Block Island Main

In the roll call of New England islands, Block Island sometimes gets lost in the wake of, say, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. But this 7-mile-long isle off the Rhode Island coast is an unpretentious mix of wildlife preserves, old Victorian hotels and weathered gray houses, stone walls and inland moors, nature trails and freshwater ponds, and windswept bluffs and sandy beaches that sometimes, on a quiet day in spring or fall, seems more like a corner of Europe than New England.

While the island doesn't take itself too seriously, it does take nature very seriously indeed. About one-third of it is protected from development, and the entire shoreline is open to the public. Most visitors arrive by ferry, and the best ways to get around are by bicycle or on foot. More than 30 miles of trails crisscross the island, including the Greenway, a series of paths that stretch from the center of the island to the southern shoreline.

One last touch of nautical romance? The island is home to a pair of classic lighthouses - the red-brick Southeast Light (1875), which was moved 200 feet back from its eroding cliffside site in 1993, and the North Light (1867), which now houses a maritime museum.