Bounded by the mighty Atlantic in the south via Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound, and the adjoining US States of Massachusetts and Connecticut to the east, north, and west respectively, Rhode Island is one of the southernmost states in the Northeast’s New England region. In addition to being one of the original Thirteen Colonies, the Ocean State is renowned for its 384-mile-long picturesque shoreline, marvelous oceanfront beaches, rich colonial heritage, and fascinating attractions.
Although populous metropolises like Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, are top choices of tourists and Rhody locals alike, Rhode Island is filled with countless small communities that are often considered quite underrated. So, whenever you get an opportunity to visit the Ocean State for a short trip or a long vacation, do not forget to check out these so-called underrated towns.
Often called “America’s most patriotic town,” this seat of government of Eastern Rhode Island’s Bristol County occupies a peninsula bounded by Mount Hope Bay on the east and Narragansett Bay on the west, around 13 miles southeast of Providence. Bristol is acclaimed for hosting the nation’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebrations, drawing over 20,000 spectators worldwide for a three-hour-long event, where the town is decorated in red, white, and blue colors, with a fly-over by the local National Guard at the day's end.
Bristol’s principal points of interest include the Blithewold Mansion & Arboretum, Linden Place Mansion, Bristol Art Museum, Herreshoff Marine Museum, Joseph Reynolds House, Colt State Park, Bristol Ferry Lighthouse, East Bay Bike Path, and Bristol State House. Besides the yearly Independence Day festivities, the town hosts the Bristol Harbor Festival, Harvest Festival, Bristol Burger Bash & Bluegrass, Grand Illumination of Hope Street, and Raptor Weekend at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Nature Center and Aquarium.
Named in honor of King Charles II, Charlestown, situated in southwest Rhode Island’s Washington County, is bordered by other towns such as Westerly to the west, Hopkinton to the northwest, South Kingstown to the east, and Richmond to the north. An ideal destination for relaxation, some of the town’s outstanding beaches are East Beach, Blue Shutters Beach, and Charlestown Beach.
Charlestown’s prominent attractions include the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, Fantastic Umbrella Factory, the General Stanton Inn – one of the country’s oldest running inns, Frosty Drew Observatory & Science Center, the Charlestown Historical Society Archive/Museum & 1838 Schoolhouse, Charlestown Naval Airfield Memorial, Kimball Wildlife Refuge, Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve, and Cross Mills Public Library. Moreover, the town hosts a variety of special festivals like the Charlestown Seafood Festival, Rhythm & Roots Festival, Charlestown Memorial Day Parade, and Charlestown Holiday Ramble.
Ocean State’s 8tholdest town and administrative center of Kent County, East Greenwich is a wealthy municipality on the western banks of the Narragansett Bay. This coastal town is reputed for housing a large number of National Register-listed landmark properties in varied architectural styles, apart from numerous exclusive retail outlets, art galleries, bars, clubs, and diners occupying the waterfront.
Varnum House Museum, New England Wireless & Steam Museum, Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, and Greenwich Odeum are some of East Greenwich’s eye-catching attractions. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy ample recreational activities and incredible views of the encircling bay at the Goddard Memorial State Park, whereas nature lovers can spend relaxing time at the Frenchtown Park and Frye Nature Preserve.
Home to 5,559 residents as per the latest US Census, this Newport County town is situated completely on Conanicut Island – Narragansett Bay’s second biggest island. The town charms travelers with its untarnished heritage buildings, large parks, untouched beaches, and ferry rides to Newport. The umpteen lighthouses, such as the Poplar Point Lighthouse, Castle Hill Lighthouse, Plum Island Lighthouse, Beavertail Lighthouse, Goat Island Light, Dutch Island Lighthouse, and Conanicut Island Lighthouse that fringe the town are waiting to be discovered.
Those who wish to have an authentic Jamestown experience must take a stroll through Narragansett Avenue to peruse the innumerable retail stores and eateries. The winding trails of Fort Wetherill State Park and Beavertail State Park attract adventurists to witness the WWII facilities, aside from observing the state’s rich flora and fauna at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary and Marsh Meadows Wildlife Preserve. Jamestown’s other interesting sites include the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, Clancy Designs glass studio, Village Hearth Bakery & Café, Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, and Fort Getty Park.
A tranquil coastal retreat in Rhode Island’s Newport County, Little Compton is bordered by Tiverton in the north, Westport, Massachusetts in the east, the Sakonnet River in the west, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south. The town’s immaculate Goosewing and South Shore beaches, abundant stonewalls, and cool maritime climate have made it an outstanding tourist destination.
Originally settled by the Sakonnet Indians and later by Europeans, Little Compton has several notable sites like Wilbor House (currently headquarters of the Little Compton Historical Society), Friends Meeting House & Cemetery, Sakonnet Point Lighthouse, William Whalley Homestead, Rhode Island Red Chicken Monument, Young Family Farm, Stone House Inn, and the adjacent Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard. Also located in Little Compton is the "Town Common" (one of the only ones in the state) which acts both as a civic and religious center.
Narragansett, an enchanting waterfront community sits on a narrow strip of land that stretches along the eastern shores of the Pettaquamscutt River to the shores of the Narragansett Bay. This charming Washington County town is a favorite summer destination for beachgoers and adventure enthusiasts to discover its clean sandy beaches, warm waters, and welcoming atmosphere.
