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
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there