View of The Towers, a historic landmark in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

6 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Rhode Island

As the smallest state in the United States by area, Rhode Island may seem like one big, bayside city. While many people flock to the capital of Providence, it is far from the only Rhode Island community with amazing attractions. Spilling from the central hub are tiny drops of fun and serenity that are worth a dip. From a whole town of beaches to a nest of nature preserves to an inland wonderland, these Rhode Island retreats should not be skipped during your next New England vacation.


View of buildings along a street in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Vibrant buildings and businesses along a street in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Editorial credit: George Wirt /

With 14,500 residents as of the 2020 Census, Narragansett would not be considered a small town in many other states. But, in Rhode Island, this town is one of the smallest. Nestled between Point Judith Pond and Narragansett Bay, Narragansett is brimming with beaches. For example, Narragansett Town Beach is a 19-acre eastern shore oasis with swimming, surfing, sunbathing, snacking, and views of The Towers, the regal remnant of a Medieval-style casino that burned down in 1900. A few miles south is Scarborough State Beach, which occupies 60 acres and features two multi-use units. Last but not least for beachgoers, Roger Wheeler State Beach brings them near the southern tip of town, which is marked by the historic Point Judith Lighthouse. Those only here for a short trip can knock off four beaches worth of sand at the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge, a 550-acre preserve of marshes, forests, and birds along the picturesque Pettaquamscutt River.


Aerial view of Warren, Rhode Island.
Aerial view of the town of Warren in Rhode Island.

Home to over 11,000 people, Warren is another sizeable town that is small by Rhode Island standards. It sits deep in Narragansett Bay but attracts drivers and sailors with a scenic waterfront comprised of the Warren Boat Yard, Warren Town Beach, and eateries like The Wharf, Trafford Restaurant, and The Guild. After sampling Warren's famous seafood, visitors can tour its famous historic district. Gorgeous heritage haunts include the Warren Town Hall (c. 1900), George Hail Library (c. 1888), First United Methodist Church (c. 1844), and yet another castle-like Rhode Island monument: the Historic Warren Armory, which was built in 1842 to store cannons. Though short on space, Warren is big on nature since it boasts the 66-acre Audubon Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge and neighbors the Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium.


View of the coastline in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
View of the expansive coastline of Charlestown, Rhode Island.

A classically compact community of about 8,000 people, Charlestown straddles Rhode Island’s western coast and has most of the expected seaside attractions. Charlestown Beach offers swimming, sailing, surfing, sunbathing, beachcombing, and sightseeing. The Breachway Grill is ideal for eating and drinking, and the Charlestown Seafood Festival boasts seasonal partying. However, Charlestown also claims its fair share of unexpected attractions. One of them is the Fantastic Umbrella Factory, an international bazaar that has been operating since 1968, perfect for finding a quirky souvenir or keepsake. Or, one can opt for the Frosty Drew Observatory & Sky Theatre, a domed stargazing spot in Ninigret Park called "Southern New England's gateway to the Milky Way."

Charlestown has several outdoor areas for nature enthusiasts, including Burlingame State Park, the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, and the Indian Cedar Swamp Management Area. Moreover, the town owns six open space properties for the "scenic enjoyment of residents": Tucker Woods Preserve, Charlestown Moraine Preserve, South Farm Preserve, Schoolhouse Pond Preserve, Richard Trails Preserve, and Patricia Sprague Forest Preserve. With so much outdoor space to enjoy, there is no shortage of activities in Charlestown.


People on a beach in Jamestown, Rhode Island.
People sunbathing, swimming, and playing on a beach in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Editorial credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Jamestown may not have the same quantity of preserves as Charlestown, but it does have the quality via Fort Wetherill State Park. This 61.5-acre former military site overlooks Narragansett Bay from 100-foot granite cliffs and offers hiking, mountain biking, birding, saltwater fishing, picnicking, scuba diving, and, of course, sightseeing. After the park, most tourists head to downtown Jamestown to see the Jamestown Arts Center, The Wicked Whisk ice cream shop, slice of heaven cafe, and the Jamestown Newport Ferry. No matter what one does with their time in Jamestown, the views are scenic as this 5,600ish-person town spans three islands, two of which are uninhabited. On said secluded isles, one can find abandoned buildings, untamed nature, and the Dutch Island Lighthouse, a lone preserved beacon.


The Hope Dam near Scituate, Rhode Island.
The scenic Hope Dam near Scituate, Rhode Island. By Rhododendrites - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Situate yourself in Scituate, a town with just over 10,000 people that sits many miles from the ocean. Yes, inland Rhode Island can also be idyllic. Instead of a bay, Scituate has Scituate Reservoir, the state's largest inland body of water. As Rhode Island’s main source of drinking water, the reservoir is off-limits for recreation, but visitors can still get amazing views of certain features, especially Ponaganset Falls. Meanwhile, tourists looking to raise their heart rate can do so at numerous neighboring parks, such as the Audubon George Parker Woodland Wildlife Refuge, Ken Weber Conservation Area, and Snake Den State Park. After the fun, they can relax in Scituate proper with a coffee at Cold Brook Cafe, a beer at The Village Tavern, or a slice at Scituate Famous Pizza. Those who want to pack everything in one day can combine rest and recreation at the Scituate Art Festival, a legendary autumn event that attracts over 100,000 visitors.

Little Compton

Aerial view of a large campground along the coast in Little Compton, Rhode Island.
Aerial view of a large campground along the coast in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

A truly little town, Little Compton has about 3,600 residents and is one of the smallest communities in the state. But it is first on many people's lists of the best towns in the state. Why? Little Compton is a microcosm of Rhode Island charm. It has a beach: South Shore Beach. It has a preserve: Simmons Mill Management Area. It has a lighthouse: Sakonnet Point Lighthouse. It has a marina: Sakonnet Point Marina. It has a historic haunt: Little Compton Historical Society. And it even has a reservoir: Watson Reservoir.

While all these attractions will make any trip enjoyable, Little Compton distinguishes itself from other communities with Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard, which produces award-winning Rhode Island wine, and the Wilbour Woods, a storybook-esque forest in the middle of town. Meanwhile, for a unique experience, one can visit the Rhode Island Red Monument, which commemorates the creation of the Rhode Island Red chicken in the mid-19th century.

Rhode Island is a tiny state with one big city surrounding a bay. As such, it might appear that Rhode Island has little room for rural retreats, but Narragansett, Warren, Charlestown, Jamestown, Scituate, and Little Compton prove otherwise. Those six small towns have some of New England's most idyllic attractions. With endless coastal activities and tons of historical landmarks, visitors should hit the road to explore ravishing rural Rhode Island.

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