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How to get to Block Island

Updated November 23, 2022 •May 31, 2021

Block Island is a 9.7mi2 pork chop on the edge of an ocean. It is home to fewer than 1,500 full-time, year round residents and swells to over 20,000 during the summer months.

Set your travel expectations accordingly.

This document answers approximately 89.2% of questions visitors have when figuring out logistics on how to get here, what to wear, and what to do. It is exhaustive on the “how does one get to Block Island” and unabashedly thin on the other two bits.

Fun Map Fact: Block Island, Rhode Island is coextensive to the Town of New Shoreham—that is to say they occupy the same outline on a map, regardless of how its labeled on said map.

If you say, “I’m going to visit New Shoreham!”, no one will know what you’re talking about. On-island, if you want to go to the place labeled “New Shoreham” on the map, ask to go to “New Harbor” or, simply, “Town”.

Seasonality

Travel availability varies greatly by “season”.

Almost all businesses and restaurants are open during the on-season, most are open during the shoulder seasons, and a few are open year round.

Regardless of season, there’s always nothing to do—which is the best thing to do—on Block Island. (Just don’t count on having Internet.)


Getting Here

You’re going to need to get on a plane or a boat. All airports and seaports with regular service are accessible by car and (kind-of) by train. If you have your own wings or ocean vessel, please find airport and marina recommendations below.

Be sure you also read the Contingencies section and Weather Matrix below before fully committing to a plan.


By Air

There are no major airlines that fly to Block Island. That’s ok, because we have our own:

New England Airlines (Regular Air Service out of Westerly, RI)

New England Airlines (NEA) flies out of Westerly State Airport. By far the fastest, easiest, and (sometimes) thriftiest way to get on and off the island provided:

  1. you don’t mind small propeller planes,
  2. your schedule is a bit more flexible. Especially in the summer, wind and/or fog can ground flights planes indefinitely.

Key details

For a large group, the total cost can be a bit pricey; but, the in-flight views are unparalleled.

Charter Flights

KBID (Block Island’s Airport) is a short runway without a Tower. Fog and/or high winds can ground planes.

I have a plane

Landing fees are reasonable and parking (tie-downs) available—it’s a short runway, so don’t bring the jet.

No car rental at the airport, but taxis are available to take you anywhere.


By Sea

Several ferries can take you, your bicycle, and your luggage to Block Island. If your car needs to come with you (and it probably doesn’t), you have only one option via the “Traditional Ferry” from Point Judith.

Option 1: Ferry Service from Point Judith, RI (Narragansett)

Far and away the most consistent option for getting on and off Block Island. Owned and operated by Interstate Navigation, it is often default option for most locals and visitors. When in doubt, choose this option.

Two ferries for your consideration: High Speed (“Fast Ferry”), and Traditional Ferry (“Slow Ferry”). Both depart from the same terminus, but the former leaves at the end of the dock.

If you choose the Fast Ferry, I strongly recommend buying tickets in advance during the on-season.

Parking in Narragansett

All parking lots are busy during the on-season (and especially during weekends), so do consider reserving a spot in advance. This can also land you a discount.

In all cases, expect bird poop to greet you on your hood.

Lot recommendations, in order:

  1. Galilee Parking Company – unless it’s a holiday, there’s usually room and is super-convenient.
  2. State Parking Lot G – inexpensive, but very difficult to get into unless you have a season pass or its the off-season.
  3. Lighthouse Inn Lot – No direct experience, but reviews seem good.
  4. ProPark – Generally upfront with pricing and will take reservations. (They will try to wave you in to their lots at the end of Galilee Escape Road… feel free to ignore them and try the recommendations above, first.)

Warning to the Desperate: Sometimes the major lots can get fully booked, which has led some enterprising nearby landowners to take advantage.

While not all of the small lots are dishonest, I’ve seen first-hand fleecing with both a “day” and “night” parking charge… that is if you park overnight, there’s an unadvertised overnight surcharge. Ask the parking attendant if this is at all unclear. If you don’t trust that they’ll remember (they can be ever so forgetful), I suggest you take a video on your phone confirming that there’s no surcharge above the listed price, and to confirm that price, because that price can and does change.

Also of note, these smaller lots are open to negotiation, especially if the recommended above lots aren’t yet at capacity.

