Edited by: Stella Shon
& Keri Stooksbury
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Rhode Island might be the smallest state in the U.S., but it still tops many people’s travel lists. Its popularity comes, in large part, from its beaches, which are some of the best on the East Coast.
It has 400 miles of coastline, most of which hosts the state’s getaway spots. However, since there are so many options for beaches, it can be difficult to determine which one you should visit first.
Fortunately, there’s a beach in Rhode Island for every type of traveler, from surfers to families with small children. So, keep reading to find the right one for you.
Bailey’s Beach is more commonly known as Rejects Beach. Part of the beach is private, but you can access the public part at the end of the cliff walk on the east side. Though the public area is smaller, it offers the same natural characteristics that locals and tourists love.
The beach can get crowded during the summer, but if you decide to visit during the week, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to lay out a towel or a beach chair. The sand is also extremely soft, which makes it comfortable to lay and walk on.
If you want a little break from the water, you can enjoy the views from the nearby cliff walk that shares the same name as the beach. The sunset and sunrise are particularly beautiful from the cliffs, but you’ll be able to get fantastic photos no matter what time of day it is.
Ballard’s Beach is a private stretch of Rhode Island’s coast. In order to access the sand, you need to eat at the restaurant or get a pass from the Ballard’s Beach Resort. Once you’ve received access to the restaurant’s stretch of the coast, you can stay on the beach all day.
It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a little seclusion or if you want to make sure you find a spot on the sand to relax. However, you can’t bring your own food or refreshments onto most of the beach.
Technically, there’s a small section of the beach near the boardwalk that has free public access where you can bring your own refreshments, but space is limited.
Charlestown Breachway is a popular spot for various types of beach-goers, whether you’re looking to fish or camp overnight. Surfers, in particular, love this part of the coast since it’s prone to waves.
If you have small children or if you’re an amateur swimmer, you won’t have to worry about the currents being too strong to handle. Near the sand, the water is usually gentle. The beach itself is expansive. The sand is soft to lay on, but it’s firm enough to comfortably go for walks as well.
During the summer, lifeguards are on duty during the daytime, but they aren’t on duty during the off-season. The sand is a short walk away from the parking area, but it’s a bit far away from the main part of town. Plus, you can bring your own refreshments — just make sure to take everything with you when you leave.
Crescent Beach is a popular beach spot at any time of day, but it has recently made a name for itself as one of the best beach stretches in the state to visit as the sun goes down.
In fact, the sunset views you get from the sand are one-of-a-kind. The water changes from bright blue to rich red to orange while the sky darkens. After sunset, the beach is also a fantastic spot for bonfires.
You can get a permit from the city the same day you plan to have a bonfire, and you’re ready to go as long as you put the flames out completely before you leave. During the daytime, you can have picnics on the sand or go for long, relaxing walks while listening to the water.
East Beach is one of the few beaches in the state with designated camping spots. While you can’t set up a tent on the sand directly, you’ll be within walking distance of the shore.
What sets East Beach apart from the other beaches in the area is just how pristine it is. This part of the coast isn’t just well-kept, but it has also been able to retain much of its natural look. It doesn’t usually get too crowded, either. You’ll be able to find a spot to lay out a towel, especially if you’re willing to walk a few minutes first. However, lifeguards don’t watch over the whole beach.
Since the majority of visitors stay near the parking area, that’s where the lifeguard posts are, so keep that in mind if you decide to venture into the water while you’re a little further away.
Rhode Islanders love East Matunuck State Beach since it’s among the most family-friendly beaches. Since the state of Rhode Island maintains it, a lot of care has gone into making sure virtually anyone can enjoy themselves when they visit.
There’s wheelchair accessibility to the sand and the parking lot, so even people with mobility concerns will be able to get to the beach.
There’s a designated picnic area, but you can bring food and drinks on the sand as long as you clean up after yourself before you leave. The water here is gentle and clean, making it safe for people of all different swimming levels.
However, it’s important to note that this part of the coast is prone to red seaweed washing up on the shore during the summer. So, you might have to search for a while to find a clear spot sometimes.
If you want to seem like a local when you visit Easton Beach, make sure to call it by its local name, “First Beach.”
As one of the largest beaches in Newport, there’s a lot of space to spread out so you can relax while you spend your day in the sun. The beach is a popular destination for people all over the East Coast because it has numerous activities and amenities available.
People who are looking for a little action and adventure can try their hand at surfing because the waves can get pretty big off the coast. You can even rent any gear you need at the local shop. However, you can also go for a long walk or splash around safely in the water since it’s generally warm and calm near the shore.
Nature lovers highly recommend Goosewing Beach Preserve if you’re looking for a peaceful place to spend some time near the water. The preserve is open to the public, but its biggest draw is the local wildlife. Since the area is protected, birds, fish, and other coastal animals can be seen in the area.
Having animals nearby while you’re visiting can make a trip to Goosewing Beach Preserve a one-of-a-kind place, but remember that they’re wild animals. Don’t try to feed or touch any of the creatures, but take as many unobtrusive pictures as you want.
You can swim at the preserve as well, but there are designated areas if you wish to do so. You’ll need to be close to Goosewing Beach’s shared border with South Shore Beach if you want to swim freely without worrying about disturbing any nature.
Misquamicut State Beach is a simple and charming little beach. With half a mile of sand and multiple pavilions for picnics and gatherings, this beach is the perfect place to spend a sunny day during the summer.
During the busy season between May and September, highly trained lifeguards are on duty most days to make sure visitors are safe. That’s especially important since the area is prone to strong waves on occasion.
Surfers are free to come to the beach as long as they exercise caution when they’re near the shore. There’s even a small playground on the sand for children if you want a break from the water or need a place for kids to entertain themselves after a picnic before they can swim again.
Hot Tip: During the winter, it’s too cold to swim, but Misquamicut State Beach makes for a great place for relaxing walks instead.
Mohegan Bluffs is one of the most secluded beaches in Rhode Island and is the perfect place to go if you want to avoid crowds.
The bluffs are cliffs that block the beach from view, but you’ll still be able to get to the sand if you know where to go. There are multiple walking paths that are safe to walk down. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most accessible beach, so keep that in mind if you or anyone in your travel party has mobility issues.
Swimming in the water here is refreshing, but the area’s dry land is what makes it a destination spot worth visiting. The rocky ground near the bluffs is perfect for exploring and climbing, and there’s plenty of greenery to enjoy if you decide to go for a nice long walk. However, there are no lifeguards here.
Napatree Point is one of the best places on Rhode Island’s coast to visit if you want a chance to see the birds native to the area.
You don’t have to stay on the sand, either. Kayaks are available to rent if you’d prefer to do your bird-watching from the water. It’s usually calm and doesn’t attract many crowds. Even on busy summer weekends, you won’t have any trouble finding a place to settle down for the day.
Since there are no lifeguards on duty, many people prefer to go elsewhere for their beach days. The water here is generally pretty calm, but you have to be more diligent and keep an eye on young and inexperienced swimmers if you have them with you. As the area is protected, you’ll have to walk for a few minutes to get to the beach from the parking lot.
Narragansett Town Beach has 19 acres of land for locals and out-of-towners to enjoy all year. In order to allow all types of visitors to enjoy their time at the beach, the area is divided into different zones for activities to keep everyone safe.
Specifically, there’s a surfing area where swimming is discouraged. This is the waviest part of the beach and keeps surfers from having to worry about keeping an eye on potential swimmers in their way.
Multiple lifeguard posts are also spread out along the sand. However, they’re only manned during the summer, so keep that in mind if you visit at any other time during the year. As the beach is quite popular on busy summer weekends, make sure to come early to have the most options for parking and beach spots.
Roger W. Wheeler State Beach is a great spot to have a carefree and stress-free day on the coast. You have easy access to everything you need, so if you forget something or want to make your beach day a spontaneous one, you can do that without worrying.
You’re allowed to have a picnic on the beach, and there are places nearby to pick up food or drinks if you need them. If you have kids with you that are nervous about going in open water, this is an excellent place to introduce them to the sea.
The water is warm, gentle, and shallow, and it’s under the careful watch of lifeguards. There’s even a play area on dry land. This beach isn’t usually very crowded, but if you prefer to be surrounded by the hum of people, you can find that more on summer weekends.
You might see Second Beach referred to by its other name, Sachuest Second Beach. This beach is typically fairly secluded and quiet, so it’s a nice place to go if you or anyone you’re traveling with has sensory issues when it comes to crowds.
You’ll also be able to relax knowing that there are lifeguards on duty if you visit during the summer. You also won’t have to worry about the guards getting overwhelmed by watching too many people at once.
This beach is also great for shell and rock hunting. That’s especially true during the winter and spring when there are fewer people, and you’ll have a better chance of finding the best ones before anyone else. There’s even a pathway leading partially onto the beach to decrease the amount of hot sand to walk on.
Watch Hill Beach is known for its views, so if getting beautiful vacation photos is a top priority for you, this might be the place for you to go. The beach is lined with sand dunes that give the area a very classic and romantic feel that pairs well with the clean, blue water.
The buildings that you can see lining the sand here and there also create a picturesque setting that seems like it belongs in a painting. At sunrise and sunset, the beach is especially beautiful. The sky here turns a striking pink and purple color that reflects on the water in a dramatic and cinematic way.
Hot Tip: The nearest parking lot to the beach charges a fee, but the sand is within walking distance from many lodging options and other parking areas if you’d prefer to do that.
Clearly, Rhode Island’s small size hasn’t left it with a shortage of getaway spots if you’re looking for an East Coast beach locale.
From beaches that are natural and secluded to those that are in the middle of the action with more amenities, there’s a seaside spot to help you have the trip of your dreams. Hopefully, this list has helped you narrow down what you’re looking for in an Ocean State beach destination.
Most beaches in Rhode Island are open to the public, even to non-Rhode Islanders. However, some beaches require guests to have a pass during the summer. If you contact local authorities, you’ll be able to find out if you need to purchase one.
You can swim at many Rhode Island beaches. Any stretches of the coast that aren’t swimmable are clearly marked with signs to warn visitors. Not all the state’s swimmable beaches have lifeguards though, so keep that in mind if you’re concerned about safety.
Rhode Island has been nicknamed “The Ocean State” in part because it has some of the best beaches in the country. Many of the state’s beaches offer natural beauty with bright blue water. These beaches are popular among both families and surfers.
Rhode Island’s coastal waters are warm enough to swim in from July through September. During the rest of the year, the water is too cold to be tolerable unless you’re wearing a wetsuit.
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