BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. -- We had some specific requirements in mind when searching for an inn for our first visit to Block Island at the height of summer. We wanted a quiet location outside of town but within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and beaches. We wanted air conditioning, a rarity in island lodgings, and we didn't want to pay more than $250 a night.
The Adrianna Inn, a Victorian farmhouse overlooking the town and harbor, filled the bill. The trade-off was that the room was on the small side and the bathroom positively Lilliputian.
The Nature Conservancy has called Block Island "one of the last great places in the Western Hemisphere." As we entered the harbor on the ferry from Point Judith, the view was of a Victorian seaside village: sprawling white clapboard hotels facing the sea, narrow streets fanning out from the docks, a smattering of shops and restaurants. The island is remarkably undeveloped; more than a third of it has been preserved as open space. Due in no small part to the difficulty of getting vehicle reservations on the ferry (reserving six months in advance is recommended), traffic is light. Since the island is only about 12 square miles, it's easy to get around on foot, by bicycle, or in a taxi.
The Adrianna, originally a sea captain's residence, was converted to an inn in the 1980s. It used to be called the "Adrian" after Adrian Block, the Dutch navigator and explorer who founded the island. Ann Law, owner of the better-known Blue Dory Inn downtown, bought the Adrian in the late 1990s and changed the name.
The inn has nine guest rooms with private baths. The Fleur de Lys Suite offers panoramic views from a private deck, a king bed, Jacuzzi tub, TV/VCR, microwave, and small refrigerator. The two-bedroom Beach Plum Cottage next door is ideal for a small family.
Our room, Lily of the Valley, was decorated in soft yellow and blue, with a comfortable queen-size canopy bed, an armoire, bureau, television set, nightstand, and rocking chair. With windows on three sides, the room was filled with light. The window air conditioner was more than sufficient to cool the 11-by-14-foot room; though it was missing a knob, someone had thoughtfully left a pair of pliers with which to regulate the fan speed.
A helpful guest services book also provides a history of Block Island. There's a refrigerator in the kitchen where guests can help themselves to ice and leave beverages to chill.
One of the nicest features of the Adrianna is the wraparound porch, with lush, colorful hanging plants. We spent a fair amount of time in the rockers just outside our door enjoying a view of town and the island's sandy eastern shore up to the clay cliffs at the northern tip.
Breakfast was served in a small kitchen with four two-person tables. In good weather, the porch accommodates the overflow; otherwise, it's standing room only. The continental breakfast included some pleasant surprises such as quiche, baked blueberry French toast, and rice pudding.
At 5:30 each afternoon, the inn offers wine with crackers and cheese and other treats such as a tasty pesto dipping sauce. Always included are the inn's signature confection: fresh-baked "Block Island barnacles," rich, dense cookies with large chunks of chocolate, nuts, and an elusive streusel taste. Law got the recipe from a friend in New York and has modified it over the years. The cookies are so popular she is planning to launch the Block Island Cookie Co. and sell them in retail outlets.
The Adrianna is open May through the third weekend in October; off-season visitors to Block Island might want to try the Blue Dory Inn, which is open year round. While the Adrianna is a Victorian farmhouse, the Blue Dory is a more traditional Victorian home, said Law. At the Blue Dory, guests can enjoy afternoon tea or wine in a front parlor with lace curtains and period furniture. The guest rooms, a bit larger than those at the Adrianna, feature views of the ocean or town; about half have Jacuzzi tubs. Guests can grab a beach chair and towel and follow a short path to the tip of the 3-mile Crescent Beach directly behind the inn.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.