Bring your Car

Unless you’re coming for a week (or longer), or are visiting in the off-season, I recommend that you leave your car(s) on the mainland and get around via bicycle or foot.

On-island, taxis are plentiful. Downtown is entirely walkable, and the town beaches are commutable on foot.

Bicycle rental shops are abundant. Car rentals, less so.

On mopeds: Please don’t rent them. Please don’t. They are noisy, unsafe, not allowed on dirt roads, and a blight on what makes this place great.

Also, you may die.

Concerned residents are organizing to ban moped rentals on RespectBI.org. Please consider giving them a read and your support.

Car Ferry Details

Reservations both ON AND OFF the Island are STRONGLY recommended as soon as you have travel dates; especially during the on-season. While going standby is an option, it is not a fun option, nor efficient. You can spend literal days waiting in line for a car spot on the ferry.

Food Recommendation in Point Judith

Option 2: Ferry Service from New London, CT

This boat is within walking distance of Amtrak / Connecticut Rail station in New London, CT. There is also paid parking directly adjacent.

Buy your tickets in advance. This boat can sell out.

Warning to Amtrak/Shoreline Riders: Given the inconsistency of this country’s railways and the ferry service’s unwillingness to hold for delayed trains, missing this connection can be painful and time consuming. We recommend only using this if you’re in no rush and/or are trying to avoid car service.

If you do get stuck in New London for a few hours, there are a few outdoor food and beverage establishments, an ice cream shop, and some pretty neat boutiques.

Option 3: Ferry Service from Newport, RI

I’ve never taken it; however, the boat itself is identical to the Point Judith Fast Ferry and is run by the same company, Interstate Navigation.

Option 4: Ferry Service from Montauk, NY

Recommend only taking this if you’re already in the Hamptons or Montauk. The boat is small and slow and, last I checked, is in dire need of a new paint job.


Getting to Mainland Airports and Ferry Terminals

Recall the above Block Island Transport - Points of Interest (on Google Maps) for transport hubs.

Unless you’re flying or sailing to Block Island under your own power, you’ll need to travel to one of the many ferry termini or to Westerly Airport.

By Rail

Amtrak services New London, CT (NLC), Westerly, RI (WLY), and Kingston, RI (KIN), which are the closest stations to the (respectively) New London Ferry, New England Airlines, and the Block Island Ferry at Point Judith.

For Westerly and Kingston, you will need to call a taxi or bus for travel. UberX/Lyft is sometimes available, but I wouldn’t rely on it. Call a local taxi ahead of time, usually a day or two before arrival. In the on-season, sometimes you can find a single-serving friend who is also on that train who will give you a lift.

There are alternative public transportation options, including Metro North + Shoreline East, and MBTA rail and bus service to the travel hubs, but I have not used either in the last decade.

Unless you already happen to be near Montauk, NY or Newport, RI (or are including them in your travel plans) these are more difficult ports to get in and out of, especially from a public transportation perspective.

From NYC: The “Michael Gruen” Method

This author has had much experience commuting via rail from NYC and thought to write out his preferred approach when traffic is heavy or use of a personal car is unavailable.

This approach optimizes for time and money at the expense of potential aggravation. It is best for solo travelers needing a modicum of reliability but not full guarantee. Not recommended for first-timers without a strong command of logistics and stomach for uncertainty. Depending on weather, timing, and luck, you may be flying or taking one of three different boats.

But, the payoff is you can cut hours out of your travel block time to Block Island.

As soon as you’re a “go”

  1. Book a flight on the 5:30pm Flight from Westerly to Block Island; ask New England Airlines to help reserve a taxi for you from the train.
  2. Book Amtrak to Kingston, RI (ensuring the train also stops in Westerly, as not all do)
    • My favored train is the Thursday 2:00pm out of Penn Station, Train 174. It’s usually on-time and has seats available.

