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Small Wonder

When you first approach Block Island by ferry, you see miles of beach, bluffs and a lighthouse in the distance to your right. After picking up your bike, scooter or driving your car closer to this spot, you see why Block Island is so popular. From this northern point you can see sprawling, grassy dunes, and a variety of bird wildlife hovering over the ocean and nearby salt pond. The historic lighthouse at the northern tip of Block Island is slated to undergo restoration of its roof and tower in the summer of 2008.

During the height of the busy summer tourist season, you may see more people than birds as the island's population booms from about 1,000 year-round residents to over 30,000 - giving a whole new meaning to the word "wildlife." During the mad, summer rush to this scenic island, you share the road with thousands of other cyclists and tourists on scooters. In the offseason, you'll share it with deer and muskrats. To make matters worse, it is expensive to bring a car on the ferry from the Rhode Island or Connecticut mainland - about $90 - and a reservation is needed months in advance. Renting a moped on Block Island for just one day is almost as expensive.

Travel season and transportation issues aside, Block Island is a wonderful place to explore. Charming New England homes dot the rolling hills, and stone walls border the roads. In addition to the North Lighthouse, a must-see is the recently renovated Southeast Lighthouse with brick, gingerbread-style architecture. This lighthouse was moved back from the bluffs in 1993 after storms eroded much of the nearby bluff. The Southeast Lighthouse is perched high on the Mohegan Bluffs where one can a see a wide-angle view of the Atlantic Ocean and beach 150 feet below. Just west of this lighthouse is a set of stairs that descend to the beach.

Other noteworthy scenic spots on Block Island include Rodman's Hollow, a unique glacial outwash basin that has been protected from development. From Cooneymus Road, you can hike down into the hollow, or beyond to the beach below the cliffs. Another woodsy hike is the Maze. Ask the locals how to get there, as finding it is a bit tricky; so is finding your way back out. Strange how it's easy to get lost on an island so small that you can walk around it in about eight hours. If you do hike the Maze - located on the east side of the island - you may reach a view of the ocean from the east bluffs. These aren't as dramatic at the Mohegan Bluffs, but hiking the Maze isn't about panoramic views.

Another hidden place on Block Island is Abrams' Animal Farm. I almost missed this, discovering it only because I needed to kill some time before the ferry ride back to Judith Point. At this farm you'll spot an interesting collection of exotic animals like llamas, camels, tortoises, and kangaroos. Best of all, it's free thanks to Mr. Abrams.

Finally, if you need a hotel room on Block Island, try the inexpensive Hendrickson House. But do expect to pay a much higher price at any of the inns and hotels between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Plan at least two nights to see the small wonder that is Block Island.

 

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