Block Island Getaway Part 2: Spring House

Posted on 05 July 2010

Alex Palmer

For the first part of this story, click here.

For our second day on Block Island, we began with one goal: mopeds. For an island with less than 10 square miles of landmass, most of it fairly smooth, the scooters make for an ideal way to get around, and Jenn and I decided to give it a shot. We charged up our energy with some lunch at Harry’s Café, a casual dining spot just off Spring Street (the fried fish sandwich was delicious, but I was surprised to learn after my order arrived that their specialty is pad thai—next time, perhaps).

Then it was off to Island Bike & Moped just up the street. For $60 and a flash of our drivers’ licenses, we had our very own moped for two hours (prices vary depending on time of day, and better values can be found later in the afternoon). As a first-time mopedist, I was a little nervous hopping on the bike, but the brief training by Island Bike proved enough to get comfortable with the basics, and in minutes I was on the open road, with Jenn seated in back.

Driving up Corn Neck Road on the eastern side of Block Island, we spotted only the occasional moped or car, and enjoyed clear views of lush green trees, with stretches of the Atlantic on our right and the island’s Great Salt Pond on our left. After what seemed like just a few minutes of riding, we made it to the northernmost point of the island: the North Lighthouse. The granite building, restored last year, sits amidst the Block Island Wildlife Refuge (where swans and red-winged blackbirds can be spotted) and next to the pristine Sachem Pond. Taking in the isolated surroundings and wandering over the rocky beach, it could just as easily have been 1910 as 2010.

After this relaxing stop, we headed back down the island, parking at Fred Benson Town Beach. As the only beach staffed with lifeguards and equipped with public restrooms and showers, it makes for an ideal spot to put down stakes for a few hours. A nearby snack shack offered cold drinks and food, but those looking to enjoy a cold beer or cocktail have to byob. After a bit of tanning and swimming, we reluctantly returned our vehicle and headed to the Spring House Hotel, where we would be spending our second night.

In contrast to the Hotel Manisses’ petite elegance, Spring House is all grandeur and glory, with a wraparound veranda and 50 rooms, studios and suites. The oldest hotel and resort on the island, the 150-year-old property has hosted guests including Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Billy Joel. Our spacious room, equipped with vintage Victorian furniture in bright whites and light blues, offered a fantastic view of the ocean and the hotel’s rolling green lawns. We took a late afternoon nap to the soundtrack of bird chirps coming in through the open windows—an experience that brought home just how far we were from New York City.

With evening approaching, we got ready for dinner and went down to the front of the hotel to sit back in the wooden reclining chairs on the lawn and take in the view. A reviving mug of Irish coffee provided by the Veranda Café at the Spring House helped provide an extra degree of relaxation, as well as an energy boost to call a taxi and be on our way.

For an island this size, a cab ride to almost anywhere takes little more than 10 minutes, which was almost a shame considering the fascinating stories and local history our driver was happy to offer in our short time together. But as we arrived to our destination—The Oar Restaurant next to the Great Salt Pond—the anticipation of a great meal and great view quickly grabbed our attention.

The Oar had been recommended to us a few times already by Block Island locals and we could see why: it had the casual dining atmosphere of a favorite local hangout (complete with hundreds of decorated oars hanging from the ceiling), but offered a menu of top-caliber dishes and a wonderful view of the Block Island Boat Basin, where the yachts and ships coming in from the island’s western side docked. As the sun set, we enjoyed a meal of crab cakes and mahi mahi, and stuck around until closing enjoying conversation and the bar’s signature cocktails.

Returning to the Spring House, we could not pass up another chance to enjoy the expansive veranda. Even with a wedding reception in full swing inside, the clean night breeze was so relaxing I could have spent the night seated outside.

Instead we spent a reenergizing and comfortable night in our room, waking up with the bittersweet realization that it was time to pack and prepare to depart. After a satiating continental breakfast, compliments of the Spring House, we returned to Island Bike & Moped and picked up a pair of bicycles for a quick tour of Block Island’s southern tip. We enjoyed a tour through the redbrick Southeast Lighthouse and moved further along the coast to the breathtaking Mohegan Bluffs.

From the top of these 150-foot cliffs you can see Montauk Point on Long Island. Riding to the nearby Payne Overlook, we descended what had to have been the longest staircase I have ever climbed down, arriving to the remarkable beach below. With the waves lapping at the rocky shore and the bluffs towering above us, I could not have asked for a more satisfying finish to our Block Island adventure.

Dropping the bikes off and retrieving our luggage, we headed toward the Block Island Ferry waiting area feeling a bit sad that we were leaving this island paradise behind, but refreshed and excited to return to the busy city, with pleasing memories that would stay with us long after our tans faded.

Spring House Hotel
52 Spring St
Block Island, RI 02807
(401) 466-5844

Categorized | Travel