The nickname “The Ocean State” is appropriate for Rhode Island, a small state surrounded by water (40 miles of coastline, or 384 miles according to the NOAA). Despite its small size, numerous top beach towns will capture your heart with their scenery, beaches, and cultures.
Rhode Island has many public seashores, but some towns only open their sands to residents and overnight guests. This may disappoint some visitors, but it’s a considerable benefit for locals who live along the coast. Other towns might charge for parking, especially during the peak summer season. Before going on vacation to a seaside town, ensure that the beach you want to visit is open to everyone.
Here are the top beach towns in Rhode Island to live and visit, in no particular order:
Little Compton, RI
Little Compton is a lovely place to go away to the coast since it has two gorgeous public beaches and a laid-back vibe. After a day by the ocean, you can go to one of the many art exhibitions in the area or stop by Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, which has won many awards.
The English Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony founded Little Compton in 1682, and it was the first permanent European settlement in New England. It’s a vibrant neighborhood with 3,616 permanent residents (as of the 2020 Census).
The area has a surf store, hiking paths, a lighthouse, and a school. Because Little Compton was designed to accommodate a limited number of visitors, the only lodging available in town is vacation rentals.
There are seasonal lifeguards and restrooms at South Shore, but there is no food or drink vendors or free parking. Goosewing Beach is one of the finest in Rhode Island, and it can be reached by walking south down the shore for about half a mile from South Shore Beach. Goosewing is also a nature preserve that protects a coastal pond and barrier beach and is home to a broad range of flora and fauna.
Other than these two public sands, many other of Little Compton’s beaches are private and restricted to owners and guests of vacation rentals.
If you’re searching for a coastal getaway in Rhode Island that is modest in size but huge in charm, check out Bristol. This ancient deep water sea port boasts a terrific town center, spectacular picturesque strolling pathways, and a great town beach.
The Tunxis Native American tribe used to live in the area that is now Bristol. However, according to the 2020 Census, there are about 60,905 people living there. Bristol residents are patriotic to the core, so if your trip coincides with the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration, you can expect an entire weekend of parades and fireworks. The town’s adorable cafés and shops remain open all through the seasons.
This hidden New England treasure is home to Bristol Town Beach, located across from Colt State Park. The beach is quite pebbly, so bring your water shoes, but there are seasonal lifeguards, restaurants, tennis courts, and a toilet.
Westerly is in Washington County, just on the Connecticut border, and has a fantastic shore and a lively downtown. This town on the southwestern coast is recognized for its clean, sandy beaches and laid-back atmosphere, making it a great alternative to the state’s more touristy hotspots.
Westerly was established in 1661, and as of the 2020 Census, it’s home to an estimated 23,359 people. Beautiful beaches, a quaint center with shops and restaurants, a waterfront promenade, and fun events for the whole family can all be found in this charming town.
The environment is excellent for families and people who want a quieter seaside village. Taylor Swift bought a vacation home in the exclusive neighborhood of Watch Hill, so some famous people are also interested in the area.
Misquamicut State Beach, Wuskenau Beach, Watch Hill Beach, and Atlantic Beach Park are just a few of the many beautiful and popular public beaches nearby. Sailing, fishing, and surfing are just a few water-based pursuits available, and the town also has a variety of stores and playgrounds. Atlantic Beach Park, for example, has its own carousel, arcade, and entertaining summer activities, but the other parks all have their own unique attractions.
Two of Newport’s most defining characteristics are stunning ocean vistas and sandy beaches. The city is about 45 minutes south of Providence, which makes it a great place to spend the weekend or live permanently if you want peace and quiet.
Since its founding in 1639, Newport has seen a lot of significant events, including the American Revolution. William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in this now 25,163-person town (2020 Census).
Despite its reputation as a beach town, Newport has much more to offer its guests and locals than just its abundance of sandy shoreline. Some of the most popular things to do in Newport include checking out the Gilded Age mansions, the Cliff Walk, hiking through Fort Adams State Park, and eating at one of the city’s excellent eateries.
Popular beaches like Easton’s Beach (First Beach) provide a soft sandy shoreline, restaurants, calm surf, toilets, lifeguards, a carousel, and an aquarium, among other amenities. From this beach, you can be downtown in a few minutes. The Breton Point State Park beach is well-known as a fantastic location for kite flying. Surfers and windsurfers may be seen on Ocean Drive’s shores at any time of the year.
In many ways, Narragansett represents the quintessential New England seaside resort. It has some of the longest and most beautiful scenic drives in the state and some of the most visited beaches.
The two castle-like towers in this picturesque fishing community were opened as a casino in the 19th century and continue to fascinate visitors today. At the time of the next census in 2020, the population was 14,532, but it more than doubles to almost 34,000 when tourists arrive. Narragansett is known for its tight-knit community and the traditional beach vibe that attracts both locals and visitors.
The town is home to more than just beautiful buildings, however. Narragansett Town Beach, Roger Wheeler, and Scarborough state beaches are also available for sunbathing. Visitors go to Narragansett Town Beach all year long because it has easy parking, places to buy food and drinks, places to change, seasonal lifeguards, beautiful sand, and amazing views of the Towers.