Named after the Indigenous Narragansett tribes who formerly resided in the area, the town features many significant landmarks such as The Towers spanning Ocean Drive, Narragansett Baptist Church, Gladstone Springhouse & Bottling Plant, and Point Judith Lighthouse. Tourists must survey the town's widely noted sandy beaches like the Narragansett Town Beach, Roger Wheeler State Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and Salty Brine State Beach. Hike the different trails at the Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, and indulge in a variety of mouthwatering seafood and cocktails at the Coast Guard House Restaurant.
Christened after its namesake English town, this teeny seaside village, which serves as the seat of Rhode Island’s North Kingstown town, is situated on the western side of Narragansett Bay, around one of the most well-protected natural harbors of the Eastern Seaboard. Walk down the tree-lined streets and wonder at the nation’s biggest collection of carefully maintained Colonial and Federal period structures, churches, small family-owned shops, boutiques, home décor stores, antique stores, art galleries, and excellent restaurants offering delicious seafood.
When visiting Wickford, vacationers should engage in a variety of activities such as a historical walking tour to gain knowledge about the village’s bygone days, a seal tour by Fish n Tales Adventures, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride and engage in kayaking and paddle boarding activities. Furthermore, thousands of distinguished artists flock to Wickford each July to attend the annual Wickford Art Festival hosted by the Wickford Art Association.
Coterminous with Block Island, a 9.73 sq mi island in the Outer Lands archipelago approx. 9 miles south of mainland Rhode Island, New Shoreham is part of the state’s Washington County. Being the southernmost town of the county as well as the state, this remarkable four-season island community is esteemed for its unparalleled ocean views from towering cliffs, more than 17 miles of sandy beaches, over 30 miles of walking trails, and 300 freshwater ponds.
When in New Shoreham, a tour of Mohegan Bluffs, Southeast Lighthouse, 1661 Farm & Gardens, Spring Street Gallery, Clay Head Nature Trail, North Lighthouse, Sacred Labyrinth, Mansion Beach, and Block Island National Wildlife Refuge should not be missed.
This Newport County town in Eastern Rhode Island is located along Mount Hope Bay and Sakonnet River, near the state boundary with Massachusetts. Perfectly blending cultural pleasures with awe-inspiring natural splendor, Tiverton is home to locally-owned boutiques, retail stores, art galleries, and dozens of restaurants serving lip-smacking dishes.
The Tiverton Four Corners Historic District, with its uncountable landmark structures dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Thomas Bennett Homestead in the Osborn-Bennett Historic District, Fort Barton Site & Woods, First Baptist Church of Tiverton, and Cook-Bateman Farm are some of the town’s most popular attractions. For partaking in windsurfing and kayaking activities, outdoorsy types should head straight to Fogland Beach, and to unwind amidst the greens, a visit to the Weetamoo Woods & Pardon Gray Preserve is a must.
Newport County’s administrative center, this waterside town rests along Narragansett Bay, roughly 33 miles southeast of Providence and 74 miles south of Boston, Massachusetts. A famed New England summer resort, the town is widely known for its stunning Gilded Age mansions that were formerly summer residences of wealthy American families and are at present open for the public as museums.
Additionally, Newport houses the Newport Historic District which contains one of the biggest concentrations of colonial houses in the country, the Ocean Drive Historic District, Redwood Library & Athenaeum, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Touro Synagogue, Fort Adams, Save the Bay Exploration Center & Aquarium, Sailing Museum, White Horse Tavern, Cliff Walk and abundant public recreation areas like Easton’s Beach, Touro Park, Brenton Point State Park, and King Park. Merrymakers get to partake in the town’s many annual festivals, such as the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Flower Show, Newport Classical, and Newport Folk Festival.
Considered one of the prime shoreline destinations of Southern New England, Westerly is set in the extreme southwestern corner of the state along the Pawcatuck River in Washington County. This peaceful community welcomes vacationers to explore its spotless beaches like Weekapaug Beach, Watch Hill Beach, East Beach, Misquamicut State Beach, and Westerly Town Beach. A plethora of retail outlets, cafes, breweries, boutiques, and restaurants fill the town’s lively downtown, aside from various noteworthy structures like the Flying Horse Carousel, Weekapaug Inn, Babcock Smith House, Lewis-Card-Perry House, and Westerly Armory.
Rest for the night at the grand Ocean House atop the high bluffs of Watch Hill, after visiting the town’s other appealing sites like the Granite Theatre, Napatree Point Conservation Area, Wilcox Park, Watch Hill Lighthouse, and Atlantic Beach Park. Multiple events such as the Pawcatuck River Duck Race, Shakespeare in the Park & Summer Pops, Columbus Day parade, Virtu Art Festival, and Memorial Day parade are held annually.
From Narragansett’s historical landmarks to the untarnished beaches of Westerly, each town in the nation’s smallest and 7th-least populous state exudes a charm that captivates holidayers worldwide. Boasting mind-boggling natural landscapes, multiple recreations, cozy eateries serving scrumptious seafood, and lively yearly celebrations, these adorable Ocean State towns are worth a visit for vacationers who wish to escape far away from the hustle and bustle of the state’s other congested locales.