Rhode Island, steeped in Victorian charm and New England architecture, is one of the must-visit states for its scenic waterfront towns, fresh sea-to-table cuisine, diverse agricultural scenes, and endless family fun. The Ocean State promises abundant outdoor recreational activities, and the top-rated small towns of Rhode Island make it the perfect relaxing escape from major cities like Boston, New York City, and more. From the Gilded Age Mansions in Newpot to historic communities like Little Compton, read along with the unveiling of the nine top-rated small towns in Rhode Island.
Part of the Providence Metropolitan Area and a small student-focused village within South Kingstown. This college town opens the list and is a perfect escape for those seeking a toned-down version of major beautiful Rhode Island Cities. Dotted with parks, beautiful New England architecture, and endless cafes, Kingston is one of the less popular places on this list. Tailoring to its student demographic, there is plenty to see and do in the cozy small bedroom community. Start your exploration of Kingston, Rhode Island, by visiting the town’s prided University and walking the centric business district near Fortin Rd and surrounding Quadrangle Park. The International Pocket Cafe, Peking Tokyo, and sweet shops like Insomnia Cookies are a few tasty stops on your way, while the Fine Arts Center is a creative display of local talents. Tightly packed within a 2.7-mile radius, Kingston is an excellent overnight escape or weekend vacation spot: Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn & Suites, along with short-term Airbnb options for its young student population.
Bristol is the perfect escape for those looking to embrace small-town hospitality with the welcoming range of tourist-tailored businesses of cafes, restaurants, and more. Bristol makes many popular online ranking lists, including the most interesting US destinations and safest cities in America. With its scenic waterfront vistas at Bristol Harbor, this water-surrounded town is a balance of different environmental settings. Whether a history buff looking to learn more about New England Heritage or an adventurist seeking an outdoor challenge, Bristol tops the list of small-town escapes to spend a weekend. The town’s location, 16 mi from the famous vacation city of Providence, Rhode Island, makes it one of the most desirable and crowded towns on this list of top-rated small towns in Rhode Island. The Bristol Harbor Inn and William’s Grant B&B top the list of places to stay in Bristol, turning your weekend escape into a cozy and classy mini-vacation to remember.
Home to a welcoming rural feel enhanced by nature and waterbodies, Exeter is state-renowned for being Rhode Island's only ski town and home to the Stepstone Waterfalls. This series of miniature waterfalls is a rewardful splendor for those hiking the Ben Utter Trail, starting in Exeter and leading to West Greenwich. Yawgoo Valley Ski Resort attracts visitors state-wide in the winter, while ghost tours and vampires are also a vital element of local culture, as its past narrates tales of haunted buildings like the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church. From hitting slopes in the winter and indulging in some northern sports to embracing vibrant autumn foliage at the Fisherville Brooks Wildlife Refuge, Exter is the perfect year-round destination also for its proximity to other towns on the list, such as Kingston. Home to the only Native American Museums in Rhode Island with exhibits honoring the native locals who lived in the area long before European settlements. The best vacation rentals near the are those in small villages surrounding Exter, like Classic Motor Lodge and the Best Western West Greenwich Inn.
Another small town from Rhode Island’s scenic Washington County, this small town is state-recognized for its beaches like Blue Shutters Beach and East Beach. But beaches aren’t all the town has to offer as it blends countryside living styles, acres of hikeable nature-rich trails, and open lush landscapes. Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Charlestown is one of the most notable attractions in town and stretches over 858 acres of diverse natural settings. Enjoy the town’s culture through its cuisine of freshly caught seafood and community events like the Stargazing Friday nights open all year round at the local Frosty Drew observatory, and the Washington County Fair, which brings out the best festive spirits in September. Top-rated accommodations in the area include the Hathaway Guest Cottage near Ocean House Marina or the vibrant General Stanton Inn for a memorable trip to Charlestown.
