Newport ranks among the most appealing long-weekend destinations in New England, but lesser-known coastal towns to the south—like Narragansett, Charlestown, and Wickford—offer a down-to-earth charm that appeals to broader sensibilities. Spend a day soaking up the gorgeous views and rich history of posh Newport, then head to South County for a truly relaxing day in one of Rhode Island’s smaller, more laid-back beach communities.
Saturday in Newport
Begin on Ocean Drive, the famously scenic road that loops around for about 10 miles, edging the sea and passing dramatic summer homes. Then continue onto tree-shaded Bellevue Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Newport’s Gilded Age, studded with palatial mansions that have been converted into house-museums. Both The Breakers and The Elms are among the best mansions to tour.
Several lanes headed east from Bellevue provide access to the Cliff Walk, a rocky path that runs along a bluff and affords exceptional views of Rhode Island Sound as well as the backyards of several waterfront estates; definitely plan to hike along at least a section of this path if the weather permits. After that, you might just want to spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and lounging in the sand at Easton’s Beach, but if there’s rain in the forecast, consider checking out the exhibits at the Newport Art Museum. Plan on an early-ish dinner at the cozy Perro Salado in Washington Square. Then give yourself enough time to end the day by heading over the bridge to Jamestown, where you can watch the sunset from the rocky cliffs at Beavertail State Park.
Sunday in South County
Head over to the mainland this morning for a surf or paddleboard lesson at Narragansett Town Beach, where board and wetsuit rentals are available right in the parking lot on summer days. Satisfy the hunger you’ve worked up out on the waves with brunch at Crazy Burger Juice Bar & Café, also located in Narragansett Pier.
After brunch, head south on Route 1 into Charlestown and spend the afternoon browsing at The Fantastic Umbrella Factory, a compound of curiosity shops surrounded by an exotic-animal petting zoo, greenhouses, and an enchanting bamboo forest. From here you’re within minutes of several gorgeous beaches—Matunuck, Moonstone, and Charlestown, to name a few. Pack a picnic and take a stroll during sunset, then head to Matunuck for an 8pm show at Theatre-by-the-Sea or live music at the Ocean Mist Beach Bar. Stay in South County in one of the modest seaside hotels or take the 35-minute drive back to Newport.
If you’re headed west toward Connecticut, consider spending your last morning hiking the trail at Long Pond-Ell Pond Nature Preserve in Hopkinton on your way out of town. The trail here includes excellent views from a rocky cliff overlooking the water, and some eye-popping color when the rhododendrons are in season. If you’re headed back north to T. F. Green Airport, follow Route 1 and stop off in Wickford to spend the morning kayaking through Wickford Harbor, where rentals and guided tours are available at the Kayak Centre of Wickford.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Rhode Island.