The best Rhode Island beaches have a lot to like. Even though Rhode Island is America’s smallest state, it has a long and winding coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and several bays and estuaries. Many miles of the shoreline are managed by the state or the local municipalities, meaning the public has access to the best the Ocean State has to offer. Even when Rhode Island was a colony, access to the shore was so important it was a right built into the charter. Now more than 200 years later, visitors still have unencumbered access to the beach.
A combination of sun and surf, Misquamicut Beach is the largest beach managed by the state. With 3,600 acres of ocean frontage, Misquamicut State Beach has plenty of room for everyone to have fun. Popular with families, especially on summer weekends, this beach has earned the reputation of one of the best Rhode Island beaches for good reason. It’s both stunning and a lot of fun. All of the state parks are free to visit, but you’ll need to pay a parking fee. There’s plenty of parking here, along with a big pavilion and picnic tables. In the surrounding town of Westerly, you’ll find everything you need for a beach vacation, including more great beaches, water slides, and seaside amusements. There are also great hotels and restaurants within a short stroll of the shore.
Narragansett Town Beach
A popular place to gather when the temperature rises, Narragansett Town Beach is one of the best beaches in a town known for its great beaches. Along with amazing views, this half-mile beach is popular with swimmers and beachcombers. Visitor amenities include snack shops, changing areas, and lifeguards on duty. Kids under the age of 12 can visit for free, and older visitors will need to pay a small entry fee. A host of events take place on the shore, including concerts in the beach-side pavilions, yoga classes, and a pumpkin festival in the fall.
Fort Adams State Park
At once a historic site, concert venue, and one of the best Rhode Island beaches, Fort Adams State Park is one of the most popular places to visit in the entire state. For generations, the fort provided protection from a strategic place overlooking the Narragansett Bay. Today, the old fort is open for tours and history programs. The park is also home to the Museum of Yachting—as well as being a starting point for sailing adventures. You’ll also find one of the best Newport beaches that’s perfect for lounging in the sun or enjoying some saltwater swimming. Lifeguards are on duty every day of the summer. You’ll also find two fishing piers at the state park, which hosts the famed Newport Jazz festival every summer. This park and beach is free to visit, and a small parking fee is collected.
South Shore Beach
This long strip of sandy beach has become one of the best Rhode Island beaches thanks to its amazing views. As you stroll along the beach, you’ll find the Atlantic Ocean and the Elizabeth Islands in one direction with the charmingly named Tunipus Pond in the other direction. A few minutes of more walking and you’ll find yourself at Goosewing Beach, a wildlife refuge protected by the Nature Conservancy. Both South Shore Beach and the wildlife refuge are favored by piping plovers. Lifeguards watch over South Shore Beach in the summertime, and anglers are welcome at the beach on summer evenings and anytime during the off season.