Block Island

from Public Access to the Rhode Island Coast

Standing boldly atop the Mohegan Bluffs of Block Island, the Southeast Lighthouse has testified to the power of ocean storms since its creation in 1874. The tower stands 67 feet high and sits on an octagonal-shaped granite base. Both the keeper's residence and light tower were constructed primarily of brick, with a cast iron lantern gallery perched at the tower's pinnacle. The gallery houses a parapet lantern magnified by a large lens imported from France.

The lamp first burned oil, but was converted to kerosene in the 1880s. In 1907, the lamp was replaced with an oil lamp, which increased the light's intensity to 45,690 candlepower. In 1929, a rotating mechanism was installed to accomplish a flashing effect and the signal was changed from a white light to a green light in order to help mariners differentiate between the signals of other nearby lighthouses. The green flash could be seen as far out to sea as 22 miles. In 1990, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered the lamp to be replaced by a white electric aircraft beacon, which remains in the lighthouse today.

Perhaps the most notable moment of the lighthouse's history came in 1993, when the 2,000-ton structure was hydraulically lifted from its original location and transported 360 feet inland via a temporary rail system to avoid almost certain destruction by erosion, which had brought the edge of the cliffs within 55 feet of the lighthouse. Today, the lighthouse rests at a location that scientists say should be safe for another century.

1. Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge encompasses the northern tip of Block Island (Sandy Point) and includes the historic North Lighthouse. The shoreline of the refuge consists of a cobble beach that extends from the Settler's Rock parking area to Sandy Point, and a sandy/cobble beach that extends several miles along the west side from Sandy Point to Great Salt Pond. The uplands of vegetated dunes provide a rookery for seagulls, and Sachem Pond is a feeding area for a wide variety of waterfowl. This is an ideal area for walking, bird watching, and enjoying the view in all directions. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with permits may drive out to Sandy Point, where fishing is a popular activity. This is an environmentally sensitive area-stay off vegetation and out of the dunes. Do not swim at Sandy Point, as it has dangerous tidal currents. Parking is available.
Trash receptacles

2. Settlers' Rock
At the end of Corn Neck Road, near a cobble beach on Rhode Island Sound, a rock with a plaque marks the landing site of the European settlers on Block Island in 1661. Across the road is scenic Sachem Pond, with a small, sandy beach great for wildlife observation. The parking area marks the access to Sandy Point, the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the northern end of the Clayhead Nature Trail.
Picnicking, trash receptacles

Clayhead Trail3. Clayhead Nature Trail
This scenic nature trail winds through shrubs, fields, and wetlands to the Clayhead Bluffs along Block Island's northeast shore. The trail starts at Corn Neck Road and continues for a quarter mile along a dirt road to a parking area with bike racks. From here the trail narrows and winds its way to the coast. There is a small beach where the trail reaches the shoreline that is often very rocky due to strong surf. The main trail then winds north along high coastal bluffs to Settler's Rock. This trail and the maze of trails leading off from it provide wonderful walking and bird watching with views of farms, ponds, and the coast. No mopeds are allowed on the road, and no mopeds or bikes are allowed on the trail. This is an environmentally sensitive area.
Picnic tables/benches

Mansion Road4. Mansion Road
At the eastern end of Mansion Road-a sandy lane and right-of-way-is a beach below the bluffs that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. Ample on-site parking is available. It is an excellent site for picnics and swimming in the summer and for wildlife observation off-season. This right-of-way is circled by a one-way access road.
Fishing, hiking/walking

5. Scotch Beach Road
This right-of-way is located at the Scotch Road end, off Corn Neck Road, with access to the northern end of Frederick Benson Town Beach.
Swimming, hiking/walking

6. Frederick Benson Town Beach
A long, sandy beach off Corn Neck Road on Rhode Island Sound, this is a popular location for walking, sunbathing, and swimming, with a view of the ocean and Old Harbor. The beach has a large parking area, bike racks, and a pavilion. It is managed by the town of New Shoreham. Access may also be gained from Corn Neck Road.
Picnic tables/benches, concessions, toilets, trash receptacles

Old Harbor Dock7. Old Harbor Dock
Located east of the ferry dock on Water Street in Old Harbor, this town dock has guest slips available. The dockmaster's office is located here and the dock is close to the center of town, restaurants, shops, hotels, and the ferry to Point Judith. Parking is limited to 30 minutes in the ferry dock lot.
Picnic tables/benches, toilets, trash receptacles

Ballard's Beach8. Ballard's Beach
Located off Water Street, at the eastern end of Old Harbor, this sandy beach is owned by Ballard's Inn and is open to the public. The beach has picnic tables, lifeguards, and volleyball nets, and there is a restaurant with a deck overlooking the beach. There is a great view of Rhode Island Sound and Old Harbor from the beach and from the harbor breakwater. Parking is available.
Toilets, trash receptacles

