Fred Benson Town Beach is located on Block Island, a small island out cutting located approximately 9 Miles from the shoreline of the State of Rhode Island, acting as one of the East Coasts largest areas for summer focused tourism and conservation. The Nature Conservancy of the United States added Block Island to its list of “The Last Great Places” which consists of 12 sites spread across the western hemisphere, and this means about 40 percent of the island is set aside for conservation. It is part of the Outer Lands region, which is a coastal archipelago area and unique territory for biodiversity in the Greater United States. Much of the north-western tip of the island is an undeveloped natural area and resting stop for birds journeying along the Atlantic flyway.
The Island is best recognised by its iconic red-brick Southeast Lighthouse, which was built in the early 1800s and sits atop the dramatic clay cliffs of Mohegan Bluffs, with a rocky beach below. This lighthouse has become a local image for the region and has featured on magazine covers and travellers’ postcards across the country! The island’s northern tip also features a unique and equally impressive Lighthouse, built in 1867, for visitors to view. The surrounding area consists of beach dunes which are a part of the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, and as such is home to many species, including the Piping Plover and American Burying Beetle. A short walk away from the North Lighthouse lies the tip of the island, with ocean on both sides of a thin strip of land. and Sachem Pond, home to gulls and swallows. Migratory songbirds visit the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge.
This unique Biodiversity and its 17 miles of beaches and coastline areas means that Block Island is a popular summer tourist destination for many families and travellers looking for a unique aspect of American beach life. The Island has a culture focused on exploring nature and is known for its bicycling, hiking, sailing, fishing, and most importantly of all, its beaches, which is why this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about Block Islands most popular shoreline spot, Fred Benson Town Beach!
History of Block Island
Block Island was formed by the same receding glaciers that formed the Outer Lands of Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket as well as much of the North Eastern Archipelagos of America during the end of the last ice age nearly twelve thousand years ago! The Sandy beaches of this Island haven where first spotted in 1524 by Italian explorer and adventurer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who noted that the Island had a notable Native American population settled along its shoreline, however the Island didn’t receive its name until nearly a hundred years later, when in 1614 Dutch explorer Adriaen Block charted the island and named it for himself.
Conflict would eventually befall the Island like many areas of the new world, when in 1636 rising tension between the local Native tribes and passing traders and settlers, resulted in the death of a colonialist captain, trader and troublemaker known as John Oldham, who was attacked and killed by Native Americans on the island after attempting to collect a bounty payment. His death would be one of the catalysts for the Pequot war which was an armed conflict between the Pequot tribe and an alliance of the colonists of the Massachusetts Bay and their Native American allies, leading to the forced removal of many natives on the Island.
Following the war, the Island was sold to settlers in 1661 and from that point onward would have a growing colonial settlement thrive on its centre and shores, the Island would eventually be incorporated by the Rhode Island general assembly in 1672, and would become either more enshrouded in the local history of the region, after a visit from infamous Pirate William Kidd in 1699, a British occupation during the war of 1812, and finally receive its iconic image with the constructions of its North and South Lighthouses in the 1800s!
Fred Benson Town Beach
Known by many a local as State Beach, the Fred Benson Town Beach was named one of Coastal Living’s Best Beach for Families! The beach has everything young kids and their respective parents could want. The main beach consists of a wide white sand beach with low and relaxed surf as well as a lifeguard team that patrol the area regularly, especially in summer season! The main draw of Fred Benson Town Beach is a large pavilion, which offers showers and restrooms, a changing room with lockers, and a concession stand for those all-important beach day snacks and ice creams. Beach goers are also able to rent chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, and boogie boards from this stand, should they have forgotten any of the essentials on their dash for a day at the beach! Just a mile from town, the beach features easy parking and a short car-to-beach walk, making it among the island’s most popular beaches, this short distance from the town and its large beach pavilion makes Fred Benson Town Beach easy to locate!
The close proximity to the town of New Shoreham means it is easy for beach goers to wonder the short walk into the centre and have access to a variety of services and dining options! The town of Block Island offers restaurants from casual cafés to fine dining and everything in between and Island eateries often feature daily caught seafood, local specialties as well as spectacular views while you indulge. The Nightlife on Block Island is casual and enjoyable with several dining establishments remaining open into the later hours of the evening so that you can enjoy a refreshing sun downer as you watch the golden hours of sun set disappear into the horizon.
Throughout the day and night you can often find in Fred Benson Town Beach, live music performed by local groups as well as featured artists and bands who frequently make the trip over from the mainland, and many of these live music experience take place on the beach and provide a free and fun way for travellers to relax and take it easy, listening to anything from rock to jazz on the golden sand of Block Islands biggest beach.
Located just 3 miles from the beach, and an easy eleven minute car journey is the breath taking and award winning Mohegan Bluffs, which consists of two-hundred-foot cliffs with great views of the Atlantic, while some people say the beach at the base of the Bluffs is one of the most beautiful on the island, harbouring a secluded, if somewhat rocky place to swim and surf. It is a bit of a climb to get there, however, with a set of 141 steps leading down to the sand but make the effort and the payoff is spectacular, with clay cliffs that offer one of the most dramatic views of the Atlantic in all of Rhode Island, and a vista that can extend all the way to Montauk on the tip of Long Island.
Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve
A 25-acre parcel located only 7 minutes by car from the beach connects the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge to the Hodge Property, which is the most recent large-scale conservation purchase on Block Island, it provides a perfect spot to view migratory songbirds, the state-endangered northern harrier, and the Block Island meadow vole. The meadow areas of the property have goldenrod, butter and eggs, and common aster while the maritime shrubland features bayberry, arrowwood and black cherry. This is also the perfect location for stargazing, and organized events are often hosted through the Oceanview Foundation, with a focus on planet and constellation identification. The Preserve has a small parking lot along Corn Neck Road, which provides the perfect start to exploring the hiking trails and paths that wind through the reserve.
- The 1661 Inn, a family resort with a unique blend of accommodations that is sure to have something for everyone. From premier rooms that are spacious, well-appointed and feature a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean to more simple rooms available for those travelling on a budget to mid-range offerings as well. The 1661 Inn provides comfort, relaxation, and friendly hosts working to ensure that your stay is as memorable as Block Island itself. The location is well linked to the town centre and provides a more affordable option for the budget traveller, with rooms available from $150 a night.
- The Inn at Block Island is the premium destination for anyone that wants to experience this summer beach heaven in the rustic charm that built the Island. The inn at Block Island is known for its warmth and hospitality and is a century old Colonial building situated on a knoll in Old Harbor. It was built in 1900 for a sea captain and his family and converted to a B&B in the mid 1980’s. The Inn offers 9 rooms and a cottage, all with private baths, air conditioning, some with private entrances and ocean views. Located on the left just past Chapel Street on Old Town Road. It is convenient to both Old Harbor and New Harbor, the airport, town, ferry terminal and is only a 10-minute walk from the main beach! The Inn at Block Island is a premium style accommodation and the pricing shows this, considering a night will cost you anywhere between $250 to £350.
- For those seeking the ultimate luxury hospitality that Block Island has to offer, then the Hotel Manisses is the choice for you! The Hotel Manisses is a Victorian style landmark that is conveniently located steps away from the Old Harbor ferry landing, Ballard’s beach, galleries, shops, and entertainment districts of New Shoreham. This newly renovated boutique hotel is the top pick for savvy travellers looking for intimacy and elegance, providing an aesthetic appeal not quite matched by anywhere else on the Island. At the Manisses you will enjoy modern luxury with thoughtful touches in guest rooms with air conditioning, superior bedding and linens, Aromatherapy Associates bath amenities, pre-arrival concierge services, and acclaimed on-site dining options. The Manisses is located 5 minutes from the beach and provides access to all the features of Block Island, but modern luxury can be pricey and dependent on season a single night can cost you anywhere between $450 to $600, and while the pricing may be high, the experience is the best Block Island has to offer!
Getting to Block Island
The Island is connected year-round by a ferry to Point Judith, and in summer to New London, Connecticut, Orient Point, New York, Montauk, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island. The traditional ferry takes about an hour to reach the island from Point Judith. A high-speed ferry on the same route takes 35 minutes, and another high-speed ferry from New London takes just over an hour.
New England Airlines offers regularly scheduled 12-minute flights to Block Island State Airport from Westerly, Rhode Island. The terminal is located only a mile from the town centre and the journey from Block Island State Airport takes around 6 minutes! No bus services run between these locations unfortunately but a taxi should cost no more than $15 to $20, while a variety of bike and moped rental stores are available throughout the town, providing you with a unique way to explore this quaint New England Seaside town! Check out the best flight deals.
Seasonal Events and Weather
- The Summer months of June, July, August and September are by far the best time to visit Block Island for those wishing to experience soaring average temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as those wishing to see this tourist destination during the height of its busy season activities, shows, parades and live music are common throughout Block Island in the summer time, but be warned when we say busy season, we mean it! With the average population exploding to 10 000 people in the summer due to day trippers, the area can be come a little crowded, however the soaring temperature and summer sea breeze often make up for a little bit of a crowd!
- The fall months of October to December see a steady drop in temperatures, ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the early months all the way down to 45 degree by December, however in the early months the weather is still warm enough to take in the rays on the beach and swim in the ocean, while towards the end you can experience the “Taste of Block Island” on September 21-23, which is sponsored by the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. It includes kayak, taxi and farm tours, wine and beer tastings, and even a “design your own sundae.” Throughout the island there are shops discounts, lodging packages and restaurant specials!
- The winter months of January to March sees much colder temperatures with averages at 32 Fahrenheit and snowfall not being uncommon, making this the perfect time to experience a winter break away resting by the fireplaces of many of Block Islands taverns and restaurants, while also making sure to take advantage of the Islands cheaper accommodation rates, allowing you to book a few overnights on some of the islands beautiful colonial inns.
- The Spring months of April and May see the gradual increase of temperatures back up to highs of 60 degrees, giving those that want to take advantage of a quitter Island the chance to also enjoy some of Block Islands famously temperate weather, providing both opportunities to relax on the beach as well as take in the bloom of fresh wild flowers at one of the islands many wildlife reserves, spring time on Block Island sees the return and birthing of countless rare and unique bird species, while also giving visitors the opportunity to pick local fruit and produce at one of the Islands organic farms.
Beach Hours and Fees
The Beach Car Park is open all year round but it may be best to go early in the summer months as it can become particularly busy around this time of year, although the best means of transport from town to beach is via bicycle rental, which has no required “parking spaces” or fees once hired.
The Beach car park is maintained by a private company and so no regular fee information is available unfortunately! However, a public parking garage is located on the mainland near the ferry terminal, it is a few blocks from Perrotti Park, adjacent to the Newport Visitor’s Centre and Marriott Hotel. The cost is $3.00 per car per hour and reaches up to $24.50 for the day.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide of Fred Benson Town Beach on how to get the most out of your visit to Block Island, showing you when, where and how to get the best out of this little slice of quaint New England Spirit, nestled off the coastline and providing visitors with a new way to experience and enjoy the beauty of one of Americas best secrets.