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RHODE ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE

Newport, Rhode Island Ocean House, Westerly, Rhode Island Del's Lemonade, Rhode Island

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Rhode Island! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Rhode Island.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


OVERVIEW



Rhode Island is tiny, but that doesn't mean it doesn't offer much to the traveler. Top attractions in the state include the lovely city and grand mansions of Newport, the quaint island of Block Island, and the Atlantic Ocean beaches of southern Rhode Island.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN RHODE ISLAND



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Rhode Island. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Rhode Island bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northern Rhode Island
Blackstone River Bikeway - one of the best cycling paths in the state; extends into Massachusetts (not continuous)
Lincoln Woods State Park

Providence area (including Bristol, Pawtucket, and Warwick)
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, Bristol - tour one of the finest estates in New England; good views of Narragansett Bay
Brown University, Providence - tour an Ivy-league campus that is an "architectural tour de force"; located in a very walkable area of the city
Colt State Park, Bristol - the "gem" of the Rhode Island state park system; shorelines and great paved walking and biking paths
Crescent Park Looff Carousel, East Providence - one of the finest hand-carved historic carousels anywhere
Donut shops in/near Providence - for who knows what reason, the Providence area has attracted a slew of excellent donut shops
East Bay Bike Path - one of the best paved rail trails in New England; 14.5 miles long; one of the famous Del's Lemonade shops is on the trail
Fourth of July Parade (event), Bristol - supposedly the oldest Fourth of July parade in the U.S.
Gun Totem, Providence - 12-foot tall sculpture made of more than 1,000 reclaimed (and disabled) guns
Italian restaurants and shops in Federal Hill, Providence - several highly-rated Italian restaurants and shops in a historic district
La Gondola, Providence - authentic Venetian gondola rides in the canals of Providence
McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket - famous minor league baseball park
Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), Providence - beautiful theater that hosts Broadway shows, plays, and music concerts
Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence - impressive art museum in the heart of Providence
Roger Williams Park, Providence - includes a botanical garden, natural history museum, zoo, & green space; don't miss "Food Truck Fridays"
Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence - the best zoo in New England; don't miss the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular event in October
WaterFire, Providence - famous river bonfire events with music and performers; events occur on specific dates from spring through fall

Newport and surrounding area (including Jamestown, Middletown, and Portsmouth)
Beavertail State Park, Jamestown - includes one of the finest lighthouses in New England; offers some of the best views in Rhode Island
Boat tours in Newport - various guide companies in Newport offer excellent and very popular sailing, schooner, fishing, etc. boat tours
Boyd's Wind Grist Mill, Middletown - probably New England's largest historic windmill
Breakers, The, Newport - tour Newport's largest mansion and one of the biggest in the U.S. (70 rooms!)
Brenton Point State Park, Newport - great views of where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean
Cliff Walk, Newport - this 3.5 mile coastal path is Rhode Island's best walking trail; views of rocky shorelines and gigantic mansions
Elms, The, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
Fort Adams State Park, Newport - historic fort and panoramic views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay; summer music festivals
Green Animals Topiary Garden, Portsmouth - supposedly the oldest topiary garden in the U.S.; several bushes have been carved into animals
International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport - the premier tennis museum in the U.S.; you can play on their courts
Marble House, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
National Museum of American Illustration, Newport - one of the finest illustration museums in the U.S.
Newport Folk Festival - famous 3-day folk music festival held at Fort Adams State Park; typically held in July
Newport Jazz Festival - famous 3-day jazz music festival held at Fort Adams State Park; typically held in July
Newport Polo, Portsmouth - famous equestrian facility with polo matches
Ocean Drive, Newport - this 10-mile coastal drive is Rhode Island's most famous and best scenic drive
Rail Explorers, Newport - guided tours on pedal-powered rail bikes; there are currently only a few places in the U.S. where you can do this
Rosecliff, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
Rough Point Museum, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Middletown - coastal park with good hiking trails and scenic views
Thames Street, Newport - tourist center of the lively city of Newport; attractive area with many shops and restaurants
Trolley Tours in Newport - guided sightseeing tours of Newport

