Rhode Island may be tiny, but it contains over 400 miles of coastline, along which you’ll find over 100 public and private beaches. If sunbathing and swimming are on your agenda but you’re not sure where to begin, these eight beaches are the best of the lot.

Volunteers doing shoreline cleanup at Misquamicut State Beach.

Volunteers from Save the Bay do shoreline cleanup at Misquamicut State Beach. Photo © Save The Bay/Flickr CC-BY.

1: Best for Recreation

In Westerly, Misquamicut State Beach is one of the largest in the state. It’s got a playground and a large concession stand with a shaded pavilion, and is situated amidst the motels, gift shops, candy stores, water slides, mini-golf courses, arcades, and other amusements along Atlantic Avenue.

2: Best for Surfing

An easily accessible beach break makes Narragansett Town Beach in South County a popular spot with both seasoned and beginner surfers. The swell here ranges from between 2-8 feet, and a sunken barge just offshore along the northern stretch of the beach creates some nice right-breaking waves. Ample parking is available, but will cost between $10-15 between Memorial Day and Labor Day (parking is free in the off-season).

3 & 4: Best for Families

If you’re traveling with kids, try Easton’s Beach (often called First Beach by locals), a .75 mile stretch of sandy shoreline located right at the beginning of the Cliff Walk in Newport. The beach is also home to a carousel, a playground, an aquarium, a skateboard park, and a snack bar to keep children amused. Just a few minutes farther east is Third Beach, which is set back in a cove, meaning there aren’t many waves so it’s an ideal spot for taking a dip with small children.

5 & 6: Best for Avoiding Crowds

South Shore Beach in Little Compton has fun waves to splash around in or surf, and relatively sparse crowds even in the high season—it’s also one of the only beaches that permit bonfires in the evenings. Farther south, Charlestown and Blue Shutters Town Beaches are both smaller with less commotion.

7 & 8: Best for Joining the Crowds

Scarborough Beach in Narragansett is often the most crowded in the state and is popular with just about everyone. Also in Narragansett, Roger Wheeler State Beach is a local favorite, with nice facilities, a concession stand, a picnic area, and a bathhouse. This is a relatively small stretch of golden sand, and doesn’t take long to fill up with beach-goers on sunny summer days.

Roger Wheeler State Beach, Rhode Island.

Roger Wheeler State Beach, Rhode Island. Photo © Erika Smith/Flickr CC-BY-SA.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Rhode Island.