Block Island is part of the U.S. state of Rhode Island and is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 13 miles (21 km) south of the coast of Rhode Island, 14 miles (23 km) east of Montauk Point on Long Island, and is separated from the Rhode Island mainland by Block Island Sound. The United States Census Bureau defines Block Island as Census Tract 415 of Washington County, Rhode Island. As of the 2010 census the population of 1,051 lived on a land area of 9.734 square miles (25.211 km2). The island is part of the Outer Lands region, a coastal archipelago made by the recessional and terminal moraine that resulted from the Wisconsonian Laurentide glacier retreat, about 22,000 years ago.
Block Island is coextensive with the town of New Shoreham. The island is a popular summer tourist destination and is known for its bicycling, hiking, sailing, fishing, and beaches. Two historic lighthouses are present on the island: Block Island North Light, on the northern tip of the island, and Block Island Southeast Light, on the southeast side of the island. Much of the northwest tip of the island is an undeveloped natural area and resting stop for birds along the Atlantic Flyway.
Crescent Beach can be viewed from the Pt. Judith Ferry and the New London Express Ferry on the way to the island. It contains four smaller beaches, Fred Benson Town Beach (still popularly known as State Beach due to its former status as one), Rouse's Beach, Scotch Beach, and Mansion Beach, all of which are located on Corn Neck Road. State Beach and Ballards Beach are the only beaches on the island with on-duty life guards. State Beach has a pavilion with food and beach rentals.
The so-called Baby Beach begins at the Surf Hotel, near the Beachhead Restaurant on Corn Neck Rd. Scotch Beach is located just north of Fred Benson Town Beach and Mansion Beach is located north of Scotch Beach. North of Mansion Beach are Clayhead and Pots & Kettles. Clayhead is a set of cliffs which can be seen from the ferry in from Point Judith or New London. This area is rocky and contains iron-rich clay deposits, and is a popular area for shell and rock hunting.
Southeast Lighthouse is located at the southeast corner of the island on the Mohegan Trail. The lighthouse was constructed in 1875 and remains to this day an active US Coast Guard navigational aid. The lighthouse was moved in 1993, in danger of falling off the bluffs due to erosion. In addition to offering tours of the tower, the lighthouse has a museum that is open during the summer season.
The Mohegan Bluffs are located a short distance to the west of Southeast Lighthouse. The bluffs are the site of a pre-colonial battle between the invading Mohegan, and the native Niantic in which the Mohegan were driven off the edge of the tall cliffs to their deaths on the beach below. A long staircase of over one hundred stairs leads to the bottom of these clay cliffs and looks out over the Atlantic On clear days, Montauk, New York can be seen in the distance from the southern and western sides of the island. Rodman's Hollow is a 230-acre (93 ha) glacial outwash basin, near the southern shore of the island. The hollow has several walking trails. Horseback rides through Rodman's Hollow are also offered.
The island is connected year-round by a ferry to Point Judith, and in summer to New London, Connecticut; 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. Another high-speed ferry from New London, Connecticut to Block Island takes an hour and a half. During the summer season, travelers wishing to bring their cars usually have to book reservations months in advance. New England Airlines offers regularly scheduled 12-minute flights to Block Island State Airport from Westerly, Rhode Island.