Southern Rhode Island (excluding Newport and surrounding area)
Arcadia Management Area - the state's largest recreation area with boating, fishing, and hiking; Stepstone Falls is a small but pretty waterfall
East Beach, Watch Hill area of Westerly
Napatree Point Conservation Area, Westerly - take a long walk on an undeveloped beach; parking area also used for local shops/restaurants
Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett - one of the best beaches in Rhode Island; popular with surfers
Nordic, The, Charlestown - a famous all-you-can-eat seafood buffet restaurant (e.g. lobster, shrimp, oysters, etc.)
Ocean House, Westerly - 5-star grand hotel overlooking East Beach
Tilted Barn Brewery, Exeter - great farmhouse-style brewery with food trucks often brought on site

Block Island
1661 Farm and Gardens, New Shoreham - small but highly-rated animal farm
Bicycling the roads/streets around the island
Exploring the island's 17 miles of beautiful beaches - e.g. Fred Benson Town Beach, Mansion Beach
Mohegan Bluffs, New Shoreham - dramatic geologic attraction; the #1 natural attraction on Block Island
North Lighthouse, New Shoreham - tour a granite lighthouse that was built in the 1800s
Rodman's Hollow, New Shoreham - nature preserve with scenic views and several hiking trails (some of which lead to the coastline/beaches)
Southeast Lighthouse, New Shoreham - red brick lighthouse near Mohegan Bluffs

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Rhode Island? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN RHODE ISLAND



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Rhode Island? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Rhode Island, in no particular order:

Relax on quaint and scenic Block Island for a few nights
Cycle the 14.5-mile East Bay Bike Path, one of New England's best paved rail trails
Walk the famous 3.5-mile shoreline Cliff Walk in Newport and then head to are surrounding Thames Street for many shops, restaurants, and bars
Take a guided tour of one (or several) of Newport's historic mega-mansions
Attend a WaterFire bonfire event in downtown Providence
Drive Ocean Drive, Rhode Island's most famous and best scenic drive
Hit the beach at Narragansett Town Beach
Eat all-you-can-eat seafood at the Nordic in Charlestown
Join a sailing tour in Newport
Attend either the Newport Folk Festival or the Newport Jazz Festival, or both

If I could pick only one place to visit in Rhode Island, I would choose Block Island. It's one of the most quaint islands in the U.S., and it has 17 miles of beaches. It is a quieter alternative to the Massachusetts islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. There are 17 miles of beaches there, and several attractive (but also very expensive) inns and B&Bs. Cycling is a great way to explore the island, although all cycling is on-street and while vehicle traffic is low, you have to pay attention. The Mohegan Bluffs are the top nature sight to see on the island. You will want to plan your trip to this island months in advance.

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN RHODE ISLAND



These towns and cities in Rhode Island are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Narragansett - Narragansett Town Beach and other beaches; gateway to quaint and scenic Block Island
New Shoreham (Block Island) - miles of beaches; good bicycling (on street); shops and art galleries; several hiking trails
Newport - tours of historic mansions; beaches; lively tourist district; great coastal walk (e.g. Cliff Walk); the "sailing capital of the World"
Providence - famous for its historic districts and colonial architecture, Italian restaurants, creative culture, and river bonfire events
Westerly - the "Watch Hill" area of this seaside town has several tourist shops and restaurants, plus beaches you can hike to; limited parking

My favorite city in Rhode Island is Newport - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 3-4 nights there. There are dozens of great restaurants and many great museums. It's also an incredibly walkable city. Make sure to take a guided tour of at least one of the huge mansions and walk as much as the Cliff Walk as you can. There are many day trips you can take from here as well, including Providence and also Battleship Cove in Fall River.