While en route

  1. Typical/ideal scenario (3 hour, 40 minute block time):
    1. 2:00pm. Train departs New York Penn Station
    2. 4:55pm. Train arrives WLY Amtrak Station
    3. 5:00pm. Taxi drives to WST Airport, arrives 5:15pm (~10 minutes, $20)
      • $20 fare often split between anyone else NEA has booked on your flight
      • NEA usually in touch with taxi driver, especially if they know you’re coming
    4. 5:30pm Take-off from WST
    5. 5:40pm Wheels down BID
      • If you need it, ask NEA to book you a taxi for when you land in Block Island before you take off from Westerly.
  2. Poor weather, flight is at risk (4-7 hour block time):
    1. When the train hits Stamford, CT, call NEA and ask for best guess on departure
      1. Confirm they have a ride for you from train station and ask for the car company’s name (they sometimes forget, so remind them and they will figure it out for you)
      2. Call taxi/uberX for ride from KIN station to “the boat” for targeted arrival time (check your Amtrak app and provide the train information) to hedge flight availability.
        1. Be willing to eat the cost of the taxi/car ride should plan A work out
    2. If in-season, check New London Ferry Schedule. See if you can line that up the timetables. (Unlikely.) Make a game-time decision based on the train’s arrival in New London if (and only if) the New London Ferry departs within the next 2 hours and you can get on it. If yes, buy a ticket for the next New London Ferry. (You will need to do that part quickly, and you may need to call as they don’t always take same-day reservations online.) If not, or the boat it sold out, continue on.
    3. Call NEA again once you reach Mystic, CT for updated guidance.
      1. If it’s a no-go, stay on train until Kingston
    4. As you approach Westerly, get ready to make another game-time decision:
      1. Get off the train, be ready to have to pay for a cab ride ($40-80) to “The Boat” in Point Judith rather than the Airport, and have to wait an hour for a cab to be available to take you. Or,
      2. Stay on the train, continue.
    5. If in Kingston, follow the normal Kingston –> cab –> Point Judith route.
  3. Delayed Train, connection is at risk (expected block time: >5 hours)
    1. Moderately behind: check with New England Air on the latest flight and seat availability. Keep them posted on train delays.
    2. Super-behind, make a reservation for the 6:30PM New London Boat on your phone while in-transit.
      1. If the train doesn’t leave NYP early enough to get you to New London by 6:15pm and the weather is poor, it’s game over. Get off the train, find a hotel for the night, and try again tomorrow. (This has never happened to me once in nearly 20 years of doing this.)

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Taxi and Ride share on the Mainland

Uber, Lyft, and other car sharing services are sometimes available when booked (usually days) in advance on the mainland. Locals tend to moonlight as Uber/Lyft drivers and only drive when it’s profitable or with a known fare. In the on-season, you can sometimes get an on-demand ride-share last minute, but availability isn’t reliable.

New England Airlines will book a car for you for transport if you ask them to.

Note on payments: Cabs, generally, only take cash (though a few savvy drivers will also carry a square reader… again, don’t count on it).

Taxi Companies


Contingencies on “Getting Back”

The weather and transit options, particularly during the summer/on-season, can cause delays and involuntarily changed plans.

If you’ve traveled either by plane (Westerly) or by boat (Point Judith), contingency planning between these two locations is fairly straightforward as it’s a 35 minutes trip seaport-to-airport, or even less time to the closest Amtrak station. With a little cajoling (or with lucky Uber/Lyft timing), a livery can even take you in between New London, CT; Point Judith, RI; and anywhere in between (like Westerly, CT).

You might also find success in asking for a ride from a fellow ferry/plane passenger if you can’t find a taxi or ground transfer service available on short notice.

If you traveled by any other means, you might consider leaving early as you can by whatever means are available; otherwise, you will get stuck on Block Island. When the weather turns for the worse, you might as well grab yourself a mudslide and and wait for the weather to change… which may be days, and often is during the winter months.

Nothing else you can do (unless you’re supremely motivated and want to hire a brave captain or pilot, but that’s beyond the scope of this document).

Weather Travel Considerations Matrix

For Plane schedule updates, call the airline directly. For Ferry updates, their websites.

On-Season Off-season
By Plane By Boat By Plane By Boat
Wind

High winds (40mph+) might delay flights.

Cancellations unlikely, but possible.

High winds (40mph+) might delay flights.

Cancellations not uncommon during very poor weather.

Fog

Morning flights often delayed as early fog is common.

Fog often clears by late afternoon, but not always.

No effect.

Fog not common.

No effect.

Rain

No effect (generally).

No effect.

No effect (generally).

No effect.

