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Friday, September 11, 2020

A Day Trip to Block Island

Block Island is a popular getaway well known by New England natives.  The island is shaped like a pork chop and is 7 miles long and 3 miles wide.  Rhode Island claims the land that sits in Block Island Sound, nine miles off its coast in the Atlantic Ocean.  Like the Cape, the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Block was formed from glacial deposits as the glaciers receded during the last ice age.  

If you are looking to get away from home, if you are looking to feel far away without the hassle or a plane ride, Block Island is it.  A one hour jaunt on the high-speed ferries from several New England ports transports you to a charming Island that feels a lot like Bermuda.  

I've spent a week on the island, I've gone out for a weekend (here is a weekend guide), and I've gone over just for the day.  Today we are talking about the latter, Block Island in a Day - a guide to seeing the highlights with a round trip same day ferry ticket.  It is perfect for anyone short on time or someone who wants to see Block on a budget because lodging on the island can be pretty pricey.   

To make the most of the day, you need to take the first ferry out and plan to take one of the last ferries back.  We caught the 9am ferry out of Point Judith and we were on the island by 10am.  We decided on the 5pm ferry back, arriving in Point Judith by 6pm in time to wind down and make dinner before ending the day. 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

When it comes to getting to the island you (obviously) need a boat and besides a personal craft, there are quite a few ferry options.  You can depart from New London, ConnecticutPoint Judith, Rhode IslandNewport, Rhode IslandFall River, Massachusetts, or Montauk, New York.  All of the ferries except for the Point Judith traditional ferry are seasonal and terminate at different times in the summer.  This little graphic below is everything you need to know when trying to decide where to leave from and how much it will cost.  Prices are based on a summer weekend round trip adult ticket with a bike) 

Budget-Friendly Option:   Traditional Ferry out of Point Judith 
($27 round trip a person with a bike)

G E T T I N G   A R O U N D 

There are several ways to get around the island.  You can bring your car, you can rent a car, you can rent a bike, you can rent a scooter, or you can bring your own bike.  I chose to bring my own bike to get some more exercise, avoid a rental hassle, a rental fee, and touching more things than I need to #Covid2020.  If you chose to rent a car/bike/scooter, there are a ton of rental options by the ferry if you chose to go that route. 

If you do choose to bike the island on this Katie Wanders tour, be prepared for a hilly route that covers 16 miles round trip.  The good news is that this route includes lots of pit stops and breaks and the hills sort of roll around the island with the toughest stretch through the middle of the island between The Oar and Mohegan Bluffs.  You can take a break wherever needed and you can walk your bike up any hill.  We powered up them all and enjoyed all the scenic stops to catch our breath.  I highly recommend visiting mid-week or offseason when the roads (and restaurants) are less busy.  

* Budget-Friendly Option:  Bring Your Own Bike!  
You only have to pay for the ferry ticket for your bike 
(included in fare prices above) 

B R E A K F A S T 

You have a lot of options for breakfast on the island.  You can enjoy a sit-down breakfast with a view or you can grab something on the go.  We wanted to save time and money so we opted for a bagel to go from the Old Post Office Bagel Shop.  A variety of amazing fresh bagels and homemade cream cheeses greet you when you walk into the door.  I opted for a pumpernickel everything bagel with a sundried tomato pesto cream cheese that I am still dreaming about and it was the perfect start to our day biking around the island. 

Budget-Friendly Option:  
Breakfast and coffee to go for two: $18

M A N S I O N   B E A C H 

Block Island is top-notch when it comes to beaches.  The beaches are huge stretches of sand with waves big enough to surf, are dog-friendly, and are really fuss-free.  We biked to Mansion Beach where there are no lifeguards, no fees, no pretentious rules.  Bring your dog, bring your beer, and enjoy a day at the beach.  If you want a beach with facilities (bathroom and food shack) you will have to head to Town Beach closer to the ferry.  

Budget-Friendly Option: Mansion Beach is free!  
There is no fee to get into the beach and no snack shack to tempt you!  
Bring your own snacks/drinks and enjoy some time at the beach.  

H O U S E   T O U R 

Okay, so this isn't a specific "to do" or place to visit but while you are riding your bike around the island, slow down and take your time enjoying the scenery and the amazing houses, cottages, and inns that border the roads around the island.  We were constantly pointing out the sweetest houses and some of our favorite memories as we biked around the island.  They are quintessential New England and there will be no shortage of cedar shake, tiny cottages, sprawling inns and hotels, and manicured lawns.  

B I K E   T O   T H E   N O R T H E R N   T I P 

There is something fun about biking the entire length of the island.  Head to the most northern tip, North Light, to enjoy some quieter roads and scenic views along the way.  If you are staying for the weekend, you have time to walk out to the lighthouse but for a day trip, enjoy the views from afar.  It's best to enjoy the rewards of biking to the most northern point and soaking in the views for a quick break before heading back the way you came for a hike along the cliffs. 

