Whether you come to enjoy the miles and miles of coastline, bays, and beaches or you wish to immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural scene of the towns and villages, you’ll find what you seek in Rhode Island.
The state is proudly home to an exceptional collection of historically significant buildings and mansions you can visit on one of several historic and architectural trails. Visit Newport, Providence, Pawtucket and other great Rhode Island destinations.
1. Newport, Rhode Island
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Newport is almost completely surrounded by the ocean, and it is easy to see why generations of American aristocrats chose it as their summer getaway destination.
Newport is made up of nine individual coastal towns and is often called the “Sailing Capital of the World” – you can take a stroll around some of the marinas to admire the impressive floating palaces and sporty racing yachts.
The Newport Cliff Walk is a National Recreational trail providing another way to uncover the essence of Newport – the walk combines the beauty of the coastline with the chance to see some of the famous Newport Mansions in the National Historic District. The Newport beaches offer great swimming and surfing, and you can hire kayaks and paddle boards from Newport Aquatic Center.
2. Providence, Rhode Island
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Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, offering visitors small-town charm combined with big city culture and sophistication.
The city was founded back in 1636, and today you can take an East Side Walking Tour to explore several historic attractions such as the Rhode Island State House on Capitol Hill and the Old Brick School House.
For art lovers, the Providence Art Club, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Providence Performing Arts Center are must-see additions to the itinerary.
You can hop aboard a gilded gondola to see a series of gracious Venetian-style bridges that link the revitalized Downtown to the East Side and visit near-by WaterPlace Park to attend an outdoor summer concert and see the amazing WaterFire multi-sensory bon-fire art installation.
3. Block Island, Rhode Island
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Block Island offers visitors an idyllic island vacation destination surrounded by seventeen miles of shoreline and unlimited options for fun in the sun.
The compact island is perfect to explore on foot along a selection of hiking trails that will lead you to hidden coves and inlets far from the crowds. If you feel a little less energetic, you can hire a moped or bicycle from one of three outfitters. The pristine beauty of the island has attracted a great many artists, and you can admire (and purchase) their work at several galleries or at the Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday.
You can see the island from a whole new perspective on a chartered island sightseeing cruise or spend your days kayaking, surfing, skim-boarding, diving, and snorkeling. More things to do on Block Island
4. Woonsocket, Rhode Island
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Take a step back in time to a more gracious age as you stroll though Woonsocket’s South Main Street Historic District, which has been carefully preserved to look just about as it did in the 1800’s.
You can see sixty-five historic properties, some of which were built as far back as 1830, and all of which showcase a typical American small-town main road. To further explore the town’s historic background, you can visit the Museum of Work and Culture, the Veterans’ Memorial Museum, and the St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center.
Outdoor enthusiasts can go canoeing or kayaking in the Blackstone River Valley or hop aboard the Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat for a Nature and Heritage Tour or an Environmental Tour. More Rhode Island beaches
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5. East Providence
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The quaint city of East Providence in Rhode Island is always happy to welcome visitors who come to see historic landmarks, coastal villages, and wonderful sunsets.
You can start your visit by learning about the pioneer days in East Providence at the John Hunt House (1750), which serves as the headquarters for the East Providence Historical Society and features extensive grounds and hiking trails along the Ten Mile River.
The Phillip Walker House and the Heritage Garden are also worth a visit. The Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is a prominent East Providence landmark and is known for offering the best location for watching great sunsets.
6. Coventry, Rhode Island
Coventry is a pleasant country town in Kent Country, Rhode Island, providing visitors with a good base for exploring the surrounding countryside. If you like history, you can pay a visit to the Paine House Museum and the General Nathanael Greene Homestead (aka Spell Hall), which dates back to 1770 and is now operated as a museum.
For a change from history, you can go walking, canoeing, and hiking in the Nicholas Farm Management Area Nature Preserve or the pristine Maxwell Mays Wildlife Preserve or head to the beach at Briar Point. Golfers can play a round at the West Warwick Country Club.
7. Middletown, Rhode Island
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As its name suggests, Middletown is located right in the middle of Aquidneck Island in Newport Country between Portsmouth in the north and Newport in the south.
The town dates back to 1743, and history enthusiasts can learn all about the pioneer days by visiting the headquarters of the Middletown Historic Society in the 1875 Paradise School building.
Other historic landmarks you can tour include Boyd’s Eight-Vane Wind Grist Mill, Witherbee School, and the Middletown War Veterans Memorial Park. You can go swimming, surfing, and castle building on Sachuest Beach (aka Second Beach) or head to Third Beach where you can go boating, fishing, and kayaking. Things to do in Middletown
8. Cumberland, Rhode Island
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The historic rural town of Cumberland is tucked into the far north-eastern corner of Providence County and dates back to 1635. The town is a treasure-trove for visitors interested in historic architecture and has four separate historic districts to explore.
You could start your visit at the historic Metcalf Franklin Farm, which covers over 65 acres of land and is home to a 19th- century Greek revival farmhouse and an early 19th – century timber frame barn.
A stroll or drive through some of the historic districts will showcase dozens of homes and buildings dating back to the early and mid 1800’s. Outdoor enthusiasts can visit the Blackstone River State Park to go cycling along the twelve-mile Blackstone River Bike Path and at Diamond Hill hikers can take on the thirteen-mile Warner Trail.
More ideas: Romantic Weekend Getaways in Rhode Island
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The small Rhode Island town of Johnson is located eleven miles west of Providence and would be an ideal base for visitors wanting to explore greater providence area.
There is a good selection of outdoor activities on offer within a short drive of Johnson, including Neutraconkanut Hill Conservancy where you can go hiking and wildlife watching along a variety of trails and Wolf Hill Preserve which also offers a selection of hiking trails.
When you need a dose of culture you can head to Providence to visit Roger Williams Park, which encompasses the Roger Williams Park Zoo, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, the Botanical Center, Carousel Village, and the Casino. More things to do in Rhode Island
10. Ocean Drive
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Ocean Drive, the Ten Mile Drive (or simply The Drive to locals) is located in Newport, Rhode Island and is a must-do activity and a wonderful way for visitors to absorb the Newport atmosphere and see some of the primary landmarks.
Newport famously became the summer playground of the rich and famous in the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s when hundreds of wealthy Americans flocked to the picturesque island to build enormous summer homes.
Today you can drive or cycle the ten-mile loop to see some of the enormous Newport Mansions, visit Brent Point State Park and Fort Adams where you can tour the Fort Adams Museum and Eisenhower House, and stop by the public sailing center at Sail Newport.
More ideas: Rhode Island State Parks
11. Colt State Park
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Colt State Park occupies an enviable location along the western shore of Rhode Island and its entire western border offers unsurpassed vistas of beautiful Narragansett Bay.
The park is an ideal place for both locals and visitors to come and relax and unwind, have a picnic, or get some exercise.
You can bring your bike and take a ride (or walk) along four miles of paved bicycle trails that meander through the 464-area green space.
You can pack a picnic to enjoy alfresco at one of the six picnic groves, which together offer over 400 picnic tables. The manicured lawns, flowering shrubs, and groomed fruit trees offer a beautiful backdrop for wedding photographs, and there is a popular Chapel-by-the-Sea for those wishing to tie the knot.
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12. Mohegan Bluffs
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The towering 200-foot clay cliffs that make up the Mohegan Bluffs are a must-see attraction for any visitor to Block Island and offer one of Rhode Island’s most dramatic views out over the Atlantic Ocean.
The viewpoint at the top of the bluffs is easily accessible, but if you want to admire the cliffs from Corn Cove beach at the foot of the bluffs, you will need to navigate over 100 steps.
As compensation for the arduous journey up and down you will be rewarded by stunning views and many excellent photo opportunities. Be sure to visit the historic Block Island Southeast Lighthouse which had to be dismantled and moved back over 300 feet in 1993 due to erosion of the cliffs.
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13. Brenton Point State Park
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Brenton Point State Park is located where Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet about midway along Newport’s famous Ocean Drive.
The park occupies the grounds of what was once Hammersmith Farm, one of the most impressive private estates in Newport, and consequently offers some of the best views you are likely to find anywhere in Rhode Island.
You can stop by to admire the views and lovely gardens as you make your way along Ocean Drive or you can make a day of it and bring a picnic basket to enjoy at one of the picnic sites dotted beneath the shady trees. Fishing and hiking are also available on site.
More ideas: Rhode Island Campgrounds
14. Historic Federal Hill, Rhode Island
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Historic Federal Hill forms the very heart and soul of Providence, reflecting the rich history and culture of the Italian immigrants who settled in the area in the late 1800’s.
You can explore this bustling and vibrant “Little Italy” on foot, visiting unique Italian bakeries, food stores, and boutiques, or find yourself a seat at a pavement café and enjoy an espresso as you watch the world go by.
Foodies will have to make some tough choices in Federal Hill – the area is home to some of Providence’s best restaurants. If you need some guidance, you can go on a Savor Food Tour to meet some of the best chefs and learn all about cooking the Italian way.
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15. Narragansett Town Beach
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Many visitors to Rhode Island come to enjoy the miles and miles of beautiful coastline and sandy swimming beaches, of which Narragansett Town Beach is probably one of the most popular.
Although you do have to pay to use the beach (and the parking area) during the summer season, most visitors agree that it is well worth the cost to have access to such a clean and well-managed beach.
There are about nineteen acres of clean sand beckoning all avid sand-castle builders, and the water is perfect for swimming, body-boarding and surfing. The beach has restrooms and concessions selling food and snacks. More kid-friendly things to do in Rhode Island
16. Historic Wickford Village
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Ideally located along the Wickford Harbor waterfront, historic Wickford Village literally oozes Rhode Island atmosphere and charm. The village dates back to 1709 and gives visitors the chance to step back in time and glimpse what life was like in New England more than a century ago.
As you stroll along the pleasant village streets, you can browse a variety of unique boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants and admire the facades of some of the historic homes and churches, which were built in the 1700’s.
The village hosts several annual events, including the Wickford Art Festival in July and Daffodil Days in spring. To get active on the water, you can rent a kayak or paddle board from the Kayak Center who also offers lessons and guided tours.
More ideas: Places to Visit in New England
17. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
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Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge provides a sanctuary to over 200 species of resident and migratory birds and beckons all wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers to come and spend a day getting closer to nature and learning about the environment.
You can take a hike along three miles of trails that cover varying habitats, including forty acres of salt marshes and some steep and craggy shoreline.
There are raised walkways and elevated observation points along the trails so that you always have a great view of the refuge. Photographers will particularly enjoy using the hide, and everyone can enjoy the interpretive displays in the Visitor’s Center.
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18. Misquamicut State Beach
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Located on Atlantic Drive near Westerly in Rhode Island, Misquamicut State Beach is a favorite summer hang-out for both visitors and Rhode Island locals.
The beach offers useful facilities such as a large parking area that can accommodate over 2,000 cars, a bathing pavilion and shade areas, a lifeguard (seasonal), and food concessions. The beach is over half a mile long, offering great beach walks especially at sunset.
You can watch or join the surfers (Misquamicut has some pretty good surfing conditions) or enjoy relaxing in the sun, swimming, or body boarding. For some added fun you can take the children to enjoy the slides at the nearby Water Wizz Water Park. More Westerly, RI beaches
19. Scarborough State Beaches
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Scarborough State Beaches (north and south) are located along Ocean Road in Narragansett and offer visitors and locals an ideal place to relax, unwind, and enjoy a great family sun and surf experience.
Both beaches have recently been revitalized, and the upgraded facilities include a pavilion and shaded picnic shelters. You can take a walk along the paved boardwalk that runs the full length of the beach and has benches for those who would like to sit and gaze at the ocean or do some people-watching.
You will find that the beach is ideal for families – it is long and wide with clean fine sand and clear water for swimming with the added bonus of a lifeguard on duty during certain hours in summer.
20. Napatree Point Conservation Area
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Wild and wonderful and just far enough off the beaten track to be less crowded but still easily accessible, Napatree Point Conservation Area offers nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts a brilliant place to enjoy the beach and do some bird-watching.
The conservation area is located on a sand-spit that separates Little Narragansett Bay from the ocean, and it is an important sanctuary for many species of local and migratory birds.
You can take a three-mile hike along the beach to watch the wildlife and enjoy some excellent views of the bay and the ocean. The beach is easily accessed from the parking areas on Bay Street.
21. Goddard Memorial State Park, Rhode Island
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Goddard Memorial State Park is a sprawling recreational green space located along the shores of Greenwich Bay and Greenwich Cove in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The park offers a wide variety of outdoor activities both on the beach and along large tracts of forests and fields. You can go horse-back riding along eighteen miles of picturesque bridle paths, join in the fun on one of eleven game fields, go walking through the gardens, or just relax and enjoy a picnic surrounded by nature.
You can spend the day relaxing on the bathing beach or go canoeing around the shoreline. The park also includes a nine-hole golf course and a performing arts center that hosts regular concerts and events.
22. Blackstone River Bikeway
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The Blackstone River Bikeway is one of the most popular attractions in the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which links Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Avid cyclists should not miss the chance to have a legendary adventure along the bikeway which links downtown Worcester, MA to India Point Park in Providence, RI.
Although parts of the bikeway follow existing roadways, most of the trail runs alongside the historic Blackstone River, and you will have numerous opportunities to hop off your bike and explore.
Many of the towns and villages along the forty-eight-mile bikeway offer historic walking tours (great for a little saddle relief) and self-guided paddling tours are widely available along various sections of the river.
23. Burlingame State Park
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Burlingame State Park and Campground is a very popular outdoor recreational area close to Charlestown, Rhode Island.
You can come to the park on a day visit and enjoy a picnic or barbeque or bring a tent and spend a night or two under the stars. The park has a swimming beach and a boat launch, and you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and salt-water fishing.
Many people visit specifically to hike the 9.5-mile Campground Trail, which winds through 3,100 acres of rocky woodland in a loop around Watchaug Pond – the trail is also suitable for mountain bikers and trail runners. There are further hiking opportunities in the adjacent Kimball Wildlife Sanctuary. More RI camping ideas
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