Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island. Image credit Marianne Campolongo via Adobe Stock.

Aquidneck Island (Rhode Island)

The State of Rhode Island is home to an abundance of American history dating back to colonial times and beyond when considering its indigenous origins. Perhaps surprisingly, Rhode Island is actually a group of islands attached by bridges and landmasses, rather than one single island. Aquidneck Island is the main and largest of a few islands in Narragansett Bay and is officially known as Rhode Island, home to three major towns: Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport. Explore the superb views and tour the historic monuments through this large piece of a small state

Landscape and Geography of Aquidneck Island

The cCaiborne Pell Newport bridge from Jamestown to Newport, Rhode Island, over Narragansett bay, with a spectacular sunset
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. Image credit Nina via Adobe Stock.

Three bridges connect Aquidneck Island to the mainland: the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge (built in 1969), Mount Hope Bridge (built in 1929), and Sakonnet River Bridge (built in 1956). Narragansett Bay extends from Rhode Island Sound and almost divides the state in two. The Blackstone, Pawtuxet, Taunton, and Woonasquatucket Rivers empty into the Bay. In addition to Aquidneck, the other islands in the Bay include Prudence and Cananicut Islands.

To the northeast is Mount Hope Bay and to the northwest is the start of the Providence River and the Sakonnet River, which is the body of water that separates Aquidneck Island from the mainland. The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, at 11,247 feet long, is New England's longest bridge.

Population and Wildlife of Aquidneck Island

Rocky beach at the end of Cliff Walk.
Rocky beach on Rhode Island. Image credit Joe Trentacosti via Shutterstock.

This island was home to the Wampanoag and the Narragansett tribes in different areas. It was first settled by Europeans in 1628. Roger Williams brought the first group of settlers from Massachusetts. Both tribes had meetings with the settlers to discuss land usage.The town of Newport developed over time as a “summer home” for the elite, due to its temperate climate and gorgeous natural landscape. The area is now replete with gorgeous historic house museums. 

Since it was first settled, Narragansett Bay has been a shipping center with ports in Providence and Newport. Fishing, agrigulture and recreation are the main economic resources of Aquidneck Island.

History of Aquidneck Island

Small seaside harbor waterline with sail boats docked on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island near Newport
Small seaside harbor on Aquidneck Island. Image credit Steven Sabo via Adobe Stock. 

Rhode Island, the main island of the state, is actually the European term for Aquidneck Island, which was its Native American title. During the American Revolutionary War, Aquidneck was the site of the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778. There is a memorial to honor the black soldiers of the First Rhode Island Regiment who were the principle fighting force in that battle.

Benjamin Franklin's older brother, James, started printing in Newport, Rhode Island in 1727. In 1758, his son established The Newport Mercury, which is a periodical that continues into modern publication.

Naval Station Newport (NAVSTA) is spread between Newport and Middletown on the west end of Aquidneck Island. This base is the largest employer on the island since the 1970s and encompasses the Naval War College, Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Officer Training Command. NAVSTA derives from 1881 when the Navy bought Coasters Harbor Island from the state of Rhode Island. In 1883 this was the site of the first Navy recruit training station.

Attractions of Aquidneck Island

Quaint street and architecture in Providence, RI.
Quaint street in Providence, Rhode Island. Image credit Chee-Onn Leong via Adobe Stock. 

Historic Whitehall was built by Bishop George Berkely, an Anglo-Irish philosopher, in 1729. This is located in Middletown.The Norman Bird Sanctuary and Museum is also located in Middletown for ornithologists and bird lovers. There are also many historic mansions on The Point – Newport is notorious for the lovely colonial and Victorian mansions along the harborfront, such as The Breakers, built for the grandson of the original Cornelius Vanderbilt. Moreover, there is Hunter House another restored mansion-turned-museum with tour guides.

Newport Historic District is a neighborhood encompassing a variety of historic buildings, such as the Great Friends Meeting House (built in 1699), the Old Colony House in Washington Square (built in 1739), and Trinity Church (built from 1725-26).Touro Synagogue (built in 1763) is the oldest synagogue in America. It was founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews and designated as a national historic site in 1946.

The Redwood Library and Athenaeum (built in 1747) is a delightful colonial building available for visiting to all book lovers and knowledge seekers. The Artillery Company of Newport (chartered in 1741), which is now a Military Museum, includes a significant collection of military uniforms.

Old Stone Mill atop the hill in Touro Park is one of the oldest European-built structures in the United States. While otherwise relatively flat, the park is filled with a variety of vegetation from Norway maples to black walnuts. There are also bronze statues of historical figures and Temple Lantern, a gift from the 1954 Japanese Government.

For tennis aficianodos, The International Tennis Hall of Fame (founded in 1954) is in the Newport Casino (which has existed in 1880). Learn all about famous tennis players in the museum, then gamble the night away! Founder's Brook includes the bronze and stone marker of The Portsmouth Compact, the document through which settlers established a democratic government.


Whether a history buff or just visiting for the stunning scenery, Aquidneck Island, otherwise known as Rhode Island, is a fantastic vacation spot. If looking to be a tourist in your home state, there are always more lovely views to enjoy and fascinating knowledge to be gained. Not to mention fishing and swimming, among other forms of watery recreation, in Narragansett Bay and the connecting rivers. Spend a day splashing about, then take a tour of a historic home – led by a guide in full Victorian costume! Aquidneck Island is well worth the trip.


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