Providence and Coastal Rhode Island
Welcome to the town known by many names — The Creative Capital, The Renaissance City, The Divine City — Providence, Rhode Island, has earned them all and could probably claim a few more to boot. This exciting and historic city has seen an incredible revitalization in the last decade or two, becoming a foodie capital largely boosted by its long tradition of family-owned Italian ristorantes. But there is so much more here to experience from music and culture to the arts and a vibrant nightlife. It’s become just as much of an urban New England destination as Boston that visitors can see for themselves from the moment they arrive.
The population of Providence stands at just about 180,000 residents. Besides being a historical treasure trove of sites, museums, and parks, neighborhoods themselves beckon tourists with their own individual charms. Start at Downtown Providence, then be sure to check out the Italian restaurants in historic Federal Hill, the artsy and trendy College Hill area that hosts both Ivy League school Brown University and the famous Rhode Island School of Design (aka RISD), the shopping and restaurant culture in the West End, and the RiverWalk where one can stroll at the water’s edge for the scenery while checking out historic landmarks. Providence is approaching its 400th anniversary in 2036.
Lovers of all things nautical will feel right at home in the lovely town of Barrington, Rhode Island, sitting on the eastern shores of Narragansett Bay. This is a place where the waters literally surround one on all sides, defining the local culture and making its mark on its many traditions. It’s a laid-back place that easily blends modern pursuits with a healthy preservation of its fascinating history. Placid and relaxing, there’s so much to do at the same time.
Settled by colonists in 1717, the small town of just over 16,000 residents packs a lot of points of interest and fantastic natural spaces into its compact size. History buffs and lovers of postcard-perfect scenes should check out spots like the Nayatt Point Lighthouse (built in 1856), the 19th-century house of worship that is the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and the Barrington Civic Center Historic District. For those seeking outdoor leisure time, try swimming at Barrington Beach, two-wheeling it down the East Bay Bike Path or taking a lovely hike along the Osamequin Nature Trails and Bird Sanctuary. The town also boasts a fun local foodie culture as well as golfing and even theater.
Ready to discover what many call “the best kept secret in Rhode Island?” Then welcome to the lovely town of Charlestown. Dominated by the sea that surrounds it on almost all sides, this quaint corner of the Ocean State is home to some charming tucked-away beaches and a seafaring culture that dates back to the 18th century. Just a little bit off the beaten path, those who uncover the easygoing attitude of this lovely spot will enjoy excellent fresh seafood, rustic tavern-style drinking holes and an unforgettable seaside experience.
With about 8,000 people calling Charlestown home, this isn’t exactly a place full of hustle and bustle. Folks take their time doing things here as the cares of the world seem to melt away in the distance. Shopping is a lot of fun with specialty boutiques and rustic stores offering up everything from antiques to novelty souvenirs. Calendar watchers should keep an eye out for incredible events like the Charlestown Seafood Festival and the Ocean State Reggae Festival. Beaches to seek out include Blue Shutters Public Beach, Charlestown State Breachway and Ninigret State Beach. The Frosty Drew Observatory offers astronomical thrills while the Vin Gormley Trail is eight miles of simple hiking through lovely scenery.
Starting at its northeastern tip at Greenwich Cove, the municipality of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, has a history stretching back to its founding way back in 1677. So it’s no wonder that along with its many cultural and natural attractions, this is a place filled with historical points of interest that recall and preserve centuries of tradition. But it’s also something of a unique shopping destination with jewelers, specialty boutiques and home goods dealers to be found. Foodies can scrounge up everything from loads of deli food and pizza slices to upscale Italian and American fare.
With a population just north of about 13,000 people, East Greenwich packs in a whole lot of interesting things to do. Among the wealthier areas of Rhode Island, one can expect to discover a lot of fancy activities among the more rustic and natural settings. Start at the waterfront area of East Greenwich Marina with its mix of fun restaurants and lovely views of East Greenwich Cove. History buffs will have much to see including the East Greenwich Historic District, the Kent County Courthouse and the Windmill Cottage, once the home of famed American historian George Washington Green. And nature lovers should make sure to take a leisurely hike through the Goddard Memorial State Park.
When folks speak of summer swells, one might wonder if they aren’t talking about the way the population doubles in Narragansett, Rhode Island, during the summer months. This is a place simply loaded with incredible beaches and campgrounds. Straddling Narragansett Bay all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, culinary fans will be just as happy as swimmers with amazing eateries serving everything up from chowder to artisan ice cream. Lovely for a stroll through historic sights, lazing on the surf and sand or just curiosity shopping at the fun stores in town, any season of the year is a good time to visit.
While the town itself has about 16,000 year-round residents, the warm weather brings the population of Narragansett up to about 30,000 from June through August. Beaches galore rule here including Narragansett, Salty Brine and Roger Wheeler State Beaches. Getting out on the water is easy with everything from Jet Ski rentals to charter fishing available. Regardless of the season, historical landmarks worth visiting here include the Towers Historic District (including the eponymous towers that date back to 1833), the old Coast Guard House and the Narragansett Baptist Church. Those looking for postcard-perfect seaside scenery are encouraged to visit the Point Judith Lighthouse.
Poking out into the Atlantic Ocean like a finger testing the water is the thin peninsula town known as Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Long considered a beachfront getaway for the rich and famous, everybody from Groucho Marx to Conan O’Brien has made their home here at some point in their lives. And why not? There are less than 200 permanent residents here, giving the picturesque destination a throwback rural feel that soothes the soul, harkening to simpler times. Despite this, visitors flock in droves, attracted not only by the surf but also the shopping and fun activities found here.
With a history dating back to the 18th century, the locals are known for their affluence and the amazing Victorian-style mansions charmingly referred to as “cottages.” The exclusivity in the residential areas is in contrast to the public spaces where tourists can enjoy a day at the beach, fishing on a charter boat or just strolling around to enjoy the local scenery. Points of interest to seek out include the 1876 children’s favorite Flying Horse Carousel (adults also welcome!), the scenic Watch Hill Lighthouse, the lovely oceanfront stretch of Napatree Point and the monument to Narragansett Indian sachem Ninigret, also known as the “Guardian of Watch Hill.”