air out there that’s just…different. No matter where you’re from, once you share family memories there, it feels like home every single time you step off the ferry.

    • Not dumb at all…I get all types of emotions thinking of BI, and can only imagine if I had gotten married there! There is such a familiar “welcome home” feeling we get every year we visit. I love it there and share all your same feelings!

  7. Yes. Block Island is special and unique. I am a 75 year old New Yorker who first visited at age 10. Oh. The changes and memories are vast. Many special birthdays and family events shared on Block Island. I’m shocked when young people have no idea about the iconic Ocean View Hotel or cant imagine Old Harbor strewn with fishing nets and weathered shantys.
    That said its beauty remains
    I will spend my November birthday this year and look forward to off -season quiet. Its also, sadly become the only affordable time for us. It is no longer ” The poor man’s Marthas Vineyard ” but manages to retain a rich humility inherent in the recognition of things money can never buy.

    • Really enjoyed reading this Barbara, thank you for taking the time to share it. I can only imagine how much the island has changed over the years. Heck, it’s changed a bit just over the last 5 years, let alone 65 years! Nice to hear the beauty of the island remains intact, even if prices haven’t…

  8. All of my stresses go away as soon as I walk on the hi speed ferry. Cool beaches easy vibes and people just wanting to chill is the vibe. Love having a burger at the Mohegan followed by dancing at the kitten. Can’t wait until next summer

    • Love the Mohegan! Ya there is absolutely a calm energy and vibe to the whole island. Few places like it. Summer can’t come soon enough…

  9. Great article! BI is chill, and works for all families of all sizes, from singles to multi generations. We love it there! I would clarify one part of your post, that they do ask that you not swim at the North Light. But that beach is still great for watching the seals and playing on the rocks!

    • Thank you Beth. Agreed, it’s just an all around comfortable island for all ages and groups of people. Good to know they ask you not to swim at North Light! I think since I was in and out just to cool off half way through a run, I’ve never been seen or stopped…😅

  10. Thank you for this amazing review on Block Island. I am the animal Vetrinary Technician/care taker. on the 1661 Farm and. Gardens aka Abrams Farm. We love seeing families visit our farm. We are currently working on the property to update walk throughs and tours with families. We look forward to your next visit to the island and our farm.

    • That sounds incredible Angel! Can’t wait to see the changes next year and look forward to hopefully running into you!

  11. There can be dangerous currents at the North Light. Do not swim there. It’s not that someone doesn’t “want you” to swim there, it’s trying to prevent your vacation ending in tragedy.


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