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- The National Hotel
- 36 Water St - New Shoreham
- Rhode Island 02807 - United States
- (401) 466-2901
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During your stay on the 'Block', you'll be surrounded by the endless natural beauty that is Block Island. It's distinctively New England and its welcome is genuine and warm. The scenery features bluffs and gently rolling hills, grassy moors and bayberry covered fields. Historic lighthouses add to the atmosphere. Over two hundred fresh water ponds dot the island and wild flowers lend delicate colors to the landscape and a sweet scent to the air.
While here, we will be pleased to help you discover Block Island's beauty through tours and nature walks. And, if you wish to rent a bicycle or moped and make your own explorations-we'll be happy to assist. It's all part of the Island Experience, and it's waiting for you here, at the National Hotel or National Hotel on Block Island.
Either the National Hotel or National Hotel is the ideal spot to choose for your island stay. Located directly across from the ferry landing in the Old Harbor, we are just steps away from unspoiled beaches, shops, art galleries and entertainment. Rent a bike, take a stroll or just kick back and watch the people go by. A place where fond memories are made year after year, the National Hotel welcomes your visit.
The National Hotel has been welcoming visitors to Block Island for over a century, with its special Victorian seaport charm. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Hotel is located in the heart of Block Island's historic district. Our guests enjoy walking throughout theOld Harbor and neighboring beaches, the quaint complete with shops, restaurants and the movie theater.
Our goal at the National Hotel is to create a comfortable, cozy atmosphere where guests can feel truly at home. Most of the rooms have been newly renovated with tiled bathrooms, new carpeting, and the quaint touches which one would expect to find only in a smaller bed & breakfast establishment. Neither slick nor fancy, the National Hotel ideally reflects the 19th century flavor of the island. Our guests discover an escape from 20th-century stress strain in Victorian style, peace and tranquillity. Our clean and simple rooms, friendly and helpful staff, and, of course, our restaurant with the very best of New England food and spirits, bring our guests back after year.
Block Island is one of the foremost yachting destinations in New England. It has two excellent harbors: Old Harbor on the East Side of the Island is protected by a breakwater and has limited space for dockage at the town dock. It is right in the center of town opposite the National Hotel. Old Harbor is nice, but it includes: a commercial ferry landing, limited dockage, no anchoring space inside the breakwater. New Harbor on the West Side of the Island, Great Salt Pond. This harbor is about 15 minutes from town. It is within an enclosed salt pond, has 3 marinas, 100 town moorings and anchorage for 1000 yachts.
The Bluffs But Block Island is much more then its beaches. It is a conglomeration of rocks and soil stripped by a glacier from what is now southern New England and pushed out into the sea, a varied terrain of hills and freshwater ponds seven miles long and three miles wide, lashed by savage winter storms and cooled by gentle summer breezes. This micro-climate has given it a unique community of flora and fauna, some flourishing, some rare, all precious. And Block Island is even more; it is a place where men and women have wrested a living from soil and sea for centuries.
If you're like most visitors, you'll head for the beaches first. The two-mile Crescent Beach, spread out on the starboard as you arrive by ferry, consists of the Frederick J. Benson Beach closest to town, with a pavilion, snack bar and rentals. Northward is Scotch Beach and even farther north is Mansion Beach, below the stone walls of a vanished mansion. Just south of the ferry landing is Ballard's, popular with those who prefer a beach with amenities. Scattered around the island are little coves of sand and surf awaiting those who are willing to explore.
There's a great deal more to explore: the breathtaking views from atop the Mohegan Bluffs and the long stairs down to the rocky, restless shore below; the Southeast Light which has been moved back from the crumbling cliff face to ensure its safety for another century; the refurbished North Light; sunrises from the eastern headlands and sunsets from the western beaches.
Walkers enjoy the Greenway, a network of trails that wind through park, conservancy and private lands from the center of the island to the southern shore, and the Clayhead Nature Trails in the north end. The shaded dirt roads lined with roses and blackberries tumbling over stone walls, also make picturesque walks.
