Even after 15 years in the northeast, I continue to be amazed by the beauty of the New England coast, especially the beaches. I shouldn’t be; Rhode Island alone has almost 400 miles of shoreline.
Some of the most magnificent beaches are on Block Island, a little spit of land about 13 miles off the coast of mainland Rhode Island.
This summer my family rented a snug cottage overlooking a pond near New Harbor—off the beaten path, clean and bright. Upon arrival we each laid claim to “our” spot: husband on rear deck, barefooted and nose in The New York Times; teenager on living room sofa, bent over her iPhone and idly twisting a strand of hair; and me, sprawled in a lawn chair at the water’s edge, pile of home decorating magazines and glass of wine by my side. All around us birds whistled and sang, but otherwise it was quiet. A giant white goose from across the pond paddled over to investigate, but we never saw another neighbor the entire week.
It was hard to resist the allure of loafing at the cottage, but the rest of the island beckoned.
Block Island has a unique topography as a result of glaciers sculpting it into gently rolling hills that seem to tumble into one another. Interspersed here and there are rain-fed kettle ponds surrounded by marsh grass. Every vista includes miles of stone walls, crisscrossing the green dips and curves of the land. Beach roses scent the air and the breeze is always 10° cooler than on the mainland.
We were lucky to be on island before the summer crowds arrived (Race Week is the official start of the season). We got so accustomed to having the beaches to ourselves, we grew indignant when we had to share with other sunbathers and beachcombers. But we didn’t begrudge the three deer who joined us one evening as we stretched out on the sand to await the sunset. They cautiously nibbled their way across the dunes behind us, before disappearing in the gathering dusk.
One afternoon we stopped by the Southeast lighthouse. As luck would have it, a dense mist rolled in while we were there, enveloping us and the imposing brick lighthouse in a damp blanket of gray. The foghorn sounded over and over, a reminder of shipwrecks and lost souls. At nearby Payne’s Overlook, we walked down the long wooden staircase, coming within a few hundred feet of the crashing surf below. The mist followed us back across the island to our cottage, but a lighter, less ominous version of what we had seen earlier.
When we weren’t “busy” relaxing, we were feasting on lobster rolls and swordfish at The Oar, The Tap & Grille, or Dead Eye Dick’s. We drank wine at lunch, laughed at any suggestion of a side salad instead of onion rings, and went out for ice cream every night. We were on vacation.
All too soon, it was time to tidy up our rented cottage and head back to the ferry landing. We grabbed one last lobster roll from Rebecca’s Seafood Takeout, and called the owner of the cottage. “Put us down for the same week next year!”