Best Rhode Island Beaches
Rhode Island is the smallest state of the Union, at a mere 48 miles long by 37 miles wide, and tends to be overlooked as a destination, even if it is home to more than twenty percent of the nation’s historical landmarks.
Today, although still heavily industrialized, the state’s principal destinations are its two original ports: well-heeled Newport, the yachting capital of the world, with good beaches and outrageously extravagant mansions, and the colonial college town of Providence.
Block Island, about thirty miles south of Newport, has a popular state beach, while the rest of Rhode Island is largely made up of sleepy small towns and fishing ports.
Despite its size, Rhode Island has 400 miles of scenic coastline and more than 100 public and private beaches.
The more shielded beaches of Narragansett Bay feature ‘breakwater’ barrier protection and may be more suitable for novice swimmers, as well as featuring a more varied, fluctuating surf.
Of course, the state has numerous ocean beaches with thundering surf and miles of stunning vistas. Doze off listening to the waves, take time to build an amazing sandcastle, stroll the sun-speckled sand beachcombing for shells, or cast a fishing rod into the open water.
Rhode Island beaches:
There are beaches on Block Island to suit every taste.
Immediately south of the Old Harbor, past the breakwater, is the northern end of Pebbly Beach, a section informally known as Ballard’s Beach for the popular restaurant located there.
Crowded with sunbathers and swimmers, it is one of only two on the island with lifeguards. The surf is often rough. Drinks are served on your towel.
North of Old Harbor, beyond the Surf Hotel, starts the 3-mile-long (5km) Crescent Beach (a.k.a. Frederick J. Benson Town Beach or simply Town Beach).
The southern section, with a sandy bottom that stays shallow well out into the gentle surf, is known as Kid Beach because of its relative safety for children.
Farther along is the main part, a broad strand served by a pavilion with a snack bar, bathrooms, and showers ($1). Chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards can be rented. The surf is higher along here and rolls straight in; lifeguards are on duty.
Continuing north, and with a small parking lot reached by a dirt road off Corn Neck Road, is Scotch Beach. Consider this grown-up and R-rated, dominated by young summer workers and residents.
Still further north is Mansion Beach, with a dirt road of the same name leading in from Corn Neck Road. Somewhat more secluded, it is usually less crowded than the others.
On the west side of the island, running south from the jetty that marks the entrance to New Harbor, is Charlestown Beach. Uncrowded and relatively tranquil during the day, it draws anglers from dusk and into the night surfcasting for striped bass.
Continuing south on 1A from the Casey Farm, the pace quickens, at least from late spring to foliage season. After crossing the Narrow River Inlet, the road bends around toward Narragansett Pier.
Along here and several miles south to Port Judith and Jerusalem are some of the most desirable beaches in New England, with swaths of fine sand, relatively clean waters, and summer water temperatures that average about 70°F (21°C).
Narragansett Town Beach is about a mile of sandy beach. Located in town with a nice view of the old Narragansett Casino tower.
Popular with all age groups. Long rolling waves make this a perfect surfers’ beach. It’s the home beach for a number of regional competitions. Equipment and lessons are available nearby from a nationally known champion surfer.
After a few blocks, Route 1A makes a sharp right turn (west), but sticks to the shore, proceeding south on Ocean Road.
Straight ahead is the Towers, a massive stone structure that spans the road between cylindrical towers with conical roofs. It is all that remains of the Gilded Age Narragansett Casino, designed by McKim, Mead & White, but lost in a 1900 fire. In the seaward tower is the Narragansett tourist information office.
Thirty miles south of Providence, Newport stands at the southern tip of the largest island in Narragansett Bay, Aquidneck Island.
In the 1850s the town became fashionable again as a resort for wealthy Southern merchants, and very soon nouveau riche industrialists such as the Astors, Belmonts, and Vanderbilts were building “summer cottages” – better described as mansions – along the rocky coastline.
Today the town feeds off tourism; much of it caters to the tennis and yachting set, but there are as many people looking at – and envying – the wealth as enjoying it.
Though sanitized by the ugly new America’s Cup Avenue, which replaced the sea-salt rawness of the waterfront with bars and boutiques, the rough old port still rears its boozy head, with beer and R&B; clubs as evident as cocktails and cruises, making it an essential stop, especially during the summer festival season.
The indubitable attraction of Newport’s shoreline, with its many coves and gently sloping beaches, is slightly marred by the fact that many are strictly private.
Gooseberry Beach, on the southern edge of the island, is surrounded by grand houses and charges $1 admission.
The town beach, First (or Newport, or Easton’s) Beach, is at the east end of Memorial Boulevard. The second and Third beaches are further along the same route toward Middletown. The visitor center provides a guide to them all.