Weather

Being as island, the weather can be unpredictable and inconsistent with national weather reports. However, temperatures stay relatively consistent throughout each season thanks to the thermal mass that is the Atlantic Ocean.

Until Apple Computer shuts it down, Dark Sky has been the most helpful when it comes to local forecasting. Weather Underground a close second.

On Season

Late June through August, Block Island can get hot (90°F+), sunny (UV Index 9+), and humid. But, nights can be cold (~50°F). Make sure you bring both layers and sunblock. And a swimsuit.

Morning fog is common before burning off late morning.

Off Season

Late fall, winter, and early spring, Block Island is cool and crisp. The ocean thermals keep the temperatures moderately stable, but cold. It is very much in “New England”.

You can get by with a heavy jacket just short of a winter parka.

What to Wear

Block Island is decidedly casual.


I Have A Boat

This assumes you have (or have access to) a sea-worthy vessel and know how to pilot it. Holding tanks are mandatory.

For drop-offs, any marina will do (provided they allow tie-ups and have room). Otherwise, here’s where I recommend docking:

Marinas

  1. New Harbor Boat Basin (highly recommended)
  2. Payne’s Dock

Both are located in The Great Salt Pond (New Harbor).

The Boston Globe has a nice writeup for why that other marina is undeserving of your business. Recommend you read (the full article) to understand their shenanigans.

Mooring

The town has moorings available for use. Call Block Island Harbormaster’s office for more details. Dinghy docks available at the Block Island Boat Basin and behind Paynes (near Dead Eye Dick’s). Launch Service available (Old Port Launch - Channel 68).

Unless you have a friend with a mooring, don’t even think about trying to tie-up on a private mooring (painted white) or one of the emergency moorings (clearly marked). The Harbormasters and Coast Guard do not mess around.

(PS: if you seek a private mooring of your own, good luck….)

Anchorage

Along the north side of the great salt pond is designated anchoring area. Boats have been known to drag anchor, and it’s shallow in places, so be careful out there.

Fuel

Available at one (or more) of the marinas.


Lodging

If you get stuck either on Block Island or on the Mainland, there’s usually lodging available somewhere because no one’s going anywhere.

On Block Island

More at the Block Island Chamber of Commerce, here’s a short (incomplete) list of what I’ve heard to be good experiences:

Rental houses are available from local realtors, VRBO, and AirBnb.


What to do

The Block Island Chamber of Commerce and Block Island Times both actively maintains lists of current activities, happenings, and going-ons if “doing nothing” isn’t as appealing to you as it is me.

Internet on Block Island

A question I often get: “Is there Internet on Block Island?”

Answer: “Yes, but no. With effort, it’s workable.”

While coax cable and telephone lines are run to each home, neither cable TV nor internet are available, and the telephone lines are aging… exacerbated by the persistent humidity that rots electronics. The island’s central antenna hosts several LTE/5G cells that blanket radio waves over the core of the island, and some Verizon repeaters fill in some of the more remote locations. But, the network is patchy.

As such, until the continuously-delayed fiber-to-the-home project is completed, your best bet for Internet is to procure/borrow a satellite or get lucky with cell-phone tethering.

Your options:

Other than the Library and the FTTH project which are connected to the Internet via underwater cable, every other connection point is backhauled via microwave/dish over to the mainland.

Fiber-to-the-home can’t come soon enough. Updates on BroadbandBI.

Phone Service on Block Island

While data services on cellphones are slow during the on-season, phone calls and SMS messages are clearly prioritized over data services. (iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, and others use data services and can be delayed.)

Provided your phone can find the network, it can almost always make a phone call.


Note about this document

This resource was created to provide guidance to friends and family who plan on visiting Block Island. Logistics to get here can be a bit tricky, especially for carless city-dwellers, and I grew tired of answering the question, “How do you get to Block Island?” and the usual follow-ons.

The content here is what I have made available to friends and colleagues following years of questions and back-and-forth texts. I’m making it publicly available so they can find it again themselves via search engine.

Hopefully it is also of some use to you.

On Recommendations

The recommendations within this document are current as of the date printed on top, based on personal experiences, and contain no affiliate links, kickbacks, nor any remuneration for the above content.

Your preferences and opinions may differ, and I stand by mine.


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