Block Island is a 10 square mile island off the coast of southern Rhode Island, an easy hour drive from my house to the Point Judith ferry dock. The high speed ferry gets you to the island in 30 minutes – the slower car ferry takes an hour. Cars cost $80, the adult passenger ticket is $36.00 on the high speed, $22.75 for the slower traditional ferry, rates are round trip. You can rent mopeds, cars, and bikes to get around – or hire a taxi for an island tour. There’s a Block Island Tourism website for more information.
Okay – the boring stuff out of the way, we had a great day (after a few bumps), the weather was perfect. Toni, Gayle, and I arrived at Point Judith with time to spare, parked the car, and got in line for tickets (you can buy them on line but, alas, we didn’t). The ferry was crowded, clearly we weren’t the only ones wanting to catch one more summer day on the water. The crossing was windy and chilly, but the sky couldn’t be bluer and there’s not a cloud in sight. We parked ourselves on the back of the ferry and stood mesmerized at the huge wake the ferry was producing.
We landed about 11am looking for food and mopeds, the first moped rental store was fresh out so we decided on food and drink while we planned our next move. Ballards Inn is a short walk from the ferry dock, has a large bar and restaurant, a beach presence, and is party central in the summer. Its the place to go for margaritas and lobster rolls, beach music, and a swim. In September its a lot quieter – which isn’t a bad thing.
After lunch we went hunting for mopeds and finally found a store with three available. This is where it gets interesting. Gayle and Toni had recently been to Block Island and rented scooters, Toni with her son, and Gayle with her daughter. I, on the other hand, hadn’t been on a scooter since my kids were little and my father had a mini scooter we used to putt putt around on in their quiet neighborhood. That was 100 years ago!
The store that had the scooters available was the 4th rental store we tried and it was on a busy side street. The busy side street was the practice area (oh damn). With Gayle and Toni already on their scooters, the nice kid gave me a crash course in starter, break, and accelerator – and the sequence for starting, stopping, and turning around. Then pointed me up the street – drive, turn around, and return – oh and watch the traffic. The first try was okay, but the second I messed up and ended up on an incline trying to turn and the bike went over. Frustrated and annoyed, with a sore foot and scraped hand, I decided I wasn’t meant to drive a scooter that day and opted for passenger. Gayle has the whole fiasco on her phone and is threatening to use it if I ever get out of line.
We all look ridiculous in our giant helmets but half the island is on bikes or mopeds so we fit right in with the rest of the funny looking helmeted population.
Our first pull over is the Southeast lighthouse. Apparently in 1993, erosion was putting the lighthouse closer and closer to the cliff, so the brick lighthouse was moved back 300 feet. Looking at the large brick structure its hard to believe it could be moved at all.
We made a stop at Black Rock beach, as far as we could see there is no black rock, however with a little research I found out it was named for a rock off shore that was the cause of shipwrecks back in the day. These days Black Rock beach is known as the de facto nude or topless beach on the island. Today it was empty and beautiful, I longed to find a nice spot, whip out my book, and veg for the afternoon.
Next stop was Corn Neck road to Settlers Rock – the names people – could they be more New England!? There’s a nature sanctuary on one side, and the beach on the other and its beautiful. We didn’t walk the two miles from the parking lot along the beach to the lighthouse, but I’ll come back and do so one day.
In the meantime we’re headed back to the town and the ferry. The moped got us around most of the island but next time I’ll bring a car. The problem with the moped is that rather than give you more options, it limits you because you can’t go down the dirt side roads. (Not to mention that my experience made the me loathe the damn thing – I’ll get over it.) I haven’t mentioned that my last trip to Block Island was about 6 years ago on a bike. Its a wonderful idea – but there are many hills, need I say more.
Having returned the scooters we’re in pursuit of a cocktail before returning to the main land. The Surf Hotel sits right on the water downtown with a huge wrap around porch, tables indoor, outdoor, and on the sand – perfect.
Walking into the lobby of the Surf Hotel is like a time warp. The hotel was built in 1876 and it looks like they haven’t changed a thing since. We’re talking wallpaper, plates on the walls, grandma’s furniture, dark wood paneling – you get the picture. It’s actually charming – and I never use that word.
We found a high table in the veranda bar but what the inn boasted in charm, it lacked in service. By passing the waitstaff, the bartender took our order and produced 3 Pain Killer (some rum concoction that was very good) and 3 waters to keep us on our feet. One was enough but now we had a yen for ice cream to truly end a wonderful day.
We weren’t the only one with that idea, half the island was in line to get a cone! There was a time when I’d say forget it and forgo the ice cream, but today it beckoned. There is nothing that ends a perfect summer day quite like a Snickers ice cream.