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Block Island – What do you do there?

June 11, 2011

As a retired teacher I have created a life which is incredibly full. It’s amazing how many things there are to do when I am not at work 40-50 hours a week. At home I have a calendar and relish a day when I find there are no appointments, meetings, scheduled volunteer work etc etc. I love my life at home, but sometimes wonder what it would be like to have nothing required—at least for a while.

Which is why I look forward to our bike ride and subsequent stay on Block Island. Schedules are upended. Exercise is required (at least for the bike trip). We can eat whatever we want. And on Block Island I can return (at least mentally) to our days on Tuckernuck. Tuckernuck is a small island off the coast of Nantucket (which is a bigger island off the coast of Massachusetts). My parents bought The Smith House on Tuckernuck in around 1968. I found a reference to The Smith House in a story about Tuckernuck that might interest my brothers so I’m including the link. Tuckernuck is a 1.4 square mile island which is privately owned. There is no electricity provided to the summer residents—who chose to make it themselves or to go without. My memory of summer vacation (from the time my parents bought the house until they sold it in 1991) was to spend each morning doing chores of some sort (hand washing the laundry, sweeping, mowing, etc.) and each afternoon on the beach—which was almost always deserted. Our sons knew of no other type of summer vacation—Tuckernuck was where we went, until, quite suddenly in 1991, it wasn’t. The sale was sudden and my mother was moved to a nursing home on Nantucket, while my father lived in the winter house my parents had purchased on Nantucket in the 1980s. Nantucket is a vacation paradise—for some. There are so many people there! Where are the deserted beaches, the private roads (more like trails) for wandering around the island? In the summer it is all traffic, crowded beaches, and beautiful land no one can visit. Tim and I first started our bike rides to Nantucket after our sons had moved from home. It was an adventure—maybe a bit like our Tuckernuck adventures, or maybe not—but it was an adventure.

As the bicycle trips continued, and we varied our routes we discovered Block Island—almost by accident. When riding along the coast from Mystic, CT (where Tim’s sister and her family live) to Nantucket, you have to somehow get around Providence, RI. In a car you would cross the bridge at Newport and continue on your way. But this bridge is enormous and bicycles are absolutely not allowed. We used to rent a truck in Narragansett, cross the bridge to Newport, turn in the truck, and continue on our way. One summer I discovered that you can take a ferry from Point Judith (south of Narragansett) to Block Island and then take another ferry to Fort Adams in Newport. This trip included an overnight stay in Block Island. Which led to an extra rest day in Block Island, which eventually (after my parents passed away and all our ties with Nantucket were gone) to Block Island being our final destination.

But why?

I looked around the Internet for others’ opinions and found the following discussion:

Hi everyone, while I contemplate Maine this summer I am also considering Newport, RI and Block Island. I absolutely love Nantucket and I wonder if Block Island has a similar look, atmosphere, history etc… If anyone has a favorite B&B or small inn in either place let me know. I found plenty of Newport lodging reviews on “Trip Advisor” but they didn’t have a Block Island section under RI.
Thanks!

6 Replies
Mar 28, 03
Block island is NOTHING like Nantucket. Let me start out by saying I’m not a fan so my views are colored. It’s very laid-back, casual. It may have history (pirates & such) but it’s not “apparent” ie no old homes, inns etc. It’s basically a casual beach area. I didn’t stay on Block island (thank God), only went for the day. Stick with Newport IMO.

Mar 28, 03
Block Island is MUCH more casual than Nantucket.

I love to dock my boat in the old harbor on Block Island and walk around the town

I get a mudslide at the place right on the beach and then we do a “chowder crawl” hitting each of the local places for chowder.

Nantucket is difficult to navigate to by boat, so when we spend time in Newport we usually hook up with one of our friends who is a pilot and he flies us out to Nantucket.

On Nantucket are some great shops and wonderful restaurants.

So,

Stay in Newport and do a day trip to block island

Mar 28, 03
Check out Netscape.com. Today’s homepage had an article about Money’s 2003 best vacation places, and Block Island was listed as one of the best. I’ve never been there, but I read your post this morning and then just “noticed” the Netscape article. Hope this helps!

