A Weekend On Block Island
New England has always been America's summer destination of choice. Every year couples and families flock to the coast looking for seafood, sun, and a strip of sandy beach to call their own. They stay in bed and breakfasts on Martha's Vineyard, rent houses in Cape Cod, and stretch out on Narragansett beaches. But more and more these past few years there has been a new destination for those embarking on their annual summer exodus; Block Island. Located twelve miles off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island has recently become one of the most appealing New England summer hotspots. This newfound popularity is due in large part to Block Island's easygoing, low-key atmosphere, which benefits from miles of beautiful beaches, numerous bars and restaurants, and consummate natural beauty. Many people go to Block Island for the weekend, and in this short period of time it is all too easy to miss out on some of the best aspects of the Block Island experience. Hopefully this guide will provide prospective visitors with an idea of how to best spend their weekend on Block Island so that they get as much as possible out of their stay.
During the winter months Block Island is the very picture of a sleepy, seaside New England town, with a local population of around nine hundred people. In the summer, the island's population explodes to nearly ten thousand at any given time, and many thousands more on busy weekends or holidays. Now, many people can't strike a balance between "Block Island the quiet hamlet" and "Block Island the wild tourist destination", and quite often their vacations suffer for this. I see too many families getting off the ferry, streaming over to Ballard's for Bud Lite, crab cakes, and three hours in the sand, and then streaming back onto the ferry, perhaps never knowing how much more the island truly has to offer. The real Block Island experience should be a perfect synthesis of lazing on the beach, exploring the town of New Shoreham and some of the incredible natural vistas the island has to offer, and indulging in good food and drink at the best of Block Island's restaurants. As long as you are respectful and manage not to be completely obnoxious, the locals will respond in kind and you will no doubt have an extremely pleasant stay.
In terms of preparations, there aren't really all that many concrete guidelines. Bring your beach going essentials, and make you sure pack foul weather clothing just in case; there is nothing worse than being caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella or raincoat. If you own a bicycle and plan on traveling at all outside of town and the immediate beach area (and I recommend that you do), then by all means bring it; the ticket you will need to purchase for your bike will cost less than renting all weekend. In this case, I would also advise you to pack a bike lock; unattended and unsecured bicycles are stolen with some regularity on the island. For the thriftier traveler, I would suggest that you pack your own snacks and midday meals, as groceries are rather expensive on the island.
There are a number of ways to access Block Island during the summer months. The most popular method is, of course, by ferry; there are several ferry services across New England, both standard and high speed, that offer transportation to the island. The cheapest and most comprehensive of these is almost certainly the Interstate Navigation ferry service, which operates daily out of Point Judith, RI. This ferry is also the only way to bring a car out to the island, albeit at a steep fee. The traditional ferry service is about an hour long and does not fill up except during the busiest weekends of July and on holidays. The high-speed service from Point Judith is about a half hour trip. However, the high speed ferry is more expensive than the standard ferry, and is much smaller and more likely to be fully booked. For more information on rates and scheduling, use the following link: . The Cross Sound Express ferry from New London, CT, is a high speed ferry, and, although rather expensive, is certainly the best option for those traveling to the island from Connecticut or nearby areas. It runs on a slightly more restricted schedule, only operating from late June until early September. For more information on the New London ferry, use the following link: . There is also ferry service to the island from Montauk . Travelers may also choose to reach Block Island by air; New England airlines operates out of Westerly, RI, and is the fastest way to reach the island (flights run about 12 minutes on average). The planes are fairly small, so in the case of inclement weather vacationers are urged to find alternate means of transportation. The New England Airlines site has more information on fares and scheduling: .
Block Island is by and large a very safe locale, but as with any place there are certain precautions you can and should take to stay out of harm's way. Far and away the most common causes of injury on Block Island are careless bicycle and moped riders. If you plan on renting bikes or mopeds, make sure that you wear your helmets, follow the rules of the road, and absolutely do not drink while operating them. Otherwise, just be aware that other vacationers might not follow these guidelines, and stay alert when on main roads. When on the beach it's wise to wear sunscreen and exercise care when swimming; Block Island's waters are usually calm, but riptides are not unheard of and swimmers have been known to come across the occasional jellyfish. The only real crime that takes places on the island almost always stems from tourists who have had a bit too much to drink: there are instances of drunk and disorderly conduct every week, accompanied by infrequent bar fights and some petty theft. Thankfully, this is restricted almost entirely to the late night bar scene and major holidays. As long you or your fellow vacationers don't get mixed up in any drunken shenanigans, there shouldn't be a problem.
The same services that brought you to Block Island will get you off the island. You will probably want to use the same service you did when you arrived, and it is usually wise to schedule your departure at the same time you schedule your arrival, so as to avoid any availability issues.