Here are 10 of the very best things to do on Block Island, one of the most stunning and underrated places to visit on the East Coast!
One of the most beautiful islands in the United States is unknown by most, but for many New Englanders, it’s the highlight of the summer. Clocking in at only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide, Block Island may be small, but get ready: it’s home to the seaside scenes that dreams are made of.
Less than an hour from Rhode Island by ferry, the island is an idyllic mixture of lighthouses, natural beaches, cycle-friendly roads, and delicious seafood.
Small as it may be, narrowing down a Block Island day trip itinerary can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time making the trip. To help you get the most out of this New England highlight, let’s take a deep dive into the very best things to do in Block Island:
Admire the Mohegan Bluffs
No Block Island day trip is complete without a visit to the jaw-dropping Mohegan Bluffs, a series of jagged, grassy cliffs that tower 200 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. By far the most famous destination on the island, the bluffs are but 2 miles from downtown.
After taking in the views from above, make your way down the 141-step wooden staircase that leads down to the secluded shore below. Do keep in mind that the beach is pretty rocky, so water shoes are a game changer if you plan on swimming! (121 Mohegan Trail)
Sample local seafood
This being coastal New England, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that one of the very best Block Island activities is to sample some seafood. The island is filled with fantastic seasonal restaurants that have everything from clam chowder to sushi (yes, sushi!).
It’s impossible to talk about eating on Block Island without mentioning what is perhaps its favorite restaurant: The Oar. Overlooking the Great Salt Pond, it’s here that you’ll find a whole host of seafood dishes in addition to casual American fare. Featuring an expansive lawn and a calm water view, it’s the perfect place to finish off the day on the Ocean State’s very best island. (221 Jobs Hl Road)
Take in the island on two wheels
While BI isn’t exactly car-free, it’s still one of the most pedestrian-friendly places on the east coast thanks to its island status. This has led to an entire culture of cycling and moped driving – which is the absolute best way to explore!
Cruising around all of Block Island’s attractions on two wheels will allow you to get to know the place much better than you would from a car. The freedom of being able to go where you want, when you want is unmatched. You’ll have plenty of rental options to choose from downtown, where Island Moped and Bike Rentals has the biggest selection. You’ll also find helmets and accessories like trailers and tandem bikes that kids can fit on, too.
Tour the historic North Light
One of the most interesting things to do in Block Island is to visit the North Light, which sits along a quiet beach trail at the end of Corn Neck Road.
Completed in 1867, it was originally designed to mark the entrances to Block Island and Long Island Sounds in what was then a dangerous area for Maritimers.
If you walk further along the beach, you might even catch some wildlife hanging out, or at the very least find a quiet stretch of sand to catch the sunset. (Corn Neck Road)
Paddle through the Great Salt Pond
A Block Island itinerary item that the whole family will love is getting out on the Great Salt Pond. What used to be a freshwater pond is now a sheltered harbor that’s an ideal spot for water sports, including sailing and boating.
The easiest way to experience it for yourself is with a kayak or SUP board rental. Pond and Beyond can hook you up with both, and they also organize guided tours to help you get even more out of this unique ecosystem. (216 Ocean Ave)
Revel in some retail therapy downtown
Block Island attractions aren’t just all about nature – the historic downtown has some of the cutest shops in all of New England. It makes sense to either start or end your day here, as it’s where the ferries dock AND where you’ll find cycle and moped rentals.
Picturesque boutiques – do check out the Glass Onion – and eateries dot the small downtown area, and they’re all worth at least a window shop. Payne’s Donuts has been a sweets staple for 50 years and has a huge collection of flavors in addition to raving reviews.
As the area is so accessible, it’s also one of the best things to do on Block Island without a car.
Spend a day at Mansion Beach
Ballard’s Beach has a reputation for being a party spot, but Mansion Beach is exactly where you need to go if you’re seeking a relaxing day on the ocean. With bigger waves and far fewer crowds than most other Block Island attractions, Mansion is exactly the type of beach you’d hope to find on an island.
As it’s about 3 miles from downtown, you’re definitely going to want to have some type of wheels to get you there. Do note that being a more “remote” stretch of sand, you won’t find amenities like bathrooms or stores at Mansion, but the beauty and ambiance make it 100% worth any inconvenience. (1701 Mansion Road)
Birdwatch at Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
Home to over 120 acres of protected land, the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge is the place for bird watching. During the migratory season, you can potentially spot over 70 species, though the refuge remains an important safe haven for wildlife year-round.
Regardless of your interests, the refuge is a stunning place to take a stroll and is one of the more offbeat things to do on Block Island as most tourists choose to skip it. (Corn Neck Road)
Hike through Rodman’s Hollow
Rodman’s Hollow is one of the best hikes on the island, and is a must-visit, especially if you love a good vista. The trail provides for plenty of those – you’ll find everything from lofty bluffs to undisturbed beaches along the way.
The 230-acre glacial outwash plain is a preserve that several endangered plants and animals call home. It’s also a fantastic place to hunt for glass orbs as part of the unique Glass Float Project. The project, conceived in 2011, is a scavenger hunt where more than 550 glass-blown “floats” are hidden in obscure spots across the island for participants to find throughout the season. (Black Rock Road)
See the Southeast Lighthouse
An easy activity to tack on to your excursion to the Mohegan Bluffs is the Southeast Lighthouse. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, it was originally built in 1873, but was subsequently moved in 1993 due to cliff erosion.
Unlike the North Light, you can actually go inside this one – there’s a museum and a guided tower tour that both kids and boating enthusiasts will love. Afterward, grab some hot and delicious lobster rolls from Southeast Light Delights, a much-loved food truck that stays parked right near the lighthouse all summer. Hours: Daily from 10 AM – 4 PM Admission: $20 for museum + tour combo, kids 9 and under go free (Spring Street)
FAQ About Block Island’s Things to Do
How long should I stay on Block Island?
A Block Island day trip is more than doable if you live in New England, but spending a weekend or longer on BI is never a bad idea!
Can I walk everywhere on Block Island?
You certainly can! With few cars, Block Island is incredibly pedestrian friendly. Even so, distances do add up which is where cycle or moped rentals come in handy.
Where do I catch the ferry to go to Block Island?
You can find year-round ferry service from Point Judith, though you can also find ferries from Newport, Rhode Island, New London, CT, and Montauk, NY in the summer months.
When is the best month to take a Block Island day trip?
July is when the island experiences peak summer sunshine, though if you want to experience it all with fewer crowds, visit in early-mid September after Labor Day.
About Samantha Shea
Samantha Shea is a freelance travel writer and blogger who was born and raised in Connecticut and is now based in Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan. Aside from freelancing, she runs the travel blog Intentional Detours and is passionate about slow, off-the-beaten-path budget travel. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, Fodors Travel, Matador Network, as well as others.