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Discovering Block Island - A Beach Paradise

by Will / August, 20 2014 01:30

Beach on Block Island taken by Andy Long on Flickr

© Andy Long / Flickr

17 miles of beaches, 17 miles on an island with a year round population just over 1,000 and a land area just under 10 square miles.  That's a lot of beaches and one of the many things that makes Block Island so special.  Plus you can find just about any kind of beach you like.  Broad sandy beaches, rocky nooks and crannies, majestic bluffs, lonely stretches of sand or active swaths with people, volleyball nets and plenty of waves.  It's all there for you just 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island and all free.

Which beaches are the best?  Well, that's a matter of taste but here I'll go through some of the main ones.  There are a ton others, in fact the whole island is basically one big beach, too many for any one article.  But even across these main beaches you'll find just about anything your beach going heart desires.  Of course, if you go be sure to wear sunscreen and check out the official Block Island Tourism site!  So here goes...

Overhead shot of Ballard's on Block Island


The closest beach to Old Harbor, it's right where the Point Judith ferry comes in.  Just look to your left as you land and you'll see Ballard's restaurant.  In front of that is the beach.  This beach can be a bit more raucous drawing a younger crowd looking to have a good time.  It often has a volleyball court and live music.  One of the great things is it's easy to grab a drink or a bite to eat.  Town Beach is the only other spot that has food and drink easily accessible so if that's important to you, Ballard's beach is a good option.

Crescent Beach

This is the longest beach on the island.  Technically it extends from Old Harbor all the way to the northern tip of the island.  In reality this beach is split up into many sub-beaches.  It's these sub-beaches that have specific characteristics and types.  So I'll get into those now...

Baby Beach

It starts right on the other side of the Old Harbor jetty.  To the right if you are taking the ferry in and facing town.  However, I'd say most folks going to Baby Beach start a little farther north.  If you take Corn Neck Road out of town you'll come to a restaurant called The Beachead on your left (a great place for a burger by the way).  Across from that is the Baby Beach part of Crescent Beach.  The surf here is usually a bit calmer and stays shallow for a ways out - hence the name Baby Beach.  As such it's often popular with families that have little ones.  You can start anywhere you like on Baby Beach, closer to Old Harbor or farther north and if you keep going north, you'll come to Town Beach...

Town Beach

This is the main beach on Block Island.  There's an actual parking lot (free) although that fills up quickly and many folks park along the street.  You'll also find facilities like bathrooms, a snack / lunch bar, showers and lifeguards.  You can even rent things like kayaks, umbrellas and beach chairs.  Plus if you are on the Block over the 4th of July, this is the area for fireworks.  If you look just north of this, you'll find Scotch Beach...

Scotch Beach

One of Scotch Beach's main draws are the volleyball nets.  Because of this it draws a somewhat younger, more active crowd (although Block Island is so laid back you'll find all age ranges across the island).  It also tends to have a little bit bigger waves if you're looking to boogie board or body surf.  I tend to head to this beach as it's close enough to walk down to the Town Beach facilities but far enough away to be a little less crowded.  North of Scotch Beach you'll see a long stretch of sand that is largely devoid of people.  This part has no real name I know of but is open to the public.  I think it's less crowded because it's harder to get to, no easy place to park and walk down.  But keep looking north and you'll see another dollop of folks.  This is Mansion Beach...

Mansion Beach

Mansion Beach is so named because the parking area is on the grounds of an old Mansion that burned down decades (if not over a century, I'm not sure exactly) ago.  It's also the first beach I ever went to on Block Island.  Unlike Baby, Town and Scotch beach, I wouldn't advise walking from Old Harbor to Mansion Beach.  It's certainly doable but a car or even better a bike is the best way to get there.  You could take a taxi too.  If you're on one of the many rental mopeds, you'll have to park it where the turn off from Corn Neck Road (paved) is onto Mansion Road (dirt).  When you do arrive, it is quite the site.  The parking area sits high above the beach so you can get a view out and then walk down.  It's also a bit more secluded so there are usually less folks here plus the waves are little bigger which makes it great for body surfing and boogie boarding.  There are no facilities or amenities though so make sure to bring everything you need.

Andy's Way

This Block Island beach is a little different as it's not actually on the ocean.  Rather it's on the Great Salt Pond.  Crescent Beach (and it's sub-beaches) are on the east side of Corn Neck road while the Great Salt Pond and thus Andy's Way are on the West side of Corn Neck Road.  To get there you head out of Old Harbor along Corn Neck Road for a little over two miles and then make a left of Andy's Way.  Down at the end there is a parking lot with spots to tie up bikes too.  Andy's Way is great for little kids.  Since it's not on the ocean, there really aren't any waves at all and it's very shallow.  Like the ocean there is a tide but that just means at some times of day there will be more or less beach but always enough.  You'll also find a lot of folks use this area as a launch point for kayaks.  My absolute favorite thing to do here is go clamming!!  Yes, you can actually dig for clams, drop them in your bucket and then cook them up.  I find the tastiest way is to simply put them on the grill and let the clams open up themselves.  Then dip them in a bit of melted butter and you've never had anything better.  Be careful though, there is a Clam Warden who will check for your Clam License.  You need one of these to go clamming but don't worry, you can get one in New Harbor at the Harbor Master's Office for a fee.

Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island

Mohegan Bluffs

This one is not on Corn Neck Road.  Rather it's on the south side of the island off of Spring Street and near the Southeast Lighthouse.  I'd say this is the most beautiful beach on the island and one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.  The bluffs soar 150 above the beach and you arrive at the top with a fantastic view of the beach and ocean below.  Once you make your way down a long set of stairs (141 steps I've heard) you arrive at the bottom to a secluded crescent shaped swath of sand.  The view back up the bluffs is quite impressive and you'll find people sunbathing, picnicking and swimming amongst the waves.  The beach seems to end quickly but if you look to the right (to the West) you'll see a group of rocks.  Scramble over those rocks and an even bigger beach will open up before you.  If you want to know more about Mohegan Bluffs, check out our article Discovering Block Island - Mohegan Bluffs.

Additional Beaches

With too many beaches to cover, here's a few more you might be interested in.

  • Clay Head, Pots & Kettles, Cow Cove, Settler's Rock and Sandy Point - These beaches are farther north of Mansion Beach along the Crescent Beach stretch thus they are also off Corn Neck Road.  They are more for walking and looking than swimming and sitting as they tend to be a bit more rocky.  However, if you go all the way to the end of Corn Neck Road to Sandy Point you'll also see the North Lighthouse.  It's a bit of a walk from the parking lot but well worth it.
  • Black Rock - This is on the south side of the island and said to be good for surfing although I've never tried it there!  It is also rumored to be a nude beach.  Again, I haven't been to this one so I'm not entirely sure.  I have been to Rodman's Hollow (great hiking trails) which is one way to get to Black Rock.
  • Cooneymus, Dorrie's & Grace's Coves and Charlestown Beach - Also beaches I am less familiar with as the West side of the island tends to be less crowded.  There are more private houses on this side lining the beaches but the public still has a right-of-way for beach access.

Well that's just a taste to get you started.  Block Island has many more beaches and I'm sure I haven't covered or even am familiar with some great ones.  So if you know of any special spots, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below and if you want more island must-dos, check out our Discovering Block Island series.

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