The beacon was first lit in the tower of the North Light in 1868. Shipwrecks were common then, and Block Island presented a dangerous obstacle along the busy East Coast shipping lanes. Today the impressive granite lighthouse is also a beacon to island tourists. It hosts a visitor’s center and is surrounded by an important nature preserve.
The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge includes 134 acres of dunes, flora, fauna, and a beautiful, sandy coastline. The North Light Interpretive Center is located inside the lighthouse and features wildlife photos and marine displays.
Hiking to the North Light
A trip to the North Light is well worth the effort. The ¾-mile walk along the beach to Sandy Point takes about 30 minutes. Start at Settler’s Rock, at the end of Corn Neck Road, where there is a small parking lot. Tip: it is easier to walk close to the water, where the sand is more firmly packed.
Allow plenty of time for a visit to Sandy Point. The dunes and beaches near the North Light are a haven for gulls and shorebirds. You can walk the sandy trails in the refuge or sit awhile and enjoy the sun, birds, waves, salt air, and views galore.
Inside the lighthouse, you will be welcomed to the North Light Interpretive Center by knowledgeable staff who gladly explain the exhibits.
Admission is reasonably priced at $3 for everyone over 12 years of age.
Artifacts and information on lighthouse-keeping and lifesaving are here, as well as an exhibit on the sinking of the steamship Larchmont on a bitterly cold night in February of 1907. Visitors also learn about the antique Fresnel lens, which was returned to the tower of the North Light and relit in 2010.
Exhibits about the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge present photos and information on the wildlife here. Although the tower is not open to the public, photos showing panoramic views from the tower are on display.
There is a public restroom and a shop that carries t-shirts, pins, and ornaments found only at the lighthouse. Bottled water is available for thirsty hikers.
The North Light is open to visitors July 1 through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. After July 4, Thursdays through Mondays. After Labor Day, the lighthouse is open Saturday and Sunday only, and on Columbus Day, the last day of visitation for the season. If you are at Settler’s Rock and unsure whether the lighthouse is open, look for the American flag at Sandy Point as an indicator. The National Wildlife Refuge and the light’s exterior can be enjoyed at any time, up close or from a distance.
If you are unable to walk that distance, transport can be arranged 24 hours in advance: call the police dispatcher at 401/466-3220.
(Passengers must be able to get into the vehicle unassisted.)