Block Island, an eleven-square-mile glacial till lies 12 miles south of Port Judith, Rhode Island, and 14 miles east of Montauk, New York. The island, officially known as the town of New Shoreham, is home to about 850 full-time residents, but hosts as many as 20,000 visitors in the summer.
Many of those visitors arrive by boat, either from the regular ferry service from Rhode Island, or on the many private boats that tie up or anchor in the protected waters of the Great Salt Pond.
Also known as New Harbor, to differentiate it from Old Harbor, where the ferries dock, this protected sanctuary is a mile long and a half-mile wide and provides good shelter from most of the weather conditions that affect this tiny Block in the middle of the sea. Experienced captains know to check the weather forecasts before heading out to Block Island, and to keep an eye peeled for storms that can quickly crop up. It’s an easy trip when conditions are nice, but can be a horrible experience in high wind and waves.
Once inside the welcoming arms of the Great Salt Pond, visiting boaters will find ninety fixed moorings maintained by the town, as well as transient dock space. There is also a wide anchorage area on the northern edge of the pond. The Old Port Launch provides taxi service during the high season (and that season ends rather abruptly shortly after Labor Day!).
There are three marinas in New Harbor available for visiting boaters.
New Harbor Boat Basin, offers 100 slips, 85 reserved for transients. The marina offers toilets, showers, pump-out and ship’s store. There is a dinghy dock here, The Oar restaurant, and a grocery store. Reservations are strongly advised: call 401-480-1429 or visit www.newharborboatbasin.com.
Champlin’s Marina, part of the attached resort, can handle some 225 vessels up to 300 feet. The full-service marina offers electrical, gas, diesel, water, ice and more. For reservations, call 401-466-7777 or visit www.champlinsresort.com.
Payne’s Dock is a family-run marina on the south edge of Great Salt Pond, offering full service to boaters, gas dock, ice, water, plus an attached bar and restaurant. For reservations, call 401-864-3832 or visit www.paynesdock.com.
One can rent bikes (one of the most favored ways of getting around the island) as well as kayaks and SUPs to explore the pond.
Contact the Harbormaster at 401-466-3204, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The harbormaster monitors VHF Ch 12 and can provide information on available moorings and anchorages.
From the docks at Great Salt Pond, it’s a short walk or taxi ride over to Old Harbor and the center of town. Here, one will find the three large Victorian Inns, the National, the Surf and the Atlantic, plus several bed & breakfasts and smaller inns. For a full roster of accommodations, visit the website of the Block Island Tourism Council at www.blockislandinfo.com.
There are dozens of choices for dining out on Block Island, and most restaurants feature fresh seafood in one shape or another. The large hotels all have fine-dining options, while the island is dotted with clam shacks, informal restaurants, taverns and cafes to suit every budget and taste. Visit the blockislanddiningguide.com for an updated list of eateries and recommendations.
There’s a lot to do ashore on the island. Biking through town and along the shore roads is popular, as is exploring some of the nature preserves on the island. Two of the most popular beaches are the Fred Benson Town Beach, just north of Old Harbor, and Mansion Beach at the end of Mansion Road.
Even if you arrive by boat, Block Island is easy to explore. And discovering all the delights of this quaint little place makes a visit here worthwhile.