The waves at this beach are also world-class. If you don’t have a surfboard, go to Narragansett Surf & Skate Shop to rent one.
The tranquil atmosphere of Charlestown belies its modest size. With a population of 7,997 (2020 Census), this pleasant, laid-back, and charming hamlet can be located in Washington County.
The city of Charlestown was founded in 1738 and named after King Charles II. There’s a lot to see and do whether you’re in the region for a short weekend trip, home searching, or a more extended vacation from everyday life.
Spend some time at parks and wildlife centers, go window shopping, or peruse the crafts of local artisans. Take advantage of the excellent Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center for astronomy and the Ninigret National Animal Refuge for wildlife treks and natural trails.
Several gorgeous beaches in the Charleston area, including Blue Shutters Town Beach, feature soft sand, lifeguards, restrooms, and breathtaking views of Block Island Sound. The Charlestown Breachway also has these amenities and offers more room to spread out. The East Beach is also quaint with amenities but has minimal parking, so getting there early is recommended.
Jamestown is one of Rhode Island’s most historically significant places. It’s located in Newport County on the beautiful Conanicut Island. Jamestown is the origin of the Conanicut Sailing Around the World Competition, but it also provides many opportunities for those interested in land-based pursuits.
The town was founded in 1678 and was given its name in honor of James, Duke of York, and it played a pivotal part in the American Revolution. Beavertail Light and the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, both historic landmarks, are within easy reach of tourists.
Hike along the shore at Beavertail State Park or climb the lighthouse for breathtaking views of Narragansett Bay, then go shopping on Main Street and eat at one of the town’s numerous seafood restaurants. Jamestown is well-known as a prosperous and secure community that offers its 5,559 inhabitants plenty of high-end amenities (2020 Census).
One of the finest things to do in town is go to the beach after seeing the historical attractions. Both residents and visitors love Mackerel Cove, East Ferry Beach, and Sunset Beach for fun in the sun. Mackerel Cove Beach, also known as “Jamestown Beach”, is a prime spot to go swimming because of its gentle waves and soft sand. Although, only Jamestown locals are allowed at this beach between the months of June and September.
New Shoreham, RI
New Shoreham is one of the best places to go for a relaxing vacation by the water. In addition to being the smallest municipality in Rhode Island, the town is also the sole settlement on Block Island, a 700-acre island located approximately 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.
This place got its name in honor of the English town of Shoreham, Kent. The 2020 Census estimates a population of 1,034, making this a nice place to retire, raise a family, or spend a week in the summer.
New Shoreham is devoid of chain retailers, making it a haven for one-of-a-kind eateries, boutiques, and galleries. There are beautiful picture opportunities in every direction, thanks to the island’s two lighthouses and the natural beauty surrounding them.
There are several fantastic local beaches, and they all have something unique to offer. Ballard’s Beach has a tiki bar and is the place to go if you’re looking for a party, while Baby Beach is great for families. Get yourself to West Beach, where you may sift through the sand for sea glass. Mohegan Bluffs is the place to go if you want to witness some of the Atlantic’s most breathtaking scenery.
Middletown is well situated on Aquidneck Island between Newport and Portsmouth. It’s got a beautiful coastline and a natural reserve of its own. Explore Middletown’s rich history, natural wonders, gorgeous landscape, pristine beaches, and delicious seafood without dealing with the crowds of hipster vacationers.
There were 17,075 people living there as of the year 2020 census. Modern life’s conveniences may be found in this charming seaside community.
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for nature walks and bird viewing. Sweet Berry Farm is well-known for its pick-your-own fruits and for having one of the most fantastic pumpkin patches in the state, which can be found in Middletown. Before traveling into town for a nice seafood supper, locals and tourists like checking out what’s on tap at the local vineyard.
Sachuest Beach (Second Beach) and Third Beach are two of the most popular beaches in Rhode Island, and both are located in Middletown. Both locations will likely charge a fee for parking. Both beaches are suitable for swimming and have facilities and lifeguards, with Second Beach offering more.
Warren is a one-of-a-kind place, with its beaches and its sprawling farms. Visit the museums, art galleries, theaters, and restaurants, or ride on the beautiful East Bay Bike Path that connects Providence to Bristol.
Warren’s active waterfront is one of the oldest in New England, with more than 16 miles of coastline, various marine-based enterprises, and a vibrant downtown. Bicyclists and foodies will love Warren’s downtown, which is also friendly to the environment.
A total of 11,147 people called this municipality home as of the upcoming 2020 census. The compact central business district and its lively community have set an eco-friendly standard for healthy lifestyles, which makes life quite enjoyable.
Warren Town Beach is located next to Burr’s Hill Park and has a playground, shallow water, and plenty of room for even the most prominent family gatherings due to the park’s proximity. Locals enjoy activities such as paddle boarding, picnicking on the grass, and strolls along the lake. Keep in mind that nonresidents are often charged for parking.
The Ocean State is a wonderful place to get some beach time. Be sure to include one or more of these best beach towns on your next itinerary through Rhode Island.