Mar 30, 03
Thanks everyone! It looks like Block Island might have a certain laid back appeal, but I wasn’t finding much in the lodging department that was too impressive. Newport on the other hand appears to have HUNDREDS of B&B’s! Right now I’m leaning towards the Francis Malbone and the Inn at Castle Hill. Newport is also making Kennebunkport look cheap in terms of room rates so I may do both and stop in too often overlooked Portsmouth, NH on the way. Then again I could easily spend a week in Newport and probably not be disappointed. Another place that looks very interesting is Monhegan Island, very rustic, very “Maine”, but it might be too far up from Kennebunkport for this trip or maybe not?

Mar 30, 03
We spent a few nights in Newport and a couple in Block Island during the same trip. I guess it’s all in what you’re looking for. We liked the laid-back, casual atmosphere and beauty of Block Island. Had a great time flying our kite on the beach. Just had our bikes (left the car on the other side) and biked everywhere. It was awesome and we were just talking yesterday about how we want to go back!

Mar 30, 03
My wife and I loved Block Island but I would guess many of my friends might be bored there. A couple of decent restaurants and hotels, but it’s nothing like Nantucket. We enjoy biking and hiking, but for those looking to be entertained, they might be better off somewhere else.

I see in these comments the reasons we have settled on Block Island as our destination. It is exactly as the person in the last comment noted—nothing like Nantucket—and that’s why I like it so much. It is listed by the Nature Conservancy as “one of the last great places” and the incredible effort to conserve the island makes it special to people who can’t afford to own a piece of a private island. Block Island is larger than Tuckernuck, it has public roads, it offers electricity (and even Internet service) to its residents, but it also has 30 miles of walking trails on land that looks a lot like Tuckernuck. And for that I am grateful. There are miles of beaches—a few with crowds and many without. We have found a house owned by Jack and Sheila Schneider that we rent every year. It begins to feel like coming home when we arrive at the end of our journey. A time for Tim to occasionally take a bike ride, practice the Shakuhachi, and read, and for me to take photographs, read, and hike. This year my right foot started complaining about my six-mile hikes and Sheila kindly offered me use of her bicycle. For the first time in 25 years I rode a “head firster” with two wheels. Thanks to Sheila I can ride to the trail beginnings and cut down a bit in my hiking.

I have no particular goal in mind. Visit my favorite places, take a few photos, put a story together, and read books. After finishing The Confession by John Grishom, I decided to read the true story behind it—The Innocent Man also by John Grishom. It is astounding that such injustices can occur in this country. I realize I’m naive to make such a comment, but it is still astounding. I think it’s time to return to fiction. I’m going to follow Jean McPheeters’ advice next and try the first Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear.

Following is a short (I hope) scrapbook of my wanderings around the island this week.

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My first hike was to the trails on Rodman’s Hollow.

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I experimented with the black and white option on Photogene, but didn’t stick with it. I think I’ve been spoiled by Silver EfEx Pro 2. Time to put “work” aside and be on vacation.

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Thinking about the trail I am going to follow ……….. and the trail I decide not to follow.

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What I know it that, eventually, all trails lead to the ocean.

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Signs all over–that we aren’t in Brooktondale anymore.

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Back to civilization at the southern end of the island.

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Then back to a road which is more like a trail, before hopping over and back to The Greenway to complete the loop and return “home.”

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After my foot starts bothering me, Sheila saves the day with the offer of bicycle.

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I can ride to other trails and save the walk (or begging a ride from Tim) to get to the trail.

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After following the Clay Head Trail to the North Light I follow the main road back to Sheila’s bike.

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I have developed a new habit of going to bed at 8:00pm and getting up to see the sunrise. This never happens at home!

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At the beach and near the beach—all sights that remind me of Tuckernuck. I wish I could include the breeze and the smell that lets you know—you have finally reached the ocean.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Libby Hedrick permalink
    June 11, 2011 10:57 pm

    Suzy, these are fabulous!

    Libby

  2. Martha permalink
    June 12, 2011 12:13 am

    Thank you Suzy. It feels like I have had a vacation too! I loved Tuckernuck too and miss it so much. Did you know that Norm proposed to me on Tuckernuck? I carried pink roses in my bouquet (with daisies) because the roses were in bloom on our visit there. I really liked the picture of the beach and the rose at the end of your photos!

    Martha

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