Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA.

7 Picturesque Small Towns in Rhode Island for a Weekend Retreat

Nicknamed "The Ocean State"  for its easy access to the vast Atlantic blue, Rhode Island is one of those unexpected destinations for an unforgettable experience. Usually looked over for being the smallest state by area, many colonial buildings, landmarks, and unique locations ensure that this tiny state has much to do, see, and enjoy. But perhaps most importantly, The Ocean State is riddled with beautiful small towns that act as its lifeblood. Here are seven picturesque small towns in Rhode Island, great for a vacation or even a weekend retreat.


The Community Playground, situated on a half-acre site on North Road adjacent to the Philomenian Library, Jamestown, Rhode Island.

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

Resting on Conanicut Island, Jamestown's origins go back to before the founding of the country. While much has changed since its incorporation in 1678, what has not is its prime coastal beauty. With one-of-a-kind parks, restaurants, and landmarks, Jamestown itself may be the crowning jewel of Rhode Island, or at the very least, what other towns strive to be.

Beavertail State Park, for instance, showcases the New England coastline while housing a small forest, a historic lighthouse, and a museum. Although many visitors come to see and tour the Beavertail Lighthouse itself, the entire park sees plenty as it fills its role as a verdant green preserve right on the coast. To accompany the sights, Jamestown is also known for its legendary seafood. In this case, 1 Ferry Wharf has certainly stood out in a pool of already great coastal eateries.

With a fine selection of food and views, Jamestown is a great pick to both explore and relax in. As for its accommodations, the Club Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn gets a lot of mileage out of its scenery. 


Historic Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA.
Historic Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA. Editorial credit: Faina Gurevich /

A town of boats, museums, and gardens, Bristol is like if a dock expanded well passed the water and grew into a haven for patriots. Settled in 1680 and taking its name from another historic place across the pond, Bristol is known for a much quieter and more relaxing environment. 

Promising peace and great views, Bristol is home to Mount Hope Farm, a non-profit farm that has nearly 130 acres of gardens and walking trails. An arboretum that has managed to land a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, MHF is also open to hosting private events, while the trails and gardens will forever be free.

Keeping in line with its serene locations, Bristol's natural wonders are not alone in bringing in many visitors. Enter the Linden Place mansion and grounds: once belonging to a family of the ultra-rich and now a museum with guided tours, this structure preserves the legacy of Federal-style architecture while also teaching and hosting private events that show life from the distant past.

A much quieter and more reflective place, Bristol may be tranquil, but that does not mean it is boring. This is even exemplified by its accommodations, the most famous of which is the lovely Bristol Harbor Inn, a waterfront hotel with a nautical theme to match. 

New Shoreham

Block Island North Light Lighthouse in New Shoreham, Rhode Island.
Block Island North Light Lighthouse in New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

When an incredibly tiny population meets 17 miles of coast, its product becomes a hidden gem. In this respect, few places are harder to beat for a getaway than a small town lined with beaches. Meet New Shoreham, a town on Block Island with a measly population of 1000 but many natural wonders. 

The many sites of New Shoreham are mostly untouched by urban sprawl, which results in land formations carefully cultivated by the elements into something no man is capable of. Mohegan Bluffs is a prime example of this. Not merely just a scenic spot but a 200-foot cliff surrounded by a forest and a secluded pale sand beach at its base. Known for hiking, swimming, and surfing, this may be New Shoreham's best-known attraction, but not its only. 

Not too far from the bluffs is a much more secretive and secluded place by the name of Mansion Beach. With crystal clear waters and pearly sands, this was once the place of a large mansion that tragically went up in flames during the 1960s. At the same time, no structure has been erected since the beach draws far more on its natural scenery than its history. Although finding the way there can be tricky, the cost of difficulty will always be worth its reward.

Marking another must-see place, New Shoreham's sights have few rivals. Due to the nature of this town's allure, the 1661 Inn uses the beaches and is open to all visitors as a charming place to rest by the waters.  


Beautiful historic home in Wickford, Rhode Island.

Beautiful historic home in Wickford, Rhode Island.

