Block Island is old school. Many businesses don’t have so much as a Facebook page, and some hotels don’t have air conditioning, TVs, or elevators. The tiny summer hot spot, viewed by many as a smaller, cheaper version of Nantucket, doesn’t change much, but last year superstorm Sandy resulted in rebuilt roads and a new town beach pavilion. With 44 percent of the island conservation land, The Block, as it’s known, is popular with families in search of outdoor fun, drawn by 30 miles of hiking trails and 17 miles of beaches. Bring sturdy footwear; walking is the best way to get around. New this year is a high-speed ferry from Newport.
Fronting Crescent Beach, The Surf (Dodge Street, 401-466-2241, www.thesurfhotelbi.com, from $160) reopened this year after renovations, a giant Victorian with antiques and Tiffany lamps in the lobby. Changes include a new deck bar with one of the best spots to watch sunsets on the island. Also reopening this year was The Darius Inn (62 Dodge St., 401-465-6357, www.dariusblockisland.com, from $85), now owned by sisters Christy and Becca Zendt, who renovated it into a six-room, five-suite inn, where guests not staying in kitchenette suites get a full breakfast, and the work of local artists hangs for viewing or purchase. Another Victorian mainstay is The National (Water Street, 401-466-2901, www.blockislandhotels.com, from $199) facing the harbor, with 45 rooms, wrap-around porch with bar, and great water views, and the Tap & Grille, a steak house.
Start the day at Aldo’s Bakery (130 Weldons Way, 401-466-2198, www.aldosbakery.com, from $3.50), a longtime family business serving breakfast buffet inside and out, Italian pastries, and homemade ice cream. If you’re on a boat, not to worry: Aldo’s pastry boat delivers, the way founder Aldo Leone used to, belting out Italian arias along the way. On the beach and hungry for lunch? Walk to
Rebecca’s Seafood Takeout (435 Water St., 401-466-5411, from $3), where very little money gets you a lot food, from burgers and clam rolls to lobster salad and more. New this year: Rebecca’s Dockside at Payne’s Dock. A longstanding dinner favorite is The Oar (West Side Road, 401-466-8820, entrees from $14), where hundreds of painted oars hang from the ceiling and there is a full sushi bar, now in its third summer, and a brand-new lawn menu. Another popular spot is Dead Eye Dick’s (Ocean Avenue, 401-466-2654, www.deadeyedicksbi.com, entrees from $16), noted for its signature swordfish and lobster dishes, not to mention the spot-on, clear-broth Rhode Island chowder and whopping tuna entree. Dinner here is best had on the outside deck. For fine dining there is Spring House Hotel (52 Spring St., 401-466-5844, www.springhousehotel.com, entrees from $18), where chef C.J. Correnti’s menu includes produce from the hotel’s garden and features food from regional purveyors. The signature dish is a 2-pound, baked-stuffed lobster with crab, shrimp, and scallops. The thin-crust pizza is made with double-zero Caputo flour from Italy.
DURING THE DAY
Get healthy at Elevation Studio and Cafe (74 West Side Road, 401-466-9642, www.elevationbi.com, from $16) with classes in yoga, including paddleboard style; Pilates; hula; dance; and more. Danielle Duffy has owned Elevation since 2005, but moved to her current location last year. It features a cafe serving Rhode Island’s Dave’s Coffee, fresh fruit smoothies, gluten-free items, and vegan fare. Search for handmade treasure in the Block Island Glass Float Project (www.blockislandinfo.com), with 400 glass floats created by Wakefield artist Eben Horton hidden within one foot of either side of the island’s abundant Greenway Trails. Floats are dated, numbered, and stamped with the shape of Block Island and are yours to keep if you find one, the only caveat being one per seeker. Island Moped and Bikes (42 Water St., 401-741-2329, www.bimopeds.com, moped rentals from $45, bikes from $20) offers popular ways to get about the entire 3-by-7-mile island. Grab a beach read at Island Bound Bookstore (Water Street, 401-466-8878, www.islandboundbookstore.com), selling all literary genres
including the Block Island fiction series “Stonewall Freedom” by David Lee Tucker. They spin yarns of a different kind at North Light Fibers (Spring Street, 401-466-2050, www.northlightfibers.com), a mini-mill producing handcrafted, minimally processed yarns on an animal farm with alpacas, yaks, camels, and llamas. In the same family for generations is an island institution, the Star Department Store (Water Street, 401-466-5541) where you can get everything from beach towels to flip-flops to saltwater taffy and a lot of old-fashioned charm. Tiny and wonderfully cramped is the eclectic Glass Onion (241 Water St., 401-466-5161, www.glassonionblockisland.com), which sells art, clothes, honey, candles, NOAA sailing charts, and USGS topographical maps.
Kick back at Ballard’s Inn (42 Water St., 401-466-2231, www.ballardsinn.com, no cover), with live guitar music from afternoon into the night on weekdays, and live bands on weekends, where you can have any drink served in a
hollowed-out pineapple. Party like a
pirate at Captain Nick’s Rock N’ Roll Bar (34 Ocean Ave., 401-466-5670, www.captainnicksbi.com, usually no cover), where Monday nights are for disco, Tuesday and Wednesday nights for the piano bar, and Thursday through Sunday for live bands later in the evening and before that, acoustic entertainment on the deck. For more sedate nightlife, the historic Empire Theater (Water Street, 401-466-2555, www.empiretheaterblockisland.com, tickets $12), built in 1882, shows first-run movies.