Blogging from Block Island: New Shoreham, RI

A visit to one incredible place.

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Named after the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, Block Island is located off the coast of Rhode Island and is home to some 1,000 residents. One of The Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places,” the island offers restaurants, scenic hiking trails, lighthouses to explore, a working animal farm, and various lodging options scattered throughout the countryside.

After a 9:30 AM ferry ride from Narragansett, we arrived at the heart of “downtown” Block Island and immediately began to explore the shops.

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Multiple stores and restaurants placed a focus on four-legged animals such as cats. The photograph above shows just a few of the products offered in the shops. Another store was named “Peppered Cat,” and there was even a pub called the “Yellow Kittens Tavern”!

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The Empire Theater, constructed in 1882, offers a selection of movies for visitors and residents to enjoy. It originally operated as a roller skating rink and began playing silent movies in the 1900s.

In addition to cars, mopeds and bicycles were available to rent. We opted for a Jeep to make traveling around the island a bit easier and ensure we could reach attractions on time.

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Taken from the road, this image depicts the beautiful Spring House Hotel. A Block Island historic landmark, the hotel offers views of the Atlantic Ocean, as shown below.

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We ate lunch at Rebecca’s, a quaint seafood restaurant located on the main road. The prices were relatively reasonable for Block Island (some of the restaurants are very expensive with a typical meal priced at $20). I ordered the Santa Fe Chicken Wrap with Guacamole. The wrap was filling yet deviated from the typical greasy food one might expect near the beach. In addition to wraps and sandwiches, Rebecca’s offers burgers, lobster rolls, seafood dinners, and salads.

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Though Block Island real estate is undoubtedly expensive, taking a drive past its homes is an attraction in itself. The photo below is of a resident’s backyard—note the stone sheep and stunning view!

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During the drive, it was impossible not to notice some of the unique (and often hidden) features along the streets. A New Yorker with a slightly cynical streak, I would never think to use the “honor system” and trust tourists to pay for their own lemonade, yet this photograph reminded me it’s okay to occasionally let my guard down.

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The first stop on our drive was the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1973 and home to the North Light, the first of two lighthouses we visited on the trip. Built in 1867, the North Light was sold for one dollar in 1984 to New Shoreham and is made of brown granite. This lighthouse actually uses solar power and the help of a wind generator to operate.

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After a windy drive in our green Jeep, we arrived at the second stop——the Southeast Light, situated on Mohegan Bluffs. Made a National Historic Landmark in 1997, the lighthouse was constructed from brick, concrete and granite. It is modeled after the Gothic architectural style.

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Though every attraction on Block Island has something new and exciting to offer, my favorite was Abrams’ Animal Farm, also known as the 1661 Farm and Gardens. Across the street from The 1661 Inn, the farm is home to a variety of animals, including emus, camels, pigs, alpacas, and yaks.

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An emu slyly sneaks through my shot.

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An imposing yak munches on a well-deserved piece of fruit.

One animal in particular caught my eye. Wallace, a blond Scottish Highland steer, was friendly…

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…and very curious about the unfamiliar object I was pointing at him!

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After some time at the animal farm, another shop caught my interest. North Light Fibers, a micro yarn mill and store located in the middle of Abrams’ Animal Farm, produces high quality yarn wholly produced on Block Island. They work with the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, which teaches elderly and visually impaired citizens knitting and weaving skills, as well as Zene-Za-Zena (Women-for-Women), an organization aiding women in countries such as Bosnia.

Getting to the mill, however, was not as straightforward as it may seem. I was instructed to trek through a field of curious alpacas to reach North Light Fibers, which provided an opportunity to get up close and personal with these animals.

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Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity of products offered, from skeins to kits to handmade merchandise. The yarn is expensive—165 yards’ worth of one blend cost $39—but the opportunity to purchase what cannot be found elsewhere was difficult to pass up. I bought a skein of “Lavender Field” for a relative and eagerly explored the rest of the store.

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As our 5:15 ferry was rapidly approaching, we opted for dinner at the Mohegan Café & Brewery, a casual restaurant overlooking the water. Though more expensive than your typical evening fare, it was still a better deal than some of the nearby steakhouses and pubs.

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I ordered the Café Burrito, a vegetarian dish served with rice, salsa, and sour cream.

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As we boarded the return ferry to Narragansett, with the wind whipping around our hair, I reflected on the visit. Though I am unsure if I would ever stay there for more than a day or two—being a tourist is expensive—Block Island is certainly worth the trip.