Newport Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island. Editorial credit: Cavan-Images /

8 Breathtaking Towns To Visit In Rhode Island

Rhode Island, officially known as the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is the smallest state in the United States by area. Located in the New England region, it is bordered by Massachusetts to the north and east, Connecticut to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Rhode Island's economy is primarily based on services, particularly healthcare and education, as well as manufacturing. The state is known for its breathtakingly beautiful small towns that have historical sites and access to coastal landscapes. These eight towns draw visitors due to their breathtaking landscapes, well-preserved colonial architecture, and vibrant maritime heritage.


The harbor at Newport, Rhode Island
The harbor at Newport, Rhode Island.

Newport, Rhode Island, is a coastal town on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay. Established in 1639, Newport quickly became a prominent colonial port known for its role in maritime trade and shipbuilding. By the late 19th century, the town evolved into a summer retreat for America's wealthiest families, leading to the construction of opulent mansions that still stand today.

Cliff Walk is a public access walkway stretching along Newport's eastern shore. It has views of the Atlantic Ocean and the historic mansions that line the cliffs. The Breakers, built by the Vanderbilt family, is the grandest of Newport's Gilded Age mansions, with tours available that showcase its opulent rooms and expansive grounds. Fort Adams State Park has a historic military fort with guided tours, along with recreational areas that have views of Newport Harbor and opportunities for picnicking and sailing.


    A scene from Wickford, Rhode Island.
    A scene from Wickford, Rhode Island. Image credit: Swampyank at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons.

    Wickford, Rhode Island, is a village in North Kingstown along Narragansett Bay. In the 17th century, Wickford played a role in the early colonial period as a trading and shipping center. The village is known for its well-preserved colonial and 19th-century architecture, reflecting its heritage. Wickford's geography includes a protected harbor, coastal wetlands, and forested areas.

    Wickford Harbor has opportunities for boat tours and kayaking. It is great for visitors who want to explore the harbor's waterways and enjoy views of the surrounding area. Smith's Castle, a historic house museum dating back to 1678, gives insights into the region's colonial history through its exhibits and preserved architecture. Wilson Park is home to hiking trails, fishing spots, and bird-watching areas.


      Beavertail Lighthouse in Beavertail State Park aerial view in summer, Jamestown, Rhode Island
      Beavertail Lighthouse in Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

      Jamestown, Rhode Island, is located on Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay. Founded officially in 1678, it has a history tied to maritime activities and agriculture. The town's geography includes coastal bluffs, rocky shorelines, and rolling hills. The island's location made it an important site for defense fortifications, some of which are preserved today.

      Beavertail State Park is where visitors can find the Beavertail Lighthouse and explore the lighthouse grounds. Fort Wetherill State Park includes abandoned fortifications, hiking trails, and picnic areas. It is a spot to explore historical structures and enjoy ocean views. The Jamestown Windmill, built in 1787, is a historic site where visitors can tour the windmill and learn about its history and significance to the local community.


      Bristol, Rhode Island.
      Historic Blithewold mansion, gardens and arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island.

      Bristol, Rhode Island, is a coastal town located on Narragansett Bay, known for its maritime history and community events. Bristol was founded in 1680 and became a port for shipbuilding and trade, playing a key role in the American Revolutionary War. The town's landscape includes the waterfront, rolling hills, and several parks.

      Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, & Arboretum give visitors tours of the historic mansion and opportunities to explore its gardens and arboretum. These areas have a variety of plant species and landscape designs. Colt State Park has large picnic areas, biking paths, and views of Narragansett Bay—a space for outdoor recreation and relaxation. The Herreshoff Marine Museum presents the history of yacht building and America's Cup racing with exhibits and artifacts related to the town's maritime heritage.

      Little Compton

      Sakonnet Lighthouse and Harbor in Little Compton, Rhode Island
      Sakonnet Lighthouse and Harbor in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

      Little Compton, Rhode Island, is a coastal town located on the southeastern tip of the state. Founded in 1682, Little Compton has an agricultural heritage and history closely tied to its coastal location. The town's geography includes farmland, coastal bluffs, and beaches along the Sakonnet River and the Atlantic Ocean.

      Sakonnet Point has coastal views, fishing opportunities, and the chance to explore the area around the lighthouse, which is a notable landmark. Goosewing Beach Preserve is a pristine beach and a nature preserve with protected dunes and a variety of wildlife. The Wilbor House Museum, a historic house and museum, presents exhibits on Little Compton's colonial history and has tours that highlight the town's heritage and early life.


      Point Judith Lighthouse at sunset at Narragansett, Rhode Island
      Point Judith Lighthouse at sunset at Narragansett, Rhode Island.

      Narragansett, Rhode Island, is a town along the state's southern shore. Founded in the late 17th century, it has long been one of the Rhode Island beach destinations for tourists, especially during the summer months. The town's geography includes sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, and oceanfront parks. Narragansett's location along the Atlantic Ocean has made it a spot for fishing, boating, and maritime activities.

      Point Judith Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse where visitors can enjoy views of the rocky coastline and learn about its role in maritime navigation. Fishermen’s Memorial State Park has camping, picnicking, and hiking with views of the ocean. Narragansett Beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, with facilities that accommodate beachgoers and surfers alike.

      Watch Hill

      Luxury waterfront houses in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
      Luxury waterfront houses in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

      Watch Hill, Rhode Island, is a village in the southwestern part of the state. Watch Hill developed as a summer resort destination in the 19th century, attracting visitors with its beaches and grand hotels. The village's landscape includes sandy beaches, rocky shores, and a prominent peninsula extending into the Atlantic Ocean.

      Watch Hill Lighthouse, on a rocky promontory, has panoramic views of the Atlantic and educates visitors on the area's maritime history. Napatree Point Conservation Area features hiking trails that wind through coastal dunes and along beaches. Here, visitors can observe diverse wildlife in their natural habitat. The Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the United States, sells rides on hand-carved wooden horses, providing a nostalgic experience for visitors of all ages.


      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.

      Tiverton, Rhode Island, is a town on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay, along the Sakonnet River. In the 1600s, Tiverton played a significant role in the agricultural and maritime activities of the region. The town has coastal areas, rivers, and wooded landscapes. Tiverton's proximity to both water and forested areas makes it an appealing destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

      Fogland Beach is for swimming, windsurfing, and picnicking, with views of the Sakonnet River enhancing the experience. Fort Barton, one of the historic Revolutionary War sites, has trails that lead to vantage points overlooking the river. It is a place for visitors to explore its historical significance and natural beauty. Weetamoo Woods is a large nature preserve with diverse habitats, including forests and wetlands, and well-maintained trails for a hiking experience.

      In Summary

      The breathtaking small towns of Rhode Island offer a tranquil escape. Newport, with its opulent Gilded Age mansions and Cliff Walk, exemplifies the luxurious retreats available within the state. Wickford’s colonial streets and peaceful harbor present a more subdued historical experience. Jamestown has natural beauty with coastal bluffs and preserved parks like Beavertail State Park, making it ideal for those who appreciate outdoor activities. These eight towns showcase why Rhode Island is a gem for travelers seeking picturesque and peaceful getaways.

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