Tropical New England
By Nate Soule
For New Englanders a tropical island seems about as remote as the Pyramids. A summer getaway to the beach usually means a trip to the Cape or to Maine where while the rocky shores may look beautiful, the water is somewhat less than welcoming. Few could imagine that just off the shores of Rhode Island near Narragansett Bay lies Block Island the closest thing to a Caribbean escape that one could dream of finding in the North East.
More than ten thousand years ago the glaciers left behind a piece of land that today stands as a refuge from busy city life, or the harsh New England weather. As you arrive via a ferry from Point Judith, New London, or Montauk you are immediately immersed in a world quite separate from the one you left on the mainland. The beats and rhythms from Ballardís Inn and club greet all arrivals, and the site of fellow travelers sipping drinks as they lie in the sand makes it difficult for anyone to continue on to their original destination. A boat half way up the beach which has been converted to a bar sits just next to the stage where live beach music forces one to question just how far that ferry took you.
The center of town is right off the ferry landing and provides numerous restaurants, shops, boutiques, clubs, pubs, and more. Many of the hotels and inns are within walking distance, but taxis await to take you any farther, and moped rentals offer a fun alternative. You wonít find a Marriott, Hilton, or any other corporate style accommodations on the island. What you will find is everything from small cozy inns to large manor like hotels, all providing some sort of island getaway mystique. Most places serve wine and cheese around 5:00, which acts as a great way to meet your fellow travelers, or to just enjoy a nice drink in a rocking chair overlooking the ocean.
If you came to relax by the water you certainly wonít have a hard time finding an open spot. With 17 miles of beaches thereís more than enough room for everyone. Thanks to the islandís natural springs there are also 365 freshwater ponds, and the 32 miles of trails will let you visit almost all of them. If you would prefer a faster paced tour a quick bike or moped ride will take you past beautiful rolling hills and beaches to both of the islands historic lighthouses. For those with more of a hunger for adventure you can get a great glimpse of it all in just one sitting while parasailing high above the waters.
After a nice day in the sun a nice night out is easy to find. There are many delicious restaurants, and just as many fun clubs and pubs. From the rocking live bands at McGovern's Yellow Kittens Tavern, to martini night at the Spring House thereís something for every night life seeker. Donít worry too much about staying out late, as the biggest decision of the next morning is often which beach to enjoy.
Perhaps so few people know about Block Island because itís hard to believe that such a place exists in the north. Perhaps itís because those who visit are reluctant to share their tales, worrisome that too many visitors may change the atmosphere of their private paradise. Whatever it is, thereís something special, and something not to be missed about this unique island where New England meets the Caribbean.
Nate Soule is a travel enthusiast and helps maintain the travel website AcrossDistance.com (http://www.acrossdistance.com).