Travel: Islands - A short ferry ride across the Atlantic

America is not known for island hopping. But aficionados should pencil in the New England coast, says Malcolm Senior

RHODE ISLAND isn't an island. Block Island, dangling 20 miles offshore, most definitely is. But neither its name nor its shape (like a meat chop) hints at the pleasures that await you. Forget the Aegean and the Raratonga: ship off to Block Island.

The island is not big. It's possible to cycle from one end to the other in an hour. It's not over-developed, either: a lovely little cinema and a noisy nightclub at the end of town, and that's about it.

While there are car ferries from Connecticut and Port Judith, on the opposite side of the Narragansett River, the more interesting way to get to Block Island is by the passenger ferry that runs daily from Providence, situated well inland in America's smallest state. For four hours she cruises along the river, stopping off at Newport, before heading out into the Atlantic and docking at Old Harbor.

The other reason for not taking the car ferry is that, as summer gets into its stride (and especially around Independence Day), the locals tend to block-book all the spaces, leaving many tourists stranded. A bike, hired from one of the many stalls around where the ferries dock, is in any case much better for getting round Block Island's beaches.

And the beaches are something else. Coastguard's Beach became my favourite. For two days I had it to myself, along with a handful of families vaguely distinguishable in the heat haze. Here the ocean gently breaks on sand and a few pebbles. On the other side of the island is Mansion Beach - like Coastguard's, reachable only via a dirt track. Big waves break on sand, turning mums, dads and kids alike into spluttering idiots, as the surf knocks them and their various boogie boards, inflatable rings and battered bodies all over the place.

At Sandy Point, you can walk along the beaches to the very tip, as in the last few stony inches of Block Island, and watch, close up, the working of the currents that continue to erode and reshape it.

As in the Isle of Wight, rolling hills make up the centre of Block Island. A ride from Old Harbor, up the hill to the small aerodrome, past wooden houses with sun-steeped verandahs and balconies, to Rodman's Hollow, is a good way to see inland. The Hollow is a huge, forested crater, swarming with birds and criss-crossed with walking trails. From the roadside at the lip of the Hollow, you are at the same height as the many hawks and eagles that soar above the trees looking for prey. Much of the island is hilly, with green fields and stone walls. A trail at Clay Head follows the cliffs around the northern side of the island. Apart from fantastic sea views, the path takes you to small secluded pools surrounded by bushes and wildflowers.

There are a couple of large hotels but most tourists stay in small Victorian inns. These tend to be cosy rather than spacious and often, in the interests of history (and space), the bathroom is down the hall. I stayed in the Gothic Inn, which was as close to a "proper" B&B as I have come across in America. It is run expertly, and with a sense of humour drier than summer hay, by Charlotte Egan; you are left to do your own thing, but still provided with the standard enormous American breakfast that keeps you going all day. The Gothic, like most of the inns on the island, likes its guests to book two or three nights at a time.

Eating on the island is a mixture of the usual burgers and pizzas together with a couple of places that are a bit different. The Mohegan Cafe serves solid food together with its excellent brewed-on-the-premises beers. Eli's Restaurant, a cafe-cum-bistro, serves the best and most diverse dinners, with lots of lovely American wines. For a post-meal coffee and chat, as well as the now obligatory Internet surf, the Java Joint takes some beating. After that, it's the aforementioned noisy night-club or the pleasure of an after-dinner drink, a book, a verandah or hammock and the natural pleasures of a warm summer Block Island night.

Starting blocks

The nearest airports are Boston and New York JFK. Fares from the UK in June and July cost less than pounds 300 from discount agents.

The Interstate Navigation Co (001 401 783 4613) runs car ferries from Point Judith, RI, New London, CT and a daily passenger ferry from Providence and Newport, RI to Old Harbor. There's also a summer only service from Montauk, NY to the island.

Malcolm Senior paid $60 (pounds 38) per night at the Gothic Inn (001 401 466 2918). The Block Island Chamber of Commerce (001 401 466 2982) can suggest other places to stay

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'