9. Southeast Lighthouse
Completed in 1874, Southeast Lighthouse is a museum open to the public for a nominal fee during the summer season. The lantern is 204 feet above the water and can be seen 35 miles out to sea. The property around the lighthouse is open to the public and offers a spectacular view of the ocean and Mohegan Bluffs. There is no access to the beach at this site. Parking is available.
Wildlife observation, trash receptacles

Mohegan Bluffs10. Mohegan Bluffs
Off Southeast Light Road, Mohegan Bluffs drop 150 feet to the sandy beach and crashing surf below. A short trail from the parking area leads to a vantage point at the edge of the bluffs. A long, wooden stairway leads down to the beach. This state-managed site is well known for its excellent view of the island's dramatic southern coastline and of historic Southeast Lighthouse.
Picnic tables/benches, swimming, fishing, hiking/walking, trash receptacles

11. Scup Rock Property
This hard-to-spot right-of-way at the sandy extension of Pilot Hill Road leads to a small parking lot. A 150-foot path can then be taken to a beautiful vista overlooking Mohegan Bluffs.

Snake Hole Road12. Snake Hole Road
At the intersection of Mohegan Trail and Lakeside Drive, a gravel road heads south to a grassy path leading to the shore. The path is steep at times so access should be reserved for the sure-footed.

13. Rodman's Hollow
In a natural ravine located south of Cooneymus Road, a network of trails winds through the conservation area to the southern coast of the island. These trails provide a scenic location for walking and bird watching. This is an extremely sensitive area; stay on the trails. No parking is available.

14. Southwest Point/Cooneymus Road
Located on the southwest side of the island, just north of Bluff Head, this right-of-way consists of a sandy path extending west from the intersection of Cooneymus Road and West Side Road to a cobble beach bordering the ocean.
Wildlife observation, fishing

15. Charlestown Beach
Located on the west side of the island on six acres of ASRI property, this right-of-way consists of a path extending from Coast Guard Road to Block Island Sound. This site is one of the few places in Rhode Island where one can see the sun set over the water. No parking is available.
Swimming, wildlife observation, fishing

16. Coast Guard Station/Coast Guard Road
This town right-of-way is located at the end of Champlin Way, just west of the New Shoreham Coast Guard Station. It is a small but popular swimming beach in the protected waters of Great Salt Pond. Parking is available at the road end.
Fishing, historic interest, hiking/walking, wildlife observation

17. Champlin's Marina
Located off West Side Road, this is a full-service marina on Great Salt Pond with guest slips available. This site provides shopping, a playground, a video arcade, a movie theater, and a variety of rentals. Parking is available.
Dock, picnic tables/benches, toilets, trash receptacles

18. Veterans Park
Located on West Side Road, this site affords a nice view of Great Salt Pond. A playground and parking are also available. Though there is no direct access to the water, it is a great place to take a break from biking.

Block Island Boat Basin19. Block Island Boat Basin
A full-service marina on Great Salt Pond with guest slips available, this site has picnic tables, a barbecue area overlooking the harbor, and a small beach. Bike, car, and moped rentals are available. This is the terminal for the Block Island-New London ferry. The harbormaster's office is also located here. Parking is available. Fee.
Dock, concessions, toilets, trash receptacles

20. Payne's Dock
This is a full-service marina in New Harbor on Great Salt Pond located at the end of Ocean Avenue with guest slips available. For the non-boater, the docks offer a spectacular view of the pond. This is also the high-speed ferry terminal. No parking is available.
Picnic tables/benches, concessions, toilets, trash receptacles

Indian Head Neck Road21. Indian Head Neck Road
A gravel strip between Dead Eye Dick's and Smuggler's Cove restaurants leads from Ocean Avenue to a boat ramp on Great Salt Pond. Traditionally, this spot has been used as a launching ramp and a public fishing area.
Picnic tables/benches, trash receptacles

Ocean Avenue Bridge22. Ocean Avenue Bridge
This bridge crosses over Trims Pond, a tidal pond that is connected to Great Salt Pond in New Harbor. This site is most often used by the public for fishing, walking, shellfishing, and kayak launching.
Historic interest

23. Beach Avenue/Dunns Bridge
The bridge over the Harbor Pond Channel, this site has traditionally provided public access for fishing, scenic enjoyment, and shellfishing. No parking is available.
Wildlife observation

Mosquito Beach24. Mosquito Beach
Located on the southeast shore of the Great Salt Pond, this parcel is west of Corn Neck Road. The area encompasses 80,000 square feet and is characterized by salt marsh and beach. Shellfishing and landing small dinghies are traditional uses of this site. Parking is available for about 10 cars at the boardwalk.
Wildlife observation

25. Andy's Way
This right-of-way consists of a dirt and sand road extending west from Corn Neck Road to a sandy beach bordering Great Salt Pond. Historically, this area was the site of the colonial fishing settlement on the island.
Fishing, wildlife observation, trash receptacles

26. West Beach Road
This is a sandy road on the northwest side of the island, extending west from Corn Neck Road, past the landfill, to a sandy cobble beach (West Beach) bordering Block Island Sound.
Wildlife observation, fishing

Home | Text version