My favorite small town in Rhode Island is New Shoreham (Block Island) - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 2-3 nights there. The lodging on this island is insanely expensive, and so your best option is likely to be an Airbnb.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS RHODE ISLAND FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Rhode Island is famous or well-known for:

beaches
being the smallest U.S. state
lighthouses
mansions / mansion tours
miles of coastline (nearly 400 miles!)
sailing

Click here if you'd like to explore what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN RHODE ISLAND



There are currently no national parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, or national forests in Rhode Island. However, there are a few other federally-managed parks and properties in the state, including:

National Wildlife Refuges
Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge
Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park
Roger Williams National Memorial
Touro Synagogue National Historic Site
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail

For more information on Rhode Island's national parks, visit the Rhode Island page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island has more than a dozen state parks. Many would agree that these represent Rhode Island's finest state parks:

Arcadia Management Area - the state's largest recreation area with boating, fishing, and hiking; Stepstone Falls is a small but pretty waterfall
Beavertail State Park, Jamestown - holds one of the finest lighthouses in New England; one of the best views in Rhode Island
Colt State Park, Bristol - the "gem" of the Rhode Island state park system; shorelines and great paved walking and biking paths
Fort Adams State Park, Newport - historic fort and panoramic views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay; summer music festivals

My favorite state park in Rhode Island is Colt State Park. I love to cycle, and the bike paths and roads there are great. The park also directly connects with the excellent East Bay Bike Path, a paved 14.5 mile rail trail that is among the best rail trails in New England.

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island only has two significant natural waterfalls, and both of them are very small. Neither is nationally significant, although I do think both are attractive when the water is flowing well.

Cascade Brook Falls, Ken Weber Conservation Area, Smithfield - very seasonal (only visit during snow-melt or right after heavy rains)
Stepstone Falls, Arcadia Management Area, West Greenwich

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Rhode Island, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN RHODE ISLAND



The most famous scenic drive in Rhode Island is the 10-mile Ocean Drive in Newport. I haven't found any other notable scenic drives in the state, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Do you know of any special ones?

BEST OCEAN BEACHES IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island has many excellent beaches, including 17-miles of beaches on Block Island alone. Here are some of Rhode Island's best beaches:

Charlestown Beach, New Shoreham (Block Island)
Charlestown Town Beach, Charlestown
Crescent Beach, New Shoreham (Block Island)
East Beach, Charlestown
East Beach, Westerly
East Matunuck State Beach, South Kingstown
Eaton's Beach/First Beach, Newport
Fred Benson Town Beach, New Shoreham (Block Island)
Goosewing Beach, Little Compton
Misquamicut State Peach, Westerly
Napatree Point Beach, Westerly
Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett
Roger W. Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett
Second Beach/Sachuest Beach, Middletown
Watch Hill Beach, Westerly

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN RHODE ISLAND



Here is a list of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Rhode Island:

Blackstone River Greenway - nearly 30 mile (not continuous) rail trail that starts in Providence and heads north and extends into MA
East Bay Bike Path - 14.5 mile paved rail trail from Providence to Bristol; one of the best rail trails in New England
Washington Secondary Bike Path - 19.0 mile paved rail trail from Cranston to Coventry; mix of urban and rural environments
William C. O'Neil Bike Path - 7.2 mile paved rail trail from West Kingston to Narragansett

The East Bay Bike Path is my favorite rail trail in Rhode Island. I would say it is tied with the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Massachusetts as my favorite rail trail in New England. The scenery along the East Bay Bike Path is superb and there's a Del's Lemonade shop right off the trail (which are probably the most famous lemonade shops in the U.S.).

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Rhode Island, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN RHODE ISLAND



There are no notable amusement parks in Rhode Island currently.

BEST MUSEUMS IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island has several notable museums, many of which are historic estates. The best museums in Rhode Island include:

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, Bristol - tour one of the finest estates in New England; views of Narragansett Bay
Breakers, The, Newport - tour Newport's largest mansion and one of the biggest in the U.S. (70 rooms!)
Elms, The, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport - the premier tennis museum in the U.S.; you can play on their courts
Marble House, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
National Museum of American Illustration, Newport - one of the finest illustration museums in the U.S.
Newport Art Museum, Newport
Newport Car Museum, Portsmouth
Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark, Pawtucket
Providence Children's Museum, Providence
Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art (RISD), Providence
Rosecliff, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport
Rough Point Museum, Newport - one of several opulent grand estates you can tour in Newport