H I K E   C L A Y H E A D   T R A I L S 

More than 44% of the island is preserved as open space in perpetuity.  To experience the island, you need to enjoy some of these open spaces.  You can squeeze in a hike on the island if you commit to a shorter distance and pick a trailhead somewhere along the way.  The Clayhead Trails are the perfect place as they aren't too popular (serenity please), are along your route back from the northern tip (pretty close to Mansion Beach), and you can choose whatever distance you want.  We probably hiked about a mile and a half, devoting a half-hour to following the shoreline and taking in the views.  You can access the trails off of Clayhead Trail Road or an unmarked side road off Corn Neck Road right across from the Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve.  

Budget-Friendly Option:  Trails are free!  Pack water and enjoy the trails. 

L U N C H    A T    T H E   O A R 

This is your only sit down meal on the island if you want to just come for the day so my theory?  Make it count.  This is where we splurged and we ordered a true feast at one of my favorite restaurants on the island, The Oar.  There is a variety of amazing outdoor seating and we were able to sit right on the water in the sweetest set of wooden chairs.  The menu is expansive and there is something for everyone from budget-friendly sandwiches to pricey but amazing sushi and full dinners.  We decided to split a sushi roll, a lobster club, and the fried scallop roll as a way to experience some of our favorite offerings.  We were in absolute seafood heaven and both agreed this was one of the best lunches we had enjoyed in a while.  Everything was perfection and that lobster was probably some of the sweetest most tender lobster I have ever had. Of course, if you are on a strict budget you can skip this completely but if you want to have an amazing meal on the island and make it count, make it lunch at The Oar.  

Budget-Friendly Option:  Skip the alcohol, stick to sandwiches or apps, and be open to splitting a meal.  
If you really want to be budget-conscious, you can pack a lunch from home to enjoy on the beach or Clayhead Trail.  

B R E A K    A T    T H E    B L U F F S

After leaving The Oar, you have your longest stretch of biking yet.  You are going to enjoy a scenic ride of rolling hills along Center Road and Lakeside Drive. When you make it back to the south end of the island, take a break and enjoy a view of the Bluffs at the pull-off area.  If you can make it quick (or have the legs to do it), you can follow the stairs down to the bottom of the bluff.  I recommend enjoying the break and the view from the top of the bluffs before getting back on your bike to make your way back to the busy part of town. 

* Budget-Friendly Option:  
Trails are free!  Enjoy the break! 

S T O P    A T    T H E    F A R M 

After you leave the bluffs, there is one quick stop I always love to make.  Stop at the 1661 Farm and walk around the property, spotting some of the island's famous residents like the one-eyed zedonk.  There is often a bucket of scrap farm vegetables you can feed the hungry goats and eager emus.  You can also pop into North Light Fibers to buy some alpaca yarn or kits to bring home for your next project.  

* Budget-Friendly Option:  
Admission to the farm is free! 

S T O P    A T    T H E    S H O P S 

It is worth a quick stop at the shops by the ferry to see if you can find something fun to bring home.  From art to clothing, there is a variety of goods at the cute little shops that are located by the ferry.  

Budget-Friendly Option:   Visit the island after Labor Day 
and shop all of the sales as stores try to clear their inventory before the tourist season ends. 

I C E  C R E A M 

At this point, you probably have just enough time to grab something sweet before hopping on the ferry (dessert before dinner? Yep).  I recommend one of the shops by the ferry in case you are really cutting it close on time.  We stopped at Aldo's and we were insanely excited about the variety of ice cream and gelato flavors.  There were amazing add-in options like a variety of nuts, candy, and homemade whipped cream.  I opted for the pumpkin cheesecake with hot fudge and whipped cream and it was one of the best sweet treats I had enjoyed on the island. 

C A T C H    T H E    F E R R Y

You are either trying to grab the 5pm or the 7pm ferry and at this point, your butt hurts from sitting in a bike seat for most of the day and you have to board the ferry after a fun-filled day on Block Island.  We opted for the 5pm ferry as it meant we were home in time for dinner which allowed us a little bit of time to unwind and eat dinner at home. You can take a later ferry if you want to spend some more time "downtown" or if you want to enjoy an earlier dinner on the island as well.  

While you can easily spend a week exploring and relaxing on the island, if you only have the time and the budget for a day, you should grab your bike and go.  The small size of the island allows you to see a lot in an 8-hour span.  From the beaches to the bluffs, a quick hike and some amazing food, you can pack in amazing memories and a good workout while touring one of New England's prettiest little islands.  My experiences on the island change as my personal relationships and life change and I am loving exploring the island I have visited so many times, even if just for the day. 

B U D G E T / C O S T 

2 Round Trip Ferry Tickets with Bikes:  $57
Parking (Point Judith):  $10 
Bagels and Coffee:  $18
Lunch:  $85
Ice Cream: $12
Store (dress, two hats): $55
We brought snacks, water, and sunscreen with us 
$237 for a day on Block Island

Budget-Friendly Option: We decided to really splurge on lunch and shopping was obviously not a necessity.  You can easily do this trip in a day for $67 (ferry and parking) if you chose to bring all of your own food.  You can easily pack a picnic basket, tossed onto the bike rack and enjoy a great meal on the beach instead of dining out for lunch. We had a pretty perfect day and for less than $250, saw another part of New England and spent a great day on an island. 

M O R E   A B O U T   B L O C K 

Weekenders Guide

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