Entrance to Wickford Harbor in the Narragansett Bay.

7 Most Scenic Small Towns in Rhode Island

The smallest American State by total area and with a total population of just over 1 million inhabitants, what the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island may lack in size it compensates for with splendid natural beauty and fascinating history. A key component of the New England Region, Rhode Island’s welcoming and charming towns reflect the very best of this historic destination that joined the Union in 1790. From breathtaking Atlantic Ocean vistas to alluring communities dating to the 18th century, the scenic and unique towns in Rhode Island are perfect ways for the entire family to enjoy a holiday. So come see some of the best of New England through an exploration of these beautifully scenic and inviting Rhode Island towns!


The Community Playground, Jamestown, Rhode Island
The Community Playground, Jamestown, Rhode Island. By Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

One of Rhode Island’s oldest European settlements, Jamestown can trace its foundational history to the mid 1600s! Beautifully located on Conanicut Island (in Narragansett Bay), this historic place is indeed a most fascinating destination to discover where history and natural beauty come together. Including the small islands of Dutch and Gould, visitors to Jamestown will find a most charming community of just under 6,000 residents. Full of stunning ocean views and island breezes, guests will also never be short on historic attractions to experience. These include the Beavertail Lighthouse (1856), the Windmill Hill Historic District, Fort Getty (1901), the Conanicut Battery, and the Jamestown Archeological District, amongst many others. Add in a welcoming assortment of local businesses, restaurants, and shops, and the sights and sounds of Jamestown truly make it one of the most welcoming and scenic places in all of Rhode Island.

New Shoreham/Block Island

Aerial view of downtown New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Aerial view of downtown New Shoreham, Rhode Island

The town of New Shoreham can also trace its history to the mid 17th century, where today a modest population of just over 1,400 reside. Located on Block Island, New Shoreham is the State’s southernmost place and offers truly exquisite views of the Atlantic Ocean and loads of beautiful rolling green hills. A visual delight that all ages can marvel and appreciate, make sure not to miss a stop at the Mohegan Bluffs lookout or plan an afternoon at a most welcoming beach area. Full of great opportunities to go sailing, swimming, and sunbathing, New Shoreham and Block Island indeed never offers a dull moment. And with such inviting cultural events like the Fourth of July Parade and unique historic attractions like the Southeast Lighthouse (1875) and the Block Island Historical Society Museum, there is always something charming and fun to waiting to be discovered for the entire family.


The library and town hall in Warren, Rhode Island.
The library and town hall in Warren, Rhode Island.

Warren is located on the eastern banks of the same named river, where today just over 11,000 inhabitants reside. Settled by English colonists back in the 1680s, Warren remains a most peaceful and naturally beautiful town where guests can also discover fascinating stories of American history. Spend time at such attractions like the previously mentioned Warren River or the Kickemuit River, where one can even view such wildlife like deer, foxes, and varying bird species. Meanwhile for the historically inclined guest, Warren’s most charming Waterfront Historic District is a wonderful place to feel the sense of stepping back in time. Marvel at an assortment of well preserved landmarks and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which are included on the National Register of Historic Places. Add in a cute selection of local shops and restaurants, and Warren truly gives off a quintessential portrait of scenic and welcoming small town Americana.


The Port at Bristol, Rhode Island.
The Port at Bristol, Rhode Island.

The seat of the same named county, the town of Bristol was established in the 1680s and today this charming and fascinating historic centre is the home to just under 23,000 residents. A great place to directly discover American history, Bristol hosts several buildings and landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Mount Hope Farm (1745), the County Jail (1828), the Bristol Ferry Lighthouse (1855), and the inviting Waterfront Historic District, amongst several others. And when not learning about the past, visitors to Bristol will surely never find a shortage of beautiful natural surroundings to admire. From awesome Atlantic Ocean vistas to stunning public park areas like the Blithwold Gardens and Arboretum, there is always a breathtaking view to be had in this Rhode Island community. Add in fun opportunities for sailing, kayaking, swimming, and bike riding, and visiting Bristol will surely be something the entire family will want to repeat.


Beaches at Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Beaches at Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Narragansett is one of Rhode Island’s most popular summer hot spots, and guests from all across the State descend on the town for great outdoors fun. Indeed whether it is sailing, swimming, or sunbathing, Narragansett’s beautiful beach areas are perfect ways for all ages to enjoy a holiday. Located along a narrow strip of the Pettaquamscutt River, the historic Narragansett is also a great place to see a number of fascinating historic attractions. These include the Point Judith Lighthouse (1857) and the castle gate known as The Towers (1883), amongst others that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Meanwhile an afternoon at the Fishermen’s Memorial State Park is ideal for a calm and relaxing outing, while generally comfortably temperatures year round make Narragansett always in vogue.


Foster Public Library in Foster, Rhode Island.
Foster Public Library in Foster, Rhode Island. By John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Home to a modest population of just under 4,500 inhabitants, the charming small town of Foster is an ideal place for a scenic and inviting weekend retreat. Formally established in the 17th century, and just some 20 miles from the State capital of Providence, guests can expect to find a pretty natural ambience and alluring historic attractions. Visit the Clayville Historic District and admire such landmarks like the Captain George Dorrance House (1720) and the Mount Vernon Tavern (1761). These and other sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, truly do give one a sense of time travel and to the fledging years of the young United States. Meanwhile do not forget about such natural wonders like Killingly Pond or the very special Swamp Meadow Covered Bridge. Whether one walks or drives across, a very special set of photographic memories will be sure to follow.


Richmond Historical Society, Bell School, Richmond, Rhode Island.
Richmond Historical Society, Bell School, Richmond, Rhode Island.

Richmond is a short 35 mile drive from capital city of Providence, and it is an excellent choice for those in the capital region to enjoy a day trip or two. With a population of just over 8,000 residents, Richmond offers its inhabitants and visitors alike a peaceful natural atmosphere with plenty of American historic attraction. Spend time exploring the historic villages of Tug Hollow, Arcadia, Kenyon, Hillsdale, and Shannock, amongst others that really immerse one in the daily life of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Add in the splendid, forested framing of the area, and a most charming and rustic mood is definitely set. And as with any typical smaller town, a great assortment of local restaurants, businesses, shops, and galleries dot the landscape, making Richmond a truly wholesome place to appreciate small town USA. Indeed whether its strolling though the village historic districts, admiring the scenic woods, or greeting the friendly locals, Richmond is a wonderful Rhode Island experience.

Also known as the “Ocean State”, Rhode Island is a key feature of the America’s New England region. While its geographic and demographic size may be size, Rhode Island is definitely big in natural splendor and fascinating history, that make it an ideal place to vacation in. Through an exploration of some of the State’s small towns, one can discover not only awesome geographic beauty but charming snapshots of old America. From the island allure of New Shoreham to the historic sights of Bristol, these and other Rhode Island towns are truly treasures waiting to be experienced firsthand! So when travelling the American northeast, do not forget about Rhode Island and these wonderfully scenic and inviting small towns, that will definitely enrich any holiday for every age in the family.

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