This Throwback Thursday post is all about my latest trip to a true “throwback” destination: Block Island, Rhode Island! Why is it a true throwback? Because it’s stuck in the past in the best possible way. The architecture is adorable, people are friendly and helpful, and best of all, you can see all 10 square miles of the island by bike! Here are some tips I learned along the way to make the most out of your biking time on Block Island.
Where to Rent a Bike
Seacrest Bike Rental is the way to go. My new friend Elizabeth, whom I met on the ferry, recommended them to me, and I thought I would be renting from Seacrest… but somehow one of the other bike rental companies got me to rent from them. Seacrest Bike Rental is attached to the Seacrest Inn at High Street and Weldon Way, just one block up from Rebecca’s Statue and Water Street. I got a 3-day rental with helmet included for just under $40. Three days was really the best deal!
*Wear a Helmet*
Please wear your helmet. Legally, it’s optional for cyclists, but if you have an accident and have a head injury, you will have to wait for a helicopter from the mainland to come get you, and it can take 20 minutes or more just to get here, then just as long to get back to Providence, RI, to the closest trauma center. There is a hospital on the island, but you can handle helmet hair for a few days.
Wear Sunscreen (including the backs of your hands)
The backs of my hands got sunburned. It never once occurred to me to reapply sunscreen after washing my hands, but you’ve been warned! Also be sure to lather up the backs of your legs and your neck. I might have forgotten to reapply there as well!
Do not forget to hydrate! There are no bathrooms at the North Light House, but there are 5 at the Southeast Light House (accessible whenever the gates are open, not just when the light house is open), and two at Fred Benson Town Beach. There are public restrooms at New Harbor as well. You can also use the restroom at the Block Island State Airport, and of course at the restaurants all around the island–just be sure to buy a little something to thank them for letting you tinkle! Hydrate without worry for your next potty break!
Bring Food and Know Where to Refuel
It’s always a good idea to bring something with you while you’re out for the day, such as protein bars, trail mix, or a sandwich. But if you forget, don’t get “hangry,” just know where to go! There is a food truck at the Southeast Light House that sells overpriced lobster rolls (but very good overpriced lobster rolls) as well as grilled cheese and more basic fare. There are restaurants at both Old and New Harbor, and the airport has a pretty great diner as well. You can watch the planes come in and go out, so it’s like dinner and an air show!
Bring a Map and Your Phone
Bring a free paper map because you will find things there that your phone’s map may not show. Bring your phone for emergencies and to crosscheck with the map as well, since the free maps are not always to scale and don’t always show all the possible roads to take. Need a little map reading tutorial? Check out How to Read a Map!
Understand that Some of Block Island’s Main Roads are Dirt Roads
And not just dirt–parts of them are sand as well, which was very difficult to bike on in some places. I am not an avid cyclist, so prayer is the only thing that kept me upright more than a few times!
It Can Be Hilly
The island isn’t tremendously hilly, but it can seem that way when you’re biking! Remember that the low gears will make the hills slightly easier, and the higher gears will help you go faster on the straightaways.
Lock Your Bike
Block Island is very safe, and your bike will probably not get stolen, but there are places to leave and lock your bike at most sites, and the lock comes with your bike rental, so why not?
You can certainly bike all of Block Island in a day if you want to. A three-day rental was about two days too much, but I just wasn’t sure how much biking I would do when I rented the bike (there was no two-day option; it was $20 for one day, $40 for three days).
I decided to bike the south end of the island the first day, then the north end the second day, but also on that second day the weather was much nicer than the first, so I hit up those south sites again after I ventured north. I started around 9:30am that second day and finished the whole island by 2:00pm! Here is the route I took. You are welcome to break these up as you like if you want to take your time.
1. Start downtown next to Old Harbor at the statue of Rebecca at the circle at High Street, Water Street, and Spring Street.
This is a well-known meeting point on the main road. This is where I have started and ended this tour, but only as a reference point.
2. North Light
This will be about 4.3 miles, and it’s the longest stretch. It will be nice to have this one behind you and done in the cooler part of the day on the morning of your bike riding! Note: Bikes, mopeds and cars have to park at the parking lot at the trail head. To get to the North Light, take the beach trail on foot about 3/4 mile toward the light house. Unfortunately for me, the North Light House was closed the day I went! It’s open Thursday-Monday, but only if it’s not raining. I was there on the sunniest day of the week–Wednesday. Tough luck. Wish I’d known that before I made the hike!
3. The Great Salt Pond
There are some fabulous photo opportunities of the Great Salt Pond on your way to and from the North Light. Pull over just about anywhere and pull out your camera!
4. New Harbor
On your way back from North Light, turn right onto Beach Avenue, then right onto Ocean Avenue. You will also see a sign for New Harbor with an arrow pointing the way. Check out the busy harbor and maybe do some paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, or just looking. There are some beautiful homes over looking the New Harbor and Great Salt Pond, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from for ice cream, lunch, seafood, and more.
5. Old Coast Guard Station
As you leave New Harbor, turn right onto West Road, which becomes West Side Road. While you’re making your way to the Old Coast Guard Station you will ride by Veteran’s Park, the American Legion, and Island Cemetery. Turn right on Champlin Road. It’s a dirt, gravel, and sand road, so mopeds are not allowed to drive on it. You will likely meet some 4-wheel drive vehicles, though, and you’ll pass some beautiful homes along the way! You’ll end up at the mouth of the Great Salt Pond. Park your bike outside the Coast Guard Station and follow the signs and very small, well-defined path to the beach.
6. Dory’s Beach (or Dorry’s Beach, or Dorrie’s Beach, depending on who you ask or what map you read)
My friend Elizabeth recommended this beach to me. She said the others are too crowded, but this one never is. And she was right! There was only one other person and a bunch of birds there when I was. Bike back up to West Side Road and follow it until you see the sign for Dorrie’s Cove. This is also a dirt, sand, and gravel road, and it’s a little steep, so I locked my bike up on the road sign and hiked it. It took about 8 minutes one-way.
7. Block Island State Airport
Turn left onto West Side Road, then turn right onto Beacon Hill Road. Turn right onto Center Road, and the airport is on the left. I just got a hoot out of this airport. You can walk right in, there’s no security, and they don’t even have a computer to keep up with their schedules or reservations. They write it all by hand! Be sure to take a potty break and get some food or water at the restaurant while you watch a few planes come in.
8. Indian Cemetery
Turn left onto Center Road until you come to the inter section where Center Road meets Cooneymus Road and they become Lakeside Drive. The Indian Cemetery will be at the intersection on the left side of the road. Boy was this creepy on an overcast day! There is also a monument here for the native Manisseans and their descendants. Also take a quick jaunt across the road to take a look at Fresh Pond.
9. The Painted Rock
Turn left onto Lakeside Drive and ride until the bend in the road where Lakeside Drive becomes Mohegan Trail. You can’t miss the brightly painted rock! This is a pretty cool and quirky part of the island. For years now, people have been painting this rock. I went to it two days in a row, and both days it was painted differently. It’s worth stopping and taking a picture there because it will never be the same again!
10. The Mohegan Bluff Steps
Continue onto Mohegan Trail until you see the sign for the Mohegan Bluffs (if you get to the Southeast Light House, you’ve gone too far, but not by much). Park and lock your bike and take the steps down to the beach, taking in the views all the way down and back up! These are Block Island’s answer to the Cliffs of Moher.
11. Southeast Light House
I’ve saved the best for last! Turn right on to Mohegan Trail and go just a little ways up the road to the light house. You can’t miss it! It was worth every penny of the $10 charge to take the tour up to the top, and if a British gentleman named Rhet is your guide, you’re in for an enthusiastic treat! He’ll tell you a quick bit of history in the gift shop downstairs, but please do the full tour. The views can’t be beat, and it’s the only green light house in the world!
12. Statue of Rebecca
Turn right on Mohegan Trail, which turns into Spring Street, which becomes Water Street at the statue of Rebecca. You did it! You made it all the way around the island and you practically saw everything! Did you enjoy it? Does this sound like something you might like to do? If you’re anything like me, you’ll sleep like a rock that night!