Just 14 miles off Montauk Point is the day trip to die for. If you are visiting the East End this summer, the only thing standing between you and a day in a quaint New England resort town is a one-hour ferry crossing. The high-speed Viking Superstar leaves each morning at 10 a.m. from Montauk Harbor; headings set, Block Island, Rhode Island.
Although I summered in Montauk for many years, I didn’t become acquainted with the island until the mid-1970s. I was surprised to learn it was just a short ferry ride (back then, more like a trip on a fishing boat with a cooler of drinks) away. And, what started as a weekend each summer soon became a week with my family. I got to know and love the island over the years and all of its nooks and crannies. Since that time, that ferry trip has dramatically changed but gratefully, Block Island has not. [expand]
As you enter New Harbor you are immediately transported to the world of New England summer. A freshly painted white Coast Guard Station comes into view as the vessel makes its way through some of the most beautiful sailboats and yachts moored anywhere in the northeast. Block is a sailing haven and scores of seasoned sailors flock to its regatta each June or rendezvous in the harbor.
You can rent a bike at the dock or easily cab-it into town and Old Harbor, where the same hotels have been standing for hundreds of years. The stately old structures line the main street and all have a view of the ocean. Old summer homes turned B&Bs are everywhere you look, one more charming than the next. Cabs circle the island round the clock, so if biking is not your thing, no worries, there is absolutely no need for a car. And, although it’s great to stay overnight there is a host of things do in just one day. It is a walking town that has something for everyone. There are restaurants all along the main road that overlook the water where live music echoes in the air. The atmosphere is lively and fun. There is seafood, seafood and more seafood. Sit and have lunch on the veranda of the National Hotel or the Harborside Inn located in the center of town or just walk the many specialty shops. The Glass Onion carries items with an international flair and The Scarlet Begonia offers island-inspired tableware, linens, pillows and jewelry. The Star Department Store stocks a wide variety of island-worthy sweatshirts and beachwear. On the Fourth of July you’ll find the island dressed in red, white and blue regalia for a genuine small-town parade.
Do not miss the Spring House Hotel that sits high on Spring Street. It has the best view, by far. Sit on the porch or an Adirondack chair out on the lawn and let your thoughts shift into full summer mode and float over the endless blue ocean. Its secluded and more exclusive next-door neighbor, The Atlantic Inn, is known for housing some high-profile houseguests. It is where President Clinton and the First Lady stayed when they visited the island a few years ago. Try the inn’s afternoon cocktails and tapas. Just down the hill, the historic 1661 House has an outdoor patio with a raw bar and serves homegrown vegetables fresh from their garden.
The island swims in hydrangeas, gladioli and wild roses. Everywhere you look is picture postcard perfect. And if you do like biking make sure you see Mohegan Bluffs. It is a bit of a hike (at least five miles from town) but absolutely breathtaking. Hike down to the rocky coastline via a very steep staircase. Bring bottled water and a camera. If the bike trek seems too strenuous, you can always rent a moped.
If you want to beach it, the Town Beach, Crescent, is just a short walk from downtown where sling chair and umbrella rentals are available. Just ask someone to point you in the right direction; islanders are helpful and friendly. The water is cooler than on Long Island and can be quite refreshing during the month of August. The beaches are not too crowded (miles long) and the ocean is usually calm. Surfers frequent Black Rock on the other side of the island.
Staying overnight requires reservations and many hotels have a three-night minimum but I have many times taken potluck and found a room without a reservation. If you are so inclined, inquire early; the ferry goes back to Montauk each afternoon at 5 p.m. There is also a small airport on the island that offers flights to and from Montauk or East Hampton.
After a day on Block Island, you will feel as if you have truly been away. It is a trip that always leaves you dreaming of salt, sea and sand. Sometimes in winter when the snow is drifting high outside my window I am warmed by thoughts of hot summer days on the island, and that endless blue that stretches beyond the Spring House lawn. [/expand]