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Located just 13 miles off Rhode Island’s coast, Block Island packs a lot into its compact, 10-square-mile footprint — including 17 miles of beaches and two lighthouses. Much of Block Island’s land is designated as protected, meaning that the many beautiful seaside views are nearly untouched. There are plenty of things to do on Block Island that make it perfect for a summertime day trip, and its delightful restaurants and hotels make a longer stay worth your while, too.
With almost half of the land on Block Island designated as protected, walking fans can count on views of unspoiled nature at virtually every turn along the Greenway Trail system. This network of trails covers most of Block Island, so there are many points at which to begin your walk. We recommend starting at the island’s northern tip, at the Clay Head Preserve. To get there, take Corn Neck Road north from Old Harbor for about 2 miles, then look for a post marker on the right-hand side. Turn right onto a dirt road and go straight for about a third of a mile until you reach a parking area, where you will see the Clay Head sign.
Whether you hope to hook bass and blues or head offshore for tuna and mahi-mahi, Captain Christopher Willi is your go-to guide. With more than 20 years of local experience as well as a scholarly foundation (he studied wildlife biology and management at the University of Rhode Island), Willi takes a smart and sustainable approach to fishing, encouraging catch-and-release. 40 Ocean Ave., Block Island. 401-742-3992
Block Island may be a haven for New England wildlife, but you’ll find a few more exotic critters awaiting you at this classic farm located across the street from the 1661 Inn. Free and open to the public year-round, it boasts a menagerie of camels, llamas, pygmy and fainting goats, black swans, a yak, lemurs, red kangaroos, and more. Near Spring and High streets, Block Island. 401-466-2421
Built in the 1870s to thwart shipwrecks, today the iconic red-brick Southeast Light is a beacon attracting visitors from near and far. Moved back from its precarious perch on the edge of the Mohegan Bluffs in 1993, this National Historic Landmark promises one of the best island vantages. Admission to visit the small museum and store is free, but if escorted tower tours are offered when you arrive (they’re available whenever staffing permits), it’s well worth the modest fee. Mohegan Trail. 401-466-5009
Great service and refined cuisine have combined to make Winfield’s a fine-dining favorite among locals and visitors alike. Its menu mixes an abundance of local ingredients with both New American and far-flung influences (French, Italian, Asian), and the extensive wine list ensures the perfect pairing for any meal. And whether dining in the cozy bar or at a candlelit table in the dining room, you’ll find the atmosphere conducive to lingering. Open seasonally. Corn Neck Road, Block Island. 401-466-5856
This island standby recently got some fresh inspiration in the form of executive chef Adi Mandel, who arrived for the 2017 season bringing years of Rhode Island restaurant experience (see: the Bristol Oyster Bar, the Mooring in Newport, the Waterman Grille in Providence, and others). The Eli’s menu is short but satisfying, featuring creative bites such as tuna nachos complemented with sriracha sour cream and pickled ginger, and a burger of ground prime short rib topped with pimento cheese spread, caramelized Vidalia onions, and smoked bacon. Open seasonally. 456 Chapel Street, Block Island. 401-466-5230
Why do these doughnuts taste so good? Some say it’s the Block Island water, but we’re betting it has more to do with the fact that Payne’s keeps it simple (choose from plain, cinnamon, or sugar) and serves its doughnuts hot and fresh. Plus, the family that owns the joint has more than 50 years’ experience turning out these confections, earning this tiny walk-up window the title of “Home of the Killer Donuts.”
The island’s oldest hotel and resort is long on historic charm and ocean views, but also options: The main building, built in 1852, offers 33 guest rooms; in the property’s gardens you’ll find the 17-room Mott House; nearby, the Barn offers a trio of luxury suites situated over a farm-to-table restaurant; plus there’s a newer 10-room boutique hotel, the Inn at Spring House. Factor in four rental homes on-site and six more in town, and it’s safe to say Spring House has its bases covered, beautifully.
(Formerly the Surf Hotel.) A rambling, tower-topped 1870s classic with steep gables and a long verandah, the Surf Hotel is sited on the edge of Old Harbor, handy to the village, ferry, and Crescent Beach. Inside, find a cheerful and vintage-inspired modern decor in a variety of room options.
Decks, ocean views, and whirlpool tubs are among the amenities you may find in your eclectic, antiques-filled room in the main house, along with a complimentary decanter of brandy. (Other accommodations, such as private cottages, are also available.) Included in your stay is a gourmet New England breakfast buffet featuring pastries, eggs, baked beans, baked bluefish, and, yes, champagne.
What are your favorite things to do on Block Island? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.