A Step off Spring Street
It is no secret that Block Island offers a slower pace of life — there are no stoplights anywhere on the island and its untouched beaches and spectacular sunsets are a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Stepping off the ferry you are instantly submerged into the Old Harbor, filled with shops to pick up local must-haves and restaurants fit for a foodie. You can learn about island culture at the Historical Society, you can head straight for the beach, rent bicycles or mopeds at one of the rental shops, or take a taxi tour around the island.
But — what you don’t want to miss is just a few blocks up the hill from town off Spring Street. Tucked in across the road from the 1661 Inn is an oasis for kids and adults of all ages. You will first see the expansive gardens as you make your way up the dirt driveway, but something you might not expect to see is a pair of Bactrian camels, a pair of kangaroos, a zedonk or a troop of lemurs.
Exotic animals on Block Island? Yes, there sure are — and you can find them here. But that’s not all — there is a little community of businesses here including a full time fiber mill and shop, and a yoga, barre, and fitness studio — that call the grounds home.
The 1661 Animal Farm and Gardens
Run by Seth Draper, he took over the farm after his grandfather Justin Abrams passed away in 2016. Justin started collecting the animals years ago and took great joy in the fact that he introduced legions of visitors to his exotic menagerie — and Seth continues that vision today. Along with caring for the animals, Seth has focused on the gardens, which provide fresh vegetables for the 1661 Inn, The Narragansett Inn and The Oar, as well as fresh cut-flower arrangements (that are in each room of The 1661 Inn) and vegetables that are sold at the farm stand on the property. The creation of an aviary with exotic birds adds an element of tranquility just steps away from the yoga studio. Seth’s vision of these grounds is a labor of love and he hopes that it evokes “a place that inspires relaxation.”
Watch for pop-up shops — crafters, painters, photographers, jewelers and more — selling their hand-crafted items under a tent along side the animals.
North Light Fibers
You must pop into the NLF shop and mill. The shop has hand-knit and hand-woven garments and home décor, as well fun things for kids — felting kits of ocean dwellers, and crafting and knitting kits so one can make their own stuffed animal. The fiber mill is just up the hill where alpaca roam freely around the yard. Fall and spring knitting retreats are held here, bringing people from all over the country to the island in the shoulder seasons.
In an effort to get everyone involved in fiber crafts, the mill also offers classes every week during the summer:
Beginner knitting class: Monday 1 p.m.
Intermediate knitting class: By appointment.
Beginner crochet class: Wednesday 3 p.m.
Needle felting class: Monday and Friday 10 a.m.
The goal at this micro yarn mill is to make world-class handcrafted artisanal yarns from exotic fibers and demonstrate that year-round manufacturing can work in a highly seasonal location like Block Island. The yarn is 100 percent made on Block Island – from washing and dying to carding, spinning and finishing. The store is open seven days a week from approximately 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (4 p.m. on Sunday) with mill tours offered at 10 a.m. on weekdays. More information is available at northlightfibers.com or call (401)466-2050.
Danielle Duffy has been a resident of Block Island since 1992 and is the founder and director of Elevation Studio established in 2005. After many location moves around the island, she now has a permanent studio space on the grounds of The 1661 Farm and Gardens that she has long desired. She creatively and classically teaches both pilates and yoga, and believes a blend of both is a beautiful and essential combination to one's life, at any level. Core strength, flexibility, fun, and mindfulness are all elements present in her teaching. With a full schedule of classes offered, the newest class is Alpaca and Goat Yoga on Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m. — a wildly trending class, mingling with the animals on the farm while doing yoga. Donkeys and llamas, alpaca and others may peer inside the studio to watch you in your happy place. Elevation Studio’s full class schedule can be found at elevationbi.com. Check it out!