Both sophisticated and unpretentious, Block Island is a barefoot-and-bicycle kind of place, with rolling green hills and dramatic 200-foot bluffs that remind many of Ireland, and led the Nature Conservatory to call the island “one of the last great places in the
Western Hemisphere.” Despite its popularity with New Englanders, this l0-square-mile gem keeps its profile low and guards its quiet sense of privacy, happy to remain free of the social hobnobbing and fuss that come with Martha’s Vineyard-style affluent chic. There are few historic sites to see (since the island has pretty much sidestepped history), but there are 365 freshwater ponds (some no larger than a swimming pool), 5 wildlife refuges (a full third of the island is protected), 32 miles of hiking trails, 17 miles of beach that varies from sandy to rocky, gorgeous cliff-side biking trails, and lovely century-old lighthouses. Situated on the Atlantic flyway, it’s also a great spot for bird-watching, with more than 150 species stopping annually on their migration.
Dubbed “the Bermuda of the North” during its Victorian-era heyday, the island still boasts a number of dignified, porch-fringed buildings that hark back to that quieter yesteryear. The Hotel Manisses is a big 1870s charmer that exudes traditional coziness and surprises with its standout restaurant, and the breakfast layout at their sister 1661 Inn (located nearby) is legendary. If you prefer small and romantic, book well in advance at the lOo-year-old Blue Dory lnn, a few steps from the sea at the head of famous Crescent Beach.