Island history and facts

About Block Island

The History of Block Island

[envira-gallery id=”3459″]Ten thousand years ago, glaciers pushed their way down the East Coast and left behind the rocks and soil that was to form this little paradise that we call home. The result was a cozy community (only around 900 people in the winter), a land of stunning vistas and a very fragile ecosystem that we have had the good fortune to preserve for all to share. Because of the particular forces of nature that went to work on Block Island, no other place on earth shares its geography, or its balance of species.

Block Island is a rarity; it’s a place that moves at its own pace and is known for a relaxed casual way of life. Islanders speak of going to the mainland as going “off island” — an expression of the feeling that Block Island is its own entity, as unique as the North Light or the 150-foot bluffs.

[showmodule id=”3489″]We want you to come here and shed your whole way of life for a while. Forget your agendas and your deadlines, lose your ambitions and your daily planner; sink into natural splendor, clean air and the clear night sky.

There’s a story about a visitor who went into a café on the island and asked some of the regulars where the beach was. Four of the patrons turned around and each pointed in a different direction. Well, they all got it right.

More than 365 freshwater ponds (from natural springs) and 17 miles of beaches invite you to jump in the surf, spend a lazy afternoon building a sandcastle or burying Dad in the sand. Indulge in the novel you’ve never finished, or just take a snooze.

A Last Great Place

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Block Island enjoys the distinction of being named “One of the 12 Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere” by The Nature Conservancy.

More than one-third of Block Island is conserved land and there has been an extensive effort to keep the island’s natural bounty and remarkable landscape preserved and intact.

When the 125-year old Southeast Lighthouse was in danger of toppling off the bluffs, funds were raised to move the lighthouse back to keep this antique structure for future generations to enjoy.

The North Lighthouse was restored and opened to visitors as a Maritime Center during the summer months.

The population rises from 971 to an estimated 12,000 people in the summer, and it is our visitors’ regard and respect for the island that insure this “Last Great Place” is maintained as a beautiful and natural habitat for all to enjoy.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Take your trash with you and dispose of it!
  • Avoid the dunes! A continuing effort is being made to restore and preserve them, and so much as a footstep can ruin years of nature’s work.
  • Boaters… Great Salt Pond has a convenient and free pump-out service. Use Channel 68 and help keep the Great Salt Pond great.
  • Moped users are asked to stay on the side of the road and travel on paved roads only.
  • Trail systems are for hikers only; no bikes!
  • Take precaution against deer ticks. Spring, Fall & Winter

Block Island Comes Alive All Year Long!

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If you ask a resident or a frequent visitor their favorite time of year here, they will probably answer spring or fall. While we love the summer on Block Island too, it’s only one of several seasons when the Island comes alive.

The daffodils and shad blooms burst open in the spring, as do shops, restaurants, and inns. Before the crowds of summer arrive, visit in the spring where you can take advantage of the beaches, trails, and ponds at your leisure.

New England is famous for rich landscapes of blazing red and golden amber in the fall; Block Island is no exception. If you come to see the foliage, you’ll probably spy much more in the autumnal sky. Flocks of birds pass through during the fall and the spring because Block Island is a stop of the fabled Atlantic Flyway. With as many as 150 different species swooping in to say hello, the Island may have as many as several hundred thousand birds calling it home for two or three days at a time.

Winter is for vigorous souls (including 900 year-round residents) who enjoy the crisp air and quiet beaches.

Pick your favorite season and come and enjoy some time on Block Island.

Useful Facts

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Block Island has hotels, inns, bed & breakfasts, guest houses and home rentals. Plan ahead with your reservations, but if you are a last minute traveler contact the Block Island Chamber of Commerce for assistance. (401) 466-2474

Special Events:

Several of the hotels and lighthouses offer special wedding arrangements. Several also have facilities to accommodate reunions, seminars, conferences, workshops and retreats.

Getting Around:

Taxi rates are based on a zone system and are posted inside each cab. Bicycles and mopeds must use the road and are subject to the same rules as autos. Mopeds may be used on paved roads only; driver license, helmets and eye protection is required.

Beach Use:

The beaches are free on Block Island. However, fires on the beach require a permit issued day of, available at the New Shoreham Police Department, located at Ocean and Beach Avenues.

Town Beach Pavilion:

Open Memorial Day through mid- June weekends only. Then daily 9 AM – 6 PM from mid-June through Labor Day. The Pavilion offers rentals of beach chairs, and umbrellas. Restrooms, showers and a Food Concession serving lunch and snacks are available. Only town beach with life-guards.

Public Restrooms:

Locations at the ferry landing in Old Harbor; Town Dock; next to the Hog Pen in New Harbor; Town Hall; Island Free Library; State Airport; North Light; Transfer Station; Sewer Company; Police/Fire Station; and in the Fred Benson Town Beach pavilion, which also has showers, rental chairs, food concession…


Bicycles, mopeds, automobiles, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, boogie boards, paddleboards, and kayaks.


The legal drinking age in Rhode Island is 21. Drinking on public property is prohibited.


Limited to Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups at a designated campsite; Contact (401) 351-8700.

Leash Laws:

Dogs must be kept leashed at all times, and please clean up after them.

Town Ordinances Prohibit:

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in streets, on docks, beach etc.
  • Camping.
  • Sleeping overnight in vehicles or on beaches.
  • Operating motorcycles between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Beach fires and/or driving on the beach without permit.
  • Dumping refuse on roads or in harbors.
  • Shellfishing without a license.
  • Charcoal fires on boats tied up at docks.
  • Disturbing the peace.

If you are looking for information, lodging, an island or a bike map stop in the chamber office.