Taking a step back from the ports and beaches, Wickford matches the New England aesthetic perfectly. Being established in 1709, Wickford is a haven for small shops, streets, and eateries. While still considered a waterfront town, it's renowned for the more human aspect of commerce and creation.

Making this quaint experience, many of the shops and restaurants here are wholly unique: among the more offbeat are Yes! Gallery's handcrafted pottery and the furnishings of the Eclectic Bungalow. Finally, to cement Wickford as the quiet and cozy town it is, it takes pride in its very own Gooseneck Vineyards. Breaking away from tradition, Goosenck sources terroir wines to sip and enjoy while gazing at the New England coast.

If a weekend trip does not need the craziness of the beach and only a good meal with mom-and-pop shops, Wickford is there. It also helps that accommodations are nearby in the form of the Hamilton Village Inn, a cozy and affordable place right by the water. 


The view of Sakonnet River and a small residential neighborhood in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The view of Sakonnet River and a small residential neighborhood in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The town of Tiverton is an interesting case. Having deep roots in the Revolutionary War, this small fishing town would industrialize at the end of the 19th century, and what would grow with the city was renewed interest in its past. Becoming incorporated in 1747, the town prides itself on its origins and is a must-visit for both the history buff and explorer.

Tiverton has the privilege of having Fort Barton and Fort Barton Woods. Having served as a base for the revolutionaries, today, the fort has been converted into a state park with only loose rubble and the observation tower standing. Nonetheless, plaques are scattered throughout the area, reminding visitors that the serene woods and scenic views were once caught in the middle of a vicious war. 

While the town's most noted for its fort, its second treasure would be the Wetamoo Woods. With a whopping 650 acres of great oaks and a nearby nature preserve, Tiverton's strength is undoubtedly in its natural, picturesque parks, which make it a great place to get away. The surrounding area around Tiverton also has accommodations, including the Founders Brook Motel and Suites, which too is enclosed by tall trees. 


Town Clerk's Office in Exeter, Rhode Island.

Town Clerk's Office in Exeter, Rhode Island. By John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Smack in the middle of Rhode Island's densist thickets lies a place hidden away from the buzzing noise of traffic and commerce. Although its past includes a dark sage during the notorious New England Vampire Panic, Exeter today is a town of many things, but all things quiet.

For a retreat, the town itself offers specialty museums, one of which is named the Tomaquag Museum. Providing a sketched history of the indigenous peoples that once inhabited the area, those who run the museum are still in touch with their native roots and ancestors--using their experiences to educate those who care to listen. 

After an educational tour de force, Exeter has one final trump card that few towns in the entire country can claim to share: it is home to vast fields of bright and colorful tulips. In particular, Wicked Tulips Flower Farm holds events, celebrations, and "U-picks," which, for a small fee, allow visitors to pick up to ten tulips of any kind.

For staying in Exeter, the nearby outskirts are surrounded by a plethora of hotels, inns, and motels. Including chain hotels by Warwick, the standout, however, is the Classic Motor Lodge on the far east of Exeter (a blast from the past that goes for a more retro and 1950s look).  


Foster Public Library in Foster, Rhode Island.

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

Incorporated in 1730 and taking its name from the revolutionary Theodore Foster, Foster has a finger in all the pies, which means its amenities are taken from a more urban area and a small, country-based town. 

While there is much to see and do in Foster, its most prominent attraction is likely its very own Foster Country Club. Open to the public and opened in 1894, one does not need to be an elite to appreciate this historic land's landscape and surrounding area.

If one wants to follow the history, Foster itself has its historic district, including but not limited to The Foster Public Library (est. 1887), The Foster Meeting House (1796), and the Foster Town Park, a local hotspot and favorite. Of course, Foster also has its own historic hotel: The Stone House Motor Inn—a quaint place to stay after a day of exploration. There are adventures to be had in this locale, and Foster will not disappoint.

Discover Rhode Island's Hidden Highlights

The Ocean State is never short on things to do and places to see, but compared to its peers, it lacks the nasty grime of larger cities and even certain towns and replaces them with unique places that radiate a quiet yet remarkable beauty. Mostly born from the land's vibrant flora, the towns of Rhode Island would nearly all be worthy enough to escape to. Picturesque as they are, there is always a place nearby that may look even better.

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