Bicycling is another popular way to experience Block Island. Or take a taxi tour with a knowledgeable island driver. Or an aerial tour. Or a tour in a house-drawn carriage. Block Island fishing is famous. You can charter a boat for deep sea fishing, or cast in the surf for bluefish, striped bass and flounder, or get a license and try the freshwater ponds for bass, perch and pickerel.
You can play tennis or croquet, snorkel, windsurf, go rollerblading, fly beneath a parasail, ride a horse, or sail on a boat. Conservation groups offer a full schedule of daily walks. Children's activities include story hours at the Island Free Library, theater workshops, a petting zoo and the school playground.
Two movie theaters provide a choice of evening entertainment. Rock bands, folksingers and jazz musicians work the hotel verandas and night clubs. Island conservation groups sponsor a Summer Seminar Series; concerts of classical music, and lectures by authors and scholars are frequent throughout the summer.
Both seasons bring the migration of birds on the eastern coast flyway, followed by flocks of birders from across the nation. Up to 150 species of birds may visit; "the island may have as many as several hundred thousand birds on it for two or three days at a time," says former Rhode Island Audubon Society director Alfred Hawkes. "Like flakes of snow, they flutter down upon the island during the night".
As the off-season population dwindles to the hardy few, Block Island becomes a place to seek quiet and solitude, to take brisk hikes in the crisp, sunny air, to experience the easy routine of small-town life.
There are, it is true, some seasonal high points: Harvest Festival, Columbus Day Weekend, the Harbor Church's Roll Call Dinner that feeds hundreds, Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Stroll, Ecumenical Choir concerts, the famous annual semi-serious Groundhog Day census, and the quite serious St. Patrick's Day celebration. But mostly the off-season is the time when islanders recover from the busy pace of summer and welcome visitors who wish to find their own slow pace for a time.
What gives Block Island its special appeal is the determination of the community to retain the best of its natural and human history and use them to support its future. It is not a large community, of course - in the 9th-century it numbered as high as 1,400, but today, while it may reach an estimated 10,000 in the summer, the year-round population hovers around only 850. Yet these few people have chosen to preserve the best of their built heritage, as is evident from the ferry passenger's first view of Water Street's 19th-century facades. They have saved their twin guardians, the Southeast Light and North Light. And they have chosen to preserve the open spaces, and the feel of a windswept island.
There's so much happening on Block Island, you'll have to come back to see and do it all! Here's an ambitious itinerary for one very full week on Block Island. (Nightlife on Block Island is varied, active and fun but because of space limitations, we have not included evening activities, which are legion). After you arrive and get settled, walk around town and soak up its Victorian charm. Pick up a lobster roll and eat it while you walk.
Stop in at the Chamber of Commerce for a map and other information on hiking trails, nature paths and the best roads for biking. This is a must before heading off to commune with nature. More serious naturalists may want to stop in at The Nature Conservancy as well. Just beyond is Ballard's Beach-a good introduction to Block Island waters. After a swim, the Block Island Historical Society will give you an inside look at how the island evolved.
Have an early swim at Scotch Beach, the middle section of Crescent Beach, then head into town for Sunday brunch. Head north on Corn Neck Road to Sachem Pond, Settler's Rock and North Light. Settler's Rock is a stone memorial from 1911 commemorating the first European settlers who landed here 250 years before, in 1661. North Light is the fourth lighthouse on this site since the first one washed away in 1829. Recently renovated, it now houses a maritime environmental center and museum. Have a swim back at Sachem Pond before you head home.
Start in Old Harbor in front of the Rebecca statue, placed here in 1896 by the WCTU, with basins to allow horses and dogs to drink water. In addition to many fine shops, you should see some of the galleries where local artists' works are displayed and the Library (lots of interesting island lore).
