Rhode Island's Autumn Paradise
</i>by Peggy Baker</i>
Looking for the perfect September weekend getaway? You need look no farther than Block Island, a short 12 miles off the Rhode Island shore, to provide you with a quick and affordable instant vacation. Easily accessible by ferry or plane, you can pack what feels like a week away into only three days.
This tiny island, whose population rises to over 12,000 in the summer months, becomes a quiet haven by September, revealing many deserted beaches, fabulous restaurants, miles of hiking trails and reduced rates. September is by far the most beautiful month on Block Island.
My husband and I head out early, catching the 11 a.m. ferry from Point Judith, and we nestle into a booth next to the refreshment stand. Pack light; Block Island is very casual, so no need to fuss. The hour-long voyage is spent gazing out the window, reminiscing and browsing through our free copies of the Block Island Times. The types of passengers vary: one-third Islanders, one-third tourists, and one-third Labrador retrievers, mostly yellow.
As we approach Old Harbor, we spot the beautiful silhouette of Water Street, largely unchanged during the past century. Huge Victorian hotels stand guard over charming shops, first-rate restaurants and an abundance of American flags. Flowers are everywhere. The shops, hotels, and restaurants are quiet on this cool September day.
The island offers a wide choice of fall activities: sailing, kayaking, rishing, bird watching, horse-back riding, tennis, and hiking, just to name a few. Boat and bike rentals are always readily available. Nearly one-third of the island is preserved open space, so there are tremendous vistas in all directions and miles of maintained hiking trails to explore at your own pace.
This unspoiled paradise remains much the same as it was a century ago. The quaint town of New Shoreham is full of wonderful shops, eateries, ice cream parlors, and coffee houses. There are dozens of beautiful hotels and B&B's to choose from. On one of our earlier trips, we selected the Blue Dory Inn--upon entry we gasped with delight as we saw the view from our suite. They weren't kidding when they proclaimed panoramic ocean vistas.
After checking in, we stroll down the street to the Harborside Inn and take a table on the patio under a huge red and white umbrella. We order a quick lunch and gaze at the familiar scene while enjoying the ocean breeze. As usual, we are in no hurry, have no agenda, and could not feel more relaxed.
We often spend the afternoon strolling through art galleries, window shopping, and walking barefoot on the beach. It's hard to decide where to have dinner, as all of the restaurants are wonderful. The fried fish at Finn's or the lobster at Ballard's is great. And nothing beats the Block Island Chowder at the Beachead. If you are looking for something a little more festive, try dinner at the Atlantic Inn. Here you'll find fabulous food and wine and unsurpassed views. Plus, after dinner, you have your choice of coffee houses or nightclubs.
The fall days are often brisk but sunny. Perfect for bike rides around the island. If you pack a lunch, you can stop roadside to enjoy miles of stone walls, rolling hills, and climbing roses. Cézanne-like views melt into the horizon. The landscape is peppered with charming cottages, some Victorian, some quite Gothic, and bleached fenses that look better when you don't paint them.
At dusk, we make our way to Fresh Pond and settle in to relish the never-disappointing sunsets of pink, violet, and brazen red. This little island is a gem, and the perfect spot for a relaxing and affordable weekend retreat. Make your reservations early.