Another week, another beach trip. Our destination this week? Block Island, a sliver of land off the coast of southern Rhode Island, casual, beachy, and fun. And unlike on my girlfriend getaway to Lake Superior a couple of weeks ago, my ten year-old daughter, Abby, and I lucked out – no rain (except at night, when it cooled everything off ) and tons of perfect beach days.
Abby and I headed to Block Island on our own because my husband is not an island-type guy and my older daughter doesn’t like anyplace where there’s not instant access to the internet. Abby and I, on the other hand? We love sunshine, and books, and kicking back, and solitude. We love pretty views and strong breezes. In short, Block Island is our idea of heaven – that’s why I come back year after year.
The island’s getting more popular, but it’s still not nearly as nuts as, say, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, and it’s not nearly as highbrow, either. To get here, you ride a ferry from Point Judith, Rhode Island for about an hour, then get off in town. Beware, though: to get a ferry reservation for you and your car to hit the island in July, you’ll need to call in January – I’m not kidding. I didn’t call until March, and I had to call back a million times until I could get ANY (read: any) reservation on my desired dates. If you don’t get a reservation, plan to line up in Point Judith at 6:00 a.m. and wait to go standby – not fun, as Point Judith has nothing to do but wait in line for the ferry.
To make lodging reservations, you’ll also want to call in January, especially if you want to rent a house. We’ve rented the Barn at Schooner Point for several years (I’ll get to the pros and cons of that in a minute), but wherever you rent, I highly recommend that you spring for a place on the water. The views off this island are spectacular, and, as there’s not a whole lot to do on the island other than hit the beach, you’ll appreciate the ability to watch the boats sail by while you eat burgers on your deck.
One more tip: Be sure to buy groceries and anything else you’ll need in Rhode Island, before you get to Point Judith. Groceries on Block Island are outrageously expensive (logically so, as they have to come over by ferry, too); for example, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s runs $6.39 (as compared to $3.99 on the mainland), and an average-sized bag of grapes is over $10.00. A 20-ounce Diet Coke (to which I am addicted) is $2.49. Get the picture? Buy everything you need on the mainland, then cart it over in your minivan.
Because we wanted to blog about our trip, Abby and I tried to hit all ends of the island, as well as a bunch of different stores and restaurants.
- Beckett’s Authentic Gelato: Located under the National Hotel. Best flavor: salted caramel.
- The Oar: Located on New Harbor. A sort of seafood shack, hanging out over a marina. Try the fried seafood and the frosty cocktails.
- Aldo’s: Located in the center of town. One of the librarians told us about the excellent pepperoni bread – YUM!
- Poor People’s Pub: Located across from the grocery store, just down from the library. You must try the spicy macaroni and cheese with smoked pork shoulder and crispy onions. Nuff said.
- The Island Free Library: Located in the center of town. You can get a visitor’s pass for $25. They have all the newest bestsellers, tons of DVD’s, board games and jigsaw puzzles, and the best wireless internet connection on the island. All that, plus the librarians are expert, friendly, and super-helpful.
- Bonnie & Clyde’s: Located in the center of town. Cute boutique with flirty beachy sundresses and jewelry that looks pricey but isn’t.
- Block Island Parasailing: Located near the ferry landing in Old Harbor. Sarah and Bob, who run this outfit, are reassuring and professional. Abby and I flew tandem and took in great views of the island.
- Mansion Beach. Located off Corn Neck Road. Most people go to the Town Beach, probably because it boasts bathrooms and a snack bar. If you are happy packing a cooler and can, ahem, embrace nature, Mansion Beach is quieter, and the waves are calmer. We chatted with lots of other families while we soaked up the sun and Abby built herself a cave to beat all caves.
On the other hand, we probably wouldn’t return to:
- The National Hotel Tap & Grille: A great view, but the worst service you can imagine. And my fruit salad (at 8:00 a.m.) was mushy, suggesting it might have been left over from a day or two before.
- Papa’s Pizzeria: Cardboard crust, like something pre-made in a factory somewhere. Expensive: $20 for two sodas and one 12” pizza with two toppings. (Go to Aldo’s instead).
As for the Barn at Schooner Point, it’s great for some (like us), but it’s not for everyone. On the upside (the reason we rent it year after year), it’s on one of the prettiest points of land I’ve ever seen anywhere, on the southwest side of the island, on ten acres right on the water.
The living space is charming and quirky, and it’s quite comfortable for two or even three people. On the downside (at least for some), it’s a studio apartment on the top floor of a barn. There’s no air conditioning or internet (or even cell phone reception most of the time), you cook on a propane-powered hot plate, and bugs and birds make their way in even though there are screens. Because of the way the wind blows, everything gets damp: library books, beach towels, clothes.
To Abby and me, it’s heaven – quiet, peaceful, away from everything, with a view to beat all views. But then, as I said, we’re-sit-in-the-sun-and-read-our-books-type-of-people. If it’s nightlife you’re after, stay in town – or, better yet, pick another island.