It's less than a mile walk from Bridgegate Square (at the post office and bank) to New Harbor with its many marinas, stores and restaurants. Shop, have lunch here, watch the boats, then head back to Fred Benson Town Beach, named for a beloved island resident and institution since 1903 who is celebrating his 100th birthday. Walk up the beach beyond Scotch Beach to Mansion Beach, once the estate site of the country's wealthiest woman-Frances Hopkins, widow of railroad tycoon Mark Hopkins. An 18-room Italianate villa, Palladian bathhouse and formal gardens stood here until 1963. Destroyed by a mysterious fire, only the foundation remains.
Pack a picnic lunch, rent some bicycles and head west to the Old Center (junction of Old Town and Center Roads). The original center of community life, only two large millstones and an explanatory monument remain to mark the historic spot. Bike on over to Beacon Hill, with its stone tower, built in 1925 to honor the island's seamen. On private land, you can't climb it but there are still spectacular views from the hill, which is the island's highest point.
Bike west to Dorie's and Grace's Coves, where fishermen used to hang their cod to dry, and where Montauk is visible on clear days. After lunch, take Coast Guard Road past Charleston Beach to watch boat traffic on the Great Salt Pond Channel. Fishing is good here, and the Coast Guard Station is very photogenic. On the way back, see the Island Cemetery (intersection of West Side and Center Roads) for a real insight into island history through legends on 17th-and 18th-century gravestones. You'll also find wonderful vistas at this picturesque location.
Another picnic lunch day, with your first stop at State Airport. Commercial flights started in 1921, with newspapers delivered even earlier. Head south to Isaac's Corner and the Indian Cemetery. Isaac Church, the island's last Native American, died in 1886 and lived at the intersection of Center and Cooneymus Roads and Lakeside Drive. Just to the east is a burial ground with small headstones where Indians were buried upright with a pot of clams or oysters to sustain their journey. Just south on elevated land is Fresh Pond. Beyond Painted Rock, south of the pond, is Snake Hole Road, a dirt road which leads to Snake Hole and the ocean, good stop for lunch with a great view of Mohegan Bluffs.
Continue east to Mohegan Bluffs on the main road (Mohegan Trail). The Bluffs overlook the entire southern coast, with Montauk (18 miles) often visible. Southeast Light, built in 1875, is 200 feet above the sea and was once New England's most powerful light. Originally separated from the cliffs by a large field, erosion has reduced this to less than 60 feet, requiring a fundraising campaign to allow moving it to a safe position before the mid-1990's, when it will be too late.
Two miles north of the town bathhouse, a dirt road off Corn Neck Road leads to the Clay Head Trails. A walker's paradise, it meanders along Clay Head Bluffs for a mile to Settler's Rock (see Sunday) and Grove Point. Branching off are other mowed grass trails. The Bluestone Maze, which interconnects and roams past the hidden ponds, through pine groves and dense forests. On private property, only walkers are welcome.
This is the time to go back to a particular beach, nature trail or view, or a special sight worth a second look. If shopping, be sure to explore the roads off Water Street.
Explore The Greenway - a major reason Block Island has been designated "one of the 12 last great places in the Western Hemisphere." A web of interconnecting trails, it leads from the island's heart near Beacon Hill to Black Rock, through areas of both public and private lands. The Green way connects beautiful natural flora and vegetation with specific island sites and well-known locations, including The Enchanted Forest, The Turnip Farm, The Old Mill Site, Dodge Cemetery and Rodman's Hollow. The latter, a wild and beautiful cleft in the rolling southwestern terrain, may be the most interesting. Home of hawks, white-tailed deer and rare species of wildflowers, it is an actual sandy depression in the land, surrounded by old stone walls. Explore the northern Greenway as far as Rodman's Hollow until you get hungry.
After lunch, walk the trails south through Rodman's Hollow to Black Rock Trail and continue to Black Rock Beach. Black Rock lies a few hundred yards off the south coast, barely breaks water at low tide and has fooled navigators for centuries, since the tide runs swiftly. A very full day, it has been put together this way so most of The Greenway could be explored as a unit. If time allows on other days, you might like to do some Greenway exploring earlier in the week. Be sure to stop in at the Chamber of Commerce office first to get the most out of your walk. If you don't get to see it all, rest assured that all of Block Island will be happy to welcome you back soon.