Discovered in 1614, Block Island has a storied past. From pirates to presidents, many a person has landed here. The small piece of land lies just off the northeastern coast of the U.S. and is only reachable by air or boat. Ferries shuttle to and from the many ports along Connecticut, Massachusetts, and its home state of Rhode Island. Our departure city was New London, and for $22, we each received a round-trip ticket.
It is said Captain Kidd visited the Island prior to his final capture in Boston. Since no treasure could be found upon his arrest, where else could it be but upon Block Island? Whether the treasure exists or not, I don’t know, but I do know that it costs a pirate’s booty to enjoy the area.
The shore is lined with grand old hotels standing vigil over the bay. The National Hotel is the most dominant and has been keeping watch since 1888. Other lodging choices are available and range from small inns to quaint bed and breakfasts. In fact, it would appear that most homes are no more than vacation rentals.
Although smaller in land mass, the area most reminds me of Catalina Island only with Victorian architecture. Most of the businesses and dining establishments are centered near the bay. The rest of the island is not quite desolate but is much less populated.
We started out on Ballard’s Beach. An area mostly comprised of the younger crowd that has come for sun and fun. I thought it would be nice to enjoy a sandwich and watch the water. However, after downing a very bland $19 plate of fish and chips, I was ready to venture on.
Cars are allowed, but the best way to explore the whole island is by scooter or moped. Our rate was $40 for a half-day rental, which gave us ample time to circumvent the isle.
Lighthouses bookend Block on the north and south sides. Other popular attractions are Settlers Rock, Mansion Beach, and the Block Island Historical Society. At the latter, you will learn the island remained neutral during the Revolutionary War, trading with both sides. Also that during President Grant’s administration, he met here with the Supreme Court. For the present day, those who are star-struck amongst us will be happy to know that Christopher Watkins keeps a vacation house here.
My favorite site by far was the coast line below Mohegan Trail. Mostly deserted, the waves crash upon sandy, rock-covered beaches. For those so enthralled, nude sun bathing is allowed along this strand.
Based upon locals’ recommendation, we chose to have our dinner at Winfield’s. The menu was awash in local catches, and the entrees were excellent. Be prepared to drop in excess of $100 for dinner if you are dining with a friend.
Block Island is primarily a summer destination. Tourists and vacationers flock here for the calm warm waters and sense of history, myself included. Personally, I think the real story might be told in winter. Less than 1,000 hardy souls brave the bone-chilling North Atlantic winds during this season, presenting a wonderful opportunity to convene with the true treasure of the region.