BEST DAY HIKES IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island is a very small state and it only has a few notable hiking trails. Most of the best trails offer great ocean or shoreline views. Here are some of the best day hikes in Rhode Island:

Beavertail State Park trails, Jamestown
Black Point Trail, Narragansett
Cliff Walk, Newport
Napatree Point, Napatree Point Conservation Area, Westerly
Rodman's Hollow Nature Preserve, Block Island
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge trails, Middletown

The highpoint of Rhode Island is Jerimoth Hill (812'). A 0.8 mile round-trip hike from RI-101 (the "Old Hartford Pike") in Foster is required to reach the top. There are no views at the top, just a stone and usually a few rock cairns.

Great information on Rhode Island hikes can be found on the RI Walks website.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN RHODE ISLAND



I only know of two areas in Rhode Island that are rumored to allow backpacking:

Arcadia Management Area
George Washington Wildlife Management Area

There is very limited information about the backpacking opportunities in these areas online. If you have any information you can share, please email me!

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN RHODE ISLAND



Rhode Island offers several great outdoor adventures, including:

Bouldering in Lincoln Woods State Park
Cycling the Blackstone River Bikeway
Cycling the East Bay Bike Path
Cycling on the roads/streets of Block Island
Cycling the Washington Secondary Bike Path
Helicopter tours in Newport
Horseback riding in Arcadia Management Area
Horseback riding in Goddard Memorial State Park
Mountain biking Big River Management Area
Mountain biking in Diamond Hill State Park
Mountain biking in Lincoln Woods State Park
Parasailing in Newport
Sailing in Newport
Skydiving in Middletown (near Newport) or Smithfield
Surfing at Sachuest Beach
Surfing at Narragansett Town Beach

RHODE ISLAND TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Rhode Island attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN RHODE ISLAND



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Rhode Island:

calamari (e.g. Rhode Island style)
clam cakes
coffee milk
dynamite sandwich
frozen lemonade (e.g. Del's Lemonade)
johnnycakes
snail salad
stuffies (stuffed quahogs)

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Rhode Island (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Rhode Island (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY RHODE ISLAND INFORMATION



Capital = Providence
Major airports = Providence
Largest cities = Providence (193,512), Cranston (83,444), Warwick (82,853), Pawtucket (76,496), East Providence (47,159)
Primary U.S. interstates = I-95
State highpoint = Jerimoth Hill (812'); a 0.8 mile round-trip hike from RI-101 (the "Old Hartford Pike") in Foster is required to reach the top.
Professional sports teams = none

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.


Ocean House in Westerly, Rhode Island
Ocean House in Westerly, Rhode Island

Del's Lemonade, Rhode Island
Del's Lemonade, likely the most beloved lemonade company in the U.S.

East Bay Bike Path, Rhode Island
a portion of the 14.5 mile East Bay Bike Path, Rhode Island

Beavertail State Park Lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island
Beavertail State Park lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island

Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island
Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Jerimoth Hill, Rhode Island
Jerimoth Hill, the highpoint of Rhode Island
(reaching the top requires an easy 0.4 mile round-trip hike)


Napatree Point Conservation Area in Westerly, Rhode Island
Napatree Point Conservation Area in the "Watch Hill" area of Westerly, Rhode Island

Colonial buildings in Newport, Rhode Island
Colonial buildings in Newport, Rhode Island

Gun Totem Pole in Providence, Rhode Island
Gun Totem Pole in Providence, Rhode Island

one of several donut shops in/around Providence, Rhode Island
one of several donut shops in/around Providence, Rhode Island

canals of Providence, Rhode Island
canals of Providence, Rhode Island

Tilted Barn Brewery in Essex, Rhode Island
Tilted Barn Brewery in Essex, Rhode Island

Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket, Rhode Island
the large Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Claiborne Pell Bridge / Newport Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island
Claiborne Pell Bridge / Newport Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island
(photo donated by Adriana Buontempo)


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this travel guide? If so, here are links to more U.S. state travel guides:

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