Little Compton is a must-visit town in Rhode Island for being an agriculturally focused community in America’s smallest state and for featuring some of the best picturesque spots. South Shore Beach, Wilbour Woods, and the Sakonnet Lighthouse are among the town’s most scenic attractions. Escape to Little Compton to enjoy a slower pace and a welcoming element depicted through unique small businesses like the Art Cafe Sakonnet Point Marina’s Sakonnet Point Club and the 1788 Gray’s General Store. Additionally, the town is conveniently located on the route to other top-rated mall towns like Bristol and Newport, which sit 25 miles away, making part of the perfect Rhode Island Town Hopping Itinerary. Stone House Inn, built in 1854, tops the list of best places to stay in town for its beautiful Victorian design, cozy minimal decor, and stunning green ocean views.
East Greenwich is one of the top-rated towns for its small-town atmosphere, welcoming environment of small businesses, thriving main street, and relaxing waterfront dining options. East Greenwich’s history dates back to 1677 and depicts its rich heritage through places of education like the Varnum Memorial Armory, Clouds Hill Museum, and Varnum House, which displays early American settlers’s Furniture and housepieces. Catch a sunset at East Greenwich Marina, and align your visit with one of the town’s famous main street events to catch the town in a lively state with notable events like July 18th Music on Main Street, May 30th Dogs on Main Street, and Taste of Main Street on Aug 22nd. Keep an eye out for cozy homestays in East Greenwich to experience the town like local small-town residents, with one of the most notable stays being The 1873 House Bed and Breakfast.
Newport is where history complements the cozy community feel with cool attractions like the oldest still operating Tavern, Whitehorse Tavern, the picture-perfect Rose Island Lighthouse, and more. Mansion tours are also a big part of the Newport experience and one of the town’s proud possessions. Notable mansions in the area include The Breakers Mansion, The Elms, and Marble House, which dates back to 1892 and is completely covered in white marble. Enhanced by the upscale, luxurious feel, this small town ranks for its vintage, romantic ambiance and breathtaking views. With its fancy homes and serene waterfront vistas, there is no shortage of cozy or luxurious stays in town. From the Pelham Court Hotel to the New England-style Newport Beach Hotel & Suites on 1 Wave Avenue, each unique building sets a different tone for your experience in Newport.
The perfect list of top-rated small towns in Rhode Island isn't complete without a countryside farm town. Jamestown is known for its balance of rural and waterside atmospheres and distinctive Island settings. Cultural tours of the historic New England Watson Farm are open to the public from June to October, in addition to other historic farm tours like Windmist and Dutra Farms. Given the title, "One of the Most Peaceful Towns in America," Jamestown sits on Conanicut Island and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration. The two state parks in the area, Fort Wetherill State Park and Beavertail State Park, attract nature enthusiasts for challenging hikes and graffitied backdrops of Fort Wetherill, rewarding hikers with the high-altitude aquatic sceneries of Newport Harbor. Wyndham Newport Overlook Hotels on Bay Dr are known for the best views in the area, while the classy JB's Restaurant and Angels Kitchen top the list of best places to eat in Jamestown.
Finally, wrapping up the list of must-see small towns in Rhode Island is the beach town of Warren, adorned with locally owned businesses and an extensive 16 mi coastline; Warren stands out as one of the oldest communities on this list of the top-rated small towns in Rhode Island. With Settlement history dating back to 1653, visitors to this small town can find everything from quirky gift shops like Imagine Gifts to waterfront dining at places like the Wharf Tavern. Nature enthusiasts can explore wildlife at Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge. At the same time, those seeking a cozy, memorable small-town experience can browse and learn more about the town’s history in museums, galleries, and businesses. Made In Warren Artist Cooperative and Imago Foundation For The Arts are some of the best destinations to explore the town’s creative side. Due to Warren’s proximity of 4.7 mi to Bristol, visitors are better off hunting for unique stays in the neighboring town than settling for Airbnb and entire apartments.
Rhode Island's Small Town Treasures
Ultimately, even America’s smallest state is filled with atmospheres and attractions. Although Rhode Island is more of a popular summer escape, a trip to the Top-rated Rhode Island Towns is always a relaxing getaway.