14 Top-Rated Beaches in Rhode Island

Written by Lura Seavey
Dec 13, 2019

Despite Rhode Island's ranking as the smallest state in the U.S., its combined coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay is an astounding 384 miles. This abundance of shoreline with numerous beaches has earned it the nickname of the Ocean State, and no matter where you go in Rhode Island, you are always close to the water.

Tourists who are going to be visiting state-run beaches more than a few times in the season will want to consider a season parking pass, available online for residents and non-residents. The pass is good for any of the seven state beaches, including top picks like Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown, and Roger W. Wheeler State Beach on Narragansett's Point Judith.

Research your options for a day by the sea with our list of the best beaches in Rhode Island.

1. Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly

Oceanfront on Scenic route 1 at sunset, Misquamicut, RI

Misquamicut State Beach occupies a half mile of soft sand on the Atlantic side of a narrow stretch of land that separates Winnapaug Pond from the ocean. It is a family favorite thanks to the gradual drop-off and relatively calm surf and the numerous diversions nearby.

Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months, and beach amenities include changing areas, toilets, concessions, a large pavilion, and shaded picnic areas. Visitors will also find a variety of activities here, especially in the evenings, when there are often concerts, fireworks, and other entertainment.

There are several popular family attractions at Misquamicut State Beach, all located at the easternmost end of the beach. Atlantic Beach Park sits facing the ocean between the state beach and the Westerly Town Beach and is home to a historic carousel and other family-friendly rides, as well as ice-cream and other treats.

Bayview Fun Park is just across the street, offering diversions like go-karts and mini-golf, and Water Wiz of Westerly is a great water park that sits next door, providing a sand-free option for enjoying the summer weather.

2. Easton's Beach/First Beach, Newport

Easton's Beach view from Newport Cliff Walk

Located at the beginning of Newport's Cliff Walk, Easton's Beach (also known as First Beach) is alive with activity and things to do. This is a favorite for families with kids of all ages, with a playground, a vintage carousel, and kids' activities for the younger ones and a skateboard park and live music for the teens.

Visitors can also learn about native ocean life and ecology at the Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, which is located at the Rotunda.

First Beach has a full range of facilities, including showers and restrooms, grills and picnic tables, and a snack bar. Beach wheelchairs are available for those with mobility limitations, allowing anyone to enjoy the sandy shore. Rentals are also available for beach chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards, and the beach shop is well-stocked with sunscreen and extra towels.

3. Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett

Narragansett Town Beach

Narragansett Town Beach is best known for its surfing, although you will find plenty of sunbathers and swimmers here as well. The shoreline extends for one mile and covers nearly 20 acres, attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people on a hot weekend day.

The beach is located right at the edge of town, making it easy to grab lunch or refreshments mid-day, and there area also food vendors and picnic facilities along the beach itself. The pavilion has restrooms, changing rooms, and a first aid station as well.

Experienced surfers tend to arrive early in the day to enjoy the less crowded conditions, however there is a surfing-only designated area to ensure that everyone can enjoy the beach in safety. Waves here can reach as high as four feet, and it's an excellent place to learn how to surf. Rentals and equipment are available at the local surf shop (about two blocks from the shore), and newbies or those looking for pointers from the experts can book lessons, too.

4. Goosewing Beach, Little Compton

Goosewing Beach, Little Compton, RI | Roger Williams / photo modified

Goosewing Beach is the perfect spot for those who want to enjoy nature and get away from the crowds. Unlike most of the beaches in Little Compton, Goosewing is open to the public, but you won't find droves of sunbathers from inland. Instead, you will find an idyllic beach lined with grassy dunes and flocks of shorebirds.

The area is part of Goosewing Beach Preserve, a 75-acre conservation area that is home to numerous species of birds, including the endangered Piping Plover and the rare Least Tern. Visitors who want to learn more about the local wildlife and ecosystem can visit the Benjamin Family Environmental Center, which is located adjacent to the beach. In addition to hosting exhibits and special events, the center offers guided nature walks.

5. East Matunuck State Beach, South Kingstown

East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown

This expansive beach park is located along the Atlantic-facing shore of Hazard Island in South Kingstown. The beach pavilion offers showers, restrooms, and changing facilities, and concessions are provided by Salty's Burgers, with a menu that includes everything from breakfast food to ice-cream.

Although the beach itself has plenty of room to spread out, parking can fill up rapidly, so it's best to arrive early in the day on a hot summer weekend.

East Matunuck Beach is particularly popular with surfers thanks to its sizable waves, and this is also a great place for boogie boarding and bodysurfing.

Although there are lifeguards on duty during summer months, families should be aware that the surf can be strong, so this may not be the best choice for those with young children, or inexperienced swimmers.

6. Crescent Beach, Block Island

Path to Crescent Beach at Block Island, Rhode Island

Located on the east side of Block Island, Crescent Beach stretches two and a half miles from the ferry port at Old Harbor to Clay Head. Only accessible via ferry, this stretch of white sand is well worth the time spent getting here.

If you left your supplies on the mainland, a full range of beach needs can be found at the Frederick J. Benson Pavilion, also known simply as the "Town Beach," which is located about halfway up the beach. In addition to food and treats, visitors can find rentals for cabanas, boogie boards, chairs, and sun umbrellas. The pavilion