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Block Island, Rhode Island

Surf Hotel Dodge and Water Sts.; 401/466-2241, fax 401/466-5686; doubles $99. A wild, wild world unto itself, the family-run Surf rents 47 rooms (with shared baths) by the week, a year in advance. The entrance and lobby are alive with chirping parakeets and all manner of guests playing games. At the busy intersection of Dodge and Water, this is probably the only place in town where you might see a guest resting his bare feet on the porch railing so passers-by can enjoy the smiley faces painted on his heels.

Where to Eat

Eli's Restaurant Chapel St.; 401/466-5230; dinner for two $58. This is the most frenetic, exciting place on the island. The energy is contagious, so it's easy to forget you're on a quiet island — until you realize that you've been at your table for an hour and a half working your way through lobster tails baked with scallop, shrimp, bacon, and apple stuffing, served with a mound of wild rice and vegetables, and nobody's rushing you. Much has been made of the portions here: thrifty islanders recommend that you get dinner at Eli's your first night, then eat the leftovers for the duration of your stay.

Atlantic Inn High St.; 800/224-7422 or 401/466-5883; dinner for two $85. The restaurant at this venerable inn ties with Eli's for best on the island. Atlantic's dining room is the kind of elegant space that makes everyone in it feel serene. The dishes, such as roasted tilapia with quinoa and an orange vanilla reduction, are rich and interesting yet usually subtly flavored.

Hotel Manisses Spring St.; 800/626-4773 or 401/466-2836; dinner for two $70. Part of the dining room is reminiscent of an old stone tavern, and part is a conservatory looking out on beautiful gardens and a patio with additional tables. The restaurant is not as consistent as it was a few years ago, but it is a gem nonetheless. Try the sautéed striped bass over couscous with a Grand Marnier beurre blanc.

Beachead Restaurant Corn Neck Rd.; 401/466-2249; dinner for two $58. Ever since new owners remodeled this Block Island fixture last summer, it has become the best spot to go when you must satisfy an urge for a juicy sirloin steak or burger. The dining room is cozy, with a gas fireplace, and it looks out over Crescent Beach. The bar has some of the best beach and harbor views in town. As local food lovers will tell you, chef Norman Ward cooked at another island fixture, Dead Eye Dick's, "when it was still great."


The top seafood takeout joints are Finn's Seafood Restaurant (Water St.; 401/466-2473) and Old Harbor Takeout (Water St.; 401/466-2935), both in Old Harbor. At Finn's, try the 11/4-pound lobster with corn on the cob ($17.95) and a great old-fashioned "cabinet" (New England milk shake with ice cream, for those who need translation; $2.95), and sample the oyster bar.


Froozies (on the back porch of the National Hotel; 401/466-2230) sells vegetarian sandwiches as well as its namesake: pure fruit juice mixed with frozen fruit. It seems an odd concept until you try one.

The sweetest fudge on the island is at Blocks of Fudge (Chapel St.; 401/466-5196). Try the pistachio, penuche, amaretto swirl, or cookies-and-cream varieties (all $8.50 per pound). You'll also find a giddying selection of candy that includes penny candy, saltwater taffy, rock candy, and other things you just can't go without, such as Mega Warheads, Raven's Revenge Stingers, Fantasy Ball gum lollipops, and Alien pops.

The Ice Cream Place (Weldon's Way; 401/466-2145) — with an emphasis on the — is aptly named. This shop would hold its own anywhere. The ice cream sundae, with excellent freshly whipped cream, is so good you probably won't be able to resist having one every day you're on the island.

Best Breakfast

Everyone feels like an islander at the busy Ernie's Old Harbor Restaurant (Water St.; 401/466-2473), whose back porch faces the harbor. On the front porch, you'll encounter a mixed crowd of tourists and regulars standing around for a table. The pancakes and eggs — even the muffins — are worth every second of the wait.

Best Beach

Trails at Clay Head, off Corn Neck Road, wind through grassy fields where delicate flowers bloom, under canopies of trees, and along a bluff covered with heather and wild roses. The shortest trail, Clay Head, opens onto a well-protected, sandy bay punctuated by large rocks. Snorkeling is good here, or you can lay down your towel behind a rock and imagine that you've washed up on a deserted island.


Both the Narragansett Inn (New Harbor; 401/466-2626) and Highview Inn (Connecticut Ave.; 401/466-2800) are weathered old summer hotels that have found a niche with the youth-hostel set. But at five o'clock, their bars are a favorite hangout for seasoned Block Islanders. Under the camp lights at the Narragansett's long, dark, oak bar and wraparound porch, you'll find fishermen and other harbor workers letting off steam or, if they're lucky, enjoying the dry wit of the hotel's elderly owner, Eleanor Mott; the bar's western exposure makes it the place to watch the sunset. And while most of the Highview's guests opt for the ribs at Club Soda, a small, more discerning group sip cocktails in a sumptuous Victorian bar with mural-bedecked walls.


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