Your Guide to Visiting Rhode Island Beaches This Summer

Looking for a summer vacation destination that offers a little bit of everything? Look no further than Rhode Island. Although it may be the smallest state in America, Rhode Island packs a big punch when it comes to attractions. From delicious food to fun wineries, rich history to stunning beaches, there’s something for everyone in this charming state.

When it comes to summer in Rhode Island, the outdoors are where it’s at. With pristine beaches perfect for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, you’ll never run out of ways to soak up the sun. And if you’re a history buff, Newport is a must-see destination. Take a stroll along the Cliff Walk and tour some of the most opulent mansions in America, built by railway tycoons and industrial moguls during the Gilded Age.

Where to Base Yourself

Newport’s Second Beach

If you’re looking for a lively and charming beach, Newport’s Second Beach is the place to be. The beach is a popular destination for tourists, but the crowd is classy and the atmosphere is relaxed. The Newport Jazz Festival, held annually in August, adds to the artsy and stately vibe of the city. While you’re here, make sure to visit the Cliff Walk, the Breakers or the Marble House mansions, and witness the extravagant lifestyle of the upper 1%. Surfers will enjoy riding the waves, and Flo’s Clam Shack is a great spot for cheap seafood after a day on the beach. If you’re a surfer looking for a place to stay, check out Second Beach Family Campground. You’ll need to keep things family-friendly, but the location is perfect for walking to the beach when the tide is right.

South Shore Beach

For a peaceful and unpretentious beach experience, head to South Shore Beach. The white sand, pebbles, and shells make for a serene atmosphere, and the crowd is mostly families, couples, and college-aged sunbathers. If you’re not into the beach scene, Little Compton’s quaint village center is a good option for boutique shopping and gourmet dining. The Barn in Adamsville is a popular spot to grab a bite, but be prepared to wait as they don’t take reservations. Stone House Inn is a great option for those who prefer a grand ol’ inn with a great view and hospitable innkeepers.

East Beach

If you’re looking for a beach that allows 4×4 access, East Beach is the perfect destination. However, 4×4 owners must pay attention to the rules to avoid threatening endangered species, as the beach is next to the protected Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. Bring a kayak, canoe, or SUP and explore the vast marine estuary of Ninigret Pond, where you’ll find all kinds of cool critters and birds. The Haversham is a good spot to grab a beer after a bit of fishing or recreational boating, and Villa Bed & Breakfast offers quaint and nicely furnished rooms with great access to the town and marsh.

Plan Your Menu and Choose the Best Places to Eat

When it comes to dining options in the area, you’ll find a decent selection of mid-range American-style restaurants and grocery stores. However, if you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, Newport and Providence are your best bets. While the beach doesn’t offer much variety beyond typical New England fare like burgers, fries, fish & chips, steak, and salad, the cities offer a wide range of fine dining, Italian, and international fusion options.

If you’re planning to dine at a fancier restaurant, it’s best to make a reservation in advance. However, if you’re looking for a more casual experience, expect to wait in line at the beachside bars and gastropubs.

For history buffs and foodies alike, the White Horse Tavern in Newport is a must-visit. Housed in a building built in the 1600s, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience. If you’re looking for a more refined experience, the Castle Hill Inn is a great choice. This resort overlooks the water and offers several restaurants to choose from, all of which are fancy, so you might want to dress up.

If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in luck. New England clam chowder is a popular choice, and lobster, although expensive, is a summer splurge worth trying. Farm stands open in June and close sometime after September, offering fresher produce and local corn in season. You can also check beach regulations, get permits, and have a cookout.

Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss trying Indian Pudding, a cornmeal-and-molasses treat with its origins in the Indigenous cultures in the area.

Here’s a summary of the dining options in the area:

Type of RestaurantDescription
Mid-range American-styleDecent selection in the area
Fine diningHead to Newport or Providence for upscale options
Italian and international fusionAvailable in the cities
Beachside bars and gastropubsCasual experience, expect to wait in line
White Horse TavernMust-visit for history buffs and foodies
Castle Hill InnRefined experience, dress up
SeafoodNew England clam chowder and lobster are popular
Farm standsOpen in season for fresher produce and local corn
CookoutsCheck beach regulations and get permits
Indian PuddingA must-try for those with a sweet tooth

Remember to plan your menu and choose the best places to eat to make the most out of your dining experience in the area.

Book Your Accommodations

If you’re planning to visit Rhode Island during the peak summer months of late June, July, or August, it’s important to book your accommodations as early as possible. Due to the high demand, you may find limited options for budget-friendly accommodations, especially if you want to stay close to the beach. Additionally, many establishments require a minimum stay of two or more days.

If you’re willing to visit during the shoulder seasons of May and September, you’ll find that prices drop and availability increases. However, keep in mind that some places may close after Labor Day in early September.

For those who prefer spontaneity, AirBnB and VRBO offer a wide variety of options and price points. If you plan on camping, it’s crucial to book your site as early as possible since they tend to fill up quickly.

To ensure a stress-free and enjoyable trip to Rhode Island, make sure to book your accommodations well in advance and consider visiting during the shoulder seasons for more affordable options.

Best Things to Do

See the Newport Mansions

If you’re looking to experience the grandeur and extravagance of the Gilded Age, then visiting the Newport Mansions is a must-do activity. The Breakers, constructed in the early 1890s over a span of two years, is the most famous of these “summer homes” and a National Historic Landmark. Once owned by the Vanderbilt family, the mansion was built by Charles Vanderbilt II, who unfortunately only had four years to spend in it before he passed away at age 55. Other notable mansions to visit include Marble House and The Elms.

Have an Old Fashioned Clam Bake

For a unique culinary experience, try having an old fashioned clam bake. This traditional New England feast can be done in a large pot for small families or a pit for larger groups. To prepare, gather lobsters, clams, mussels, corn, potatoes, hot rocks, and fresh rockweed. Heat the rocks in a fire and place them into the pit, layering them with seaweed. Add the veggies and shellfish, top with another layer of seaweed, and then with dirt. Let it bake for a good afternoon, 3-4 hours or more if there are many people. Afterward, dig up the salt-steamed food and enjoy!

Go Surfing at Second Beach

Rhode Island is home to some of New England’s best surfing breaks, and Second Beach is at the top of the list. This beach is beginner-friendly since there are no reefs to wipe-out on, but it can be crowded nearly all summer long. It’s important to have a good understanding of the Surfer’s Code to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment. If you’re a beginner, consider taking a lesson from one of the many surf schools in the area.

Go Birdwatching

Rhode Island’s marshes, estuaries, and sandy shores are perfect for birdwatching. One of the rare species you might see is the Piping Plover, which flies thousands of miles to nest here. These shorebirds are endangered and federally protected, so it’s important to respect the roped-off nesting areas on the beaches during nesting season. If you’re lucky enough to see a Piping Plover, keep your distance and observe quietly. If you see a bird fluttering helplessly near you with what looks like a “broken wing,” you’re likely near a nest, and the bird is trying to lure you away. Follow the bird and keep your eyes peeled for the tiny marshmallow-sized balls of fluff that emerge from the eggs within hours of hatching.

How to Reach the Shorelines

To reach the shorelines, you will need to get to TF Green, the closest international airport located in Warwick, south of Providence. Once you arrive, you have several options to reach the shorelines. You can rent a vehicle from the many agencies available at the airport, use a rideshare service, or take a train. However, taking a train is a long trip via Providence, about 2 hours versus the 40 or so minutes by car. Renting a vehicle is the most convenient option as some of the other beaches require a vehicle to get to. Keep in mind that parking can be a hassle and often requires parking permits or daily passes. If you are not a resident, plan on spending $25 (day) to several hundred dollars (monthly) for parking.

What to Pack

When packing for your trip to Rhode Island, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you are comfortable and prepared for any situation. As the weather can be changeable, it is always a good idea to bring a few layers, especially if you plan on spending time outdoors in the evening. You may also want to bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays, as Rhode Island can get quite sunny during the day.

If you plan on dining out, it is important to note that many restaurants have a dress code, so be sure to bring appropriate attire. A cover-up and sandals are a must, and for pricier establishments, a sport coat or dress may be necessary to impress. It is also important to note that insect repellent is a must for evenings spent on the beach.

For those traveling with children, or if you plan on exploring the marshes, it is recommended to bring water shoes to protect your feet from sharp grasses and shells. Lastly, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and apply it frequently to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Overall, packing for Rhode Island requires a balance of practicality and style, so be sure to pack accordingly to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.