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Block Island, Rhode Island: "One of the 12 Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere."

Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island. Photo by Timothy J. Quill (Timothy J. Quill) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons/

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/28/16

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Warning: stay away from Block Island, RI, if you have an affinity for shopping malls, automobiles, ATM machines, laptops, smartphones, and other conveniences.

If you are inclined to pristine ocean and beaches (some with dramatic cliffs), beautiful harbor views, rolling green fields and pastoral farms, picturesque lighthouses, abundant plant and wildlife, and a slower-paced, laid-back lifestyle, then by all means plan a visit to what the Nature Conservancy has designated as "one of the 12 last great places in the Western Hemisphere."

It's easy to see why. With the exception of a small downtown, Block Island's 21 square miles -- 12 miles south of Rhode Island's main land -- provide a treasure chest of unspoiled terrains -- the perfect place for a New England summer vacation. Most people walk, ride bikes or drive motor scooters to trek around the island. What they will find is their own beach, their own forest, their own special place, their own travel discovery. Walking off the beaten path will surely lead you to nowhere. And nowhere is a beautiful place to visit.

The blatant "tourist traps" aren't bad, either, like the Southeast Lighthouse, which stands almost 200 feet above the sea, courtesy of some dramatic clay cliffs. North Lighthouse leads to a wildlife sanctuary and a seemingly endless beach, sometimes inhabited by no one. By the way, while you might not see many people, you will most likely meet up with 40 rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Bird watchers,for example, will no doubt meet their destiny, here.

If it's people you seek, Fred Benson Town Beach is a delightful place with warm ocean water, well behaved families and plenty of area to find your own spot. The sand is fairly soft and the sun seemingly brighter than back home, whereever that may be. It's the perfect family beach, the ideal New England summer vacation destination.

The downtown area offers lodging, dining and shopping. It is all interchangeable, as nothing really stands out in our experiences. You won't go wrong with any Triple A approved lodging. Many restaurants offer some great outdoor dining (location, not always great food). No place we've tried is solely worth the trip. The real reason to visit Block Island is for the abundant nature. With the exception of Maine's Acadia National Park and Vermont's Green Mountains, not one specific New England area offers as many uninhabited areas as Block Island.

Block Island is accessible by ferry from Montauk, Long Island, N.Y., New London, Conn., Point Judith, Providence and Newport, R.I.  For more information on Block Island, log onto the Block Island Tourism Council web page.


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