What to Know Before You Visit Block Island

Updated July 21, 2020.

It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! This week I’m letting you in on everything you need to know about visiting Block Island, Rhode Island! Never heard of Block Island? Neither had I! Have fond memories of frolicking on this peaceful bit of land off the New England coast? Now I do, too! And hopefully you’ll be nodding your head as you read. Here’s what to know before you go!


What’s BI, you ask? That’s the abbreviation for Block Island. It’s common to see the BI reference in business names, place names, etc., so when you see BI throughout this blog post and on BI itself, know that the reference is for “Block Island.”

It’s also New Shoreham

Don’t get confused! The only town on Block Island is New Shoreham. As you’re looking at where to stay, where to go, and more, remember that New Shoreham is all of Block Island, and all of Block Island is New Shoreham. It is not one area of the island, and it’s not two different places.

New Shoreham, Block Island

How to Get There

Planning Your Trip Step 1: Know how you’re getting to Block Island. Check out yesterday’s How to Get to Block Island post to get a quick run-down of your options. If you can get to Rhode Island; New London, CT; or Montauk, NY, you can get here!

You could fly here in a tiny plane!
Get all the details: How to Get to Block Island
and What to Expect in a Tiny Plane

Bring Long Pants, Socks, and Bug Spray

And anything else you need for tick avoidance while hiking in the woods. I met the best person named Elizabeth on the ferry ride from Point Judith to BI, and she gave me the low-down on all the best stuff to do on the island. The first thing she asked me was, “Is this your first time to the island?” And what was the second thing she asked me? “Did you bring long socks? There are ticks on the island.” Oops. I did not bring pants or socks to the island, as I am a dress and skirt kind of girl. Next time I’ll bring pants and make sure to explore some of the great hiking!

The Southeast Light House Tour
is Worth the $10

I kid you not, this was one of the best tours I’ve ever taken, and I’ve been on a LOT of tours of ALL kinds! The kindest British gentleman took me up to the top of light house and told me everything he could think of about light houses in general, but particularly this one. It’s the only one of its kind, and it’s the largest and heaviest structure ever to be moved. The island is eroding quickly, and the light house had been teetering dangerously close to the edge. It took two house moving companies from New York to come out and move it. It’s also the only light house with a green light!

Southeast Light House
The Green Light!
Check out 10 Reasons to Visit Block Island!

The Wi-Fi is Super Slow

I thought it was just my accommodation’s wi-fi, but I had a local tell me the wi-fi all over the island is exceptionally slow. So plan to take it easy and go offline for a while and enjoy the outdoors. It does work, but it can be as slow as dial-up!

Some Accommodations
Do Not Have Air Conditioning

They don’t need air conditioning all that often, but if you’re there at a time when they do, you might really miss having that. Keep that in mind when you’re booking your accommodations!

BI is Home to the Only Offshore Wind Farm
in the U.S.

And you can take a tour by helicopter or boat! I caught a glimpse of these huge turbines on my flight to Nantucket a few weeks ago, and I thought it was one of the oddest things I’d ever seen. But they are harnessing the ocean’s power to create usable energy for our everyday lives, and they’re doing it with the same natural resource sailors have been utilizing for millennia. In fact, these five turbines create enough electricity to power all of Block Island and part of mainland Rhode Island! Now if they could just hook it up to the wi-fi…

5 Turbines off the Southeast Coast

It’s Known as the Bermuda of the North

Perhaps it’s only known as that here on the island. Even the person who told me that didn’t know why it has that distinction! But now you know so you can sound like a local when you visit.

More here: Solo Travel on Block Island

You Can Paint the Painted Rock

There is a rock on Block Island that is covered in about 1.8 million layers of paint. It’s at the curve of the road where the Mohegan Trail meets Lakeside Drive and Snake Hole Road. Anyone can paint the rock for any reason, and it will probably be different every time you visit BI! People have painted it for baby showers, wedding announcements, graduations, birthdays, and more. It was different both times I visited it on my trip!

One day it’s a rainbow…
IMG_7764 2
The next day it looks like a traffic cone!

When North Light is Closed

North Light is beautiful and picturesque, and you can bike to the trail head and walk there any day of the week, but you have to hike the beach trail 3/4 mile to get there, and it is closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and on rainy days. Guess when I was there? Tuesday, the only sunny day the week I was on the island! Enjoy the hike, and don’t  be disappointed when you think it should be open! Also, there are no port-a-potties, something that might have been useful after a 4+ mile bike ride and a 20-25 minute hike!

North Light

There are Bike and Car Rentals
at Both Old and New Harbors

Most ferries come into Old Harbor, which is replete with bike, car, and moped rentals. But if you’re coming on the Montauk Ferry from Long Island, you’ll be happy to know that when you dock at New Harbor, there are also places to rent your transportation.

Get more: The Guide to Biking on Block Island (with Maps!)

In Case of Emergency

There is a hospital on the island, but it’s small. If you are in an accident, especially involving head injury, you will have to be life flighted out via helicopter from the mainland. It could take 20 minutes or more for the medevac to get to Block Island, then another 20 minutes or more to get back to the trauma center in Providence, RI. Wear a helmet. 

All the cool kids wear helmets.

Many Small Businesses Accept Cash Only

Make sure to bring some cash with you! Consider this part of the charm of this island. Expect to pay cash at some of the ice cream parlors, coffee shops, and smaller restaurants around town. Many of the stores and sit-down restaurants take a credit card, as do many of the stores with higher-priced artisan items.

I did not see an ATM, but I wasn’t looking for one. Bring cash just in case!
More here: Where to Eat on Block Island

Your Weather App is Wrong

Sorry to break it to you, but a local told me that the weather apps use data from the mainland. That 13 miles between mainland Rhode Island and Block Island makes a difference! Bring a set of clothes for cool and rainy weather, even if you’re expecting temperatures in the 80s. I wish I had brought a pair of pants and a sweater in late July!

The Low-down on the Beach Scene

According to my friend Elizabeth, who comes here with her family every summer, this is how the beaches around the island are categorized:

  • Ballard’s Beach: College Party Scene
  • Mansion Beach: Huge Waves
  • Dory’s Cove: Hidden, Peaceful, Family-oriented

A little something for everyone!

Beautiful path to Dorry’s Cove Beach!

Are you ready for your Block Island adventure? With this list of tips, you’re sure to be prepared. Start planning your trip with my United States Page!

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6 responses to “What to Know Before You Visit Block Island”

  1. Great tip about cash only places … I have run into that a few times but it definitely took me off guard the first time I encountered that 🙂

    1. I know, right! Luckily I had some cash on me!

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