Hotel Spotlight

Surf's Up and Spirits Are High at Block Island Beach House

by California Chaney
Block The Beach Bar. All photos by Read McKendree, courtesy of Block Island Beach House.

Block Island Beach House
Block Island, Rhode Island
Coastal chic, $$ 

Just twelve miles off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island has long been a haven for New Englanders, who come for its long stretches of sandy beaches and striking bluffs, especially in the laid-back, dog days of summer. The quaint town packs a punch of classic Americana charm, with weathered, shingle-style Victorian buildings and lighthouses that have withstood the test of time and anchored sailors home after long Atlantic voyages. For more than a century, The Surf Hotel was the cornerstone of the small town, located on Crescent Beach with a wraparound porch that welcomed visitors and locals alike for sundowners and a place to lay their head after a long day at the beach. While the island gained popularity once high-speed ferries began commuting day-trippers, the property remained a mainstay, where the sandy beach meets the walkable, coastal town and the vibe is a surfer's delight. 

In 2019, Lark Hotels, a New-England based hospitality company with a serious eye for jackpot fixer-uppers, purchased the property and lovingly transformed it to a coastal-chic haven, complete with a beachfront restaurant, coffee bar, and outdoor pool. The 46 guest rooms got a fresh coat of paint and a new contemporary style, with sun-kissed retro furnishings and restored balconies to spot the morning surf break. While the original Surf Hotel sign remains on the exterior wood cladding, the renamed Block Island Beach House infused its authentic oceanside character with shiplap walls, vintage surfboards strewn about, and well-lived-in soft linen and leather pieces to complete the airy common spaces. The outdoor beach bar offers barefoot seashell dining and refreshing cocktails with sweeping views of the ocean and a place to linger long after the sun sets. And because summers quickly floats away, guests are given a vintage Polaroid camera to use during their stay to preserve the happy, salty days until their return to the shores of sunny bliss.

Book It

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At a Glance

The Vibe: A charming seaside surf shack.

Standout Detail: As the only oceanfront hotel on the island, the direct access to the best surf and sand is hard to beat.

This Place Is Perfect For: First timers to Block Island who want to hop off the ferry and head straight to the beach or easily walk and bike to explore the island without an agenda.

Rooms: Vintage surfboards line the hallways leading to the building's original 31 guest rooms, several of which have beachfront or village-facing balconies. While Lark preserved many elements of the former Surf Hotel's charm, the rooms received a welcome sprucing that balances the antique and contemporary vibes of the hotel. New this summer, the hotel expanded to a second building (formerly The Gables) to add an additional 16 rooms and suites with an outdoor pool. Bold wallpaper and white shiplap walls are adorned with vintage surfing photos and additional waxy boards, while four-poster beds, rattan chandeliers, and Moroccan area rugs create a haven to drift off after a day in the sun, along with the blackout shades and waffle kimono robes. Vintage Polaroid cameras are found in each room to take along to the beach or snap portraits of your crew or your pup (the hotel welcomes all pets).

On Site: To sink into the relaxing vibes here, take a dip in the guests-only outdoor pool tucked behind the shore with lounge chairs and umbrellas. But if the gentle lapping waves of Crescent Beach are calling your name, several surf and paddleboard rentals are within walking distance.

Food + Drink: On the standout Victorian wraparound porch is the hotel's anchor restaurant, The Surf Shack, serving BBQ, fresh fish, sandwiches, and salads with views of Crescent Beach. They also host weekly clambakes with live music. Before dinner, all good beach days end at the Beach Bar, where frosé and margaritas are served until sundown and the crunch of white seashells at your feet is the chef's kiss to a perfect summer day. Inside, the lobby coffee bar serves grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for afternoon adventures.

What to Do Nearby

Block Island's 17 miles of coastline will keep you happily occupied on the oceanfront: The hotel's backyard beach is the most popular in town for its soft sand and calm water. Nearby Baby Beach or Andy's Way are quiet, especially in the early mornings, when you can spot dolphins. And if you're looking to try your hand at surfing, Black Rock has the best surf and is gentle on beginners. If you want to explore the dry offerings of the island, rent a bike or scooter from Island Moped and head to Mohegan Bluffs on the southern shore of the island, where a 200-foot staircase leads you down to Corn Cover with sweeping views of the island and its sandy bluffs. Since most of the island is protected by the Nature Conservancy, there are over 25 miles of nature trails to explore with unique rolling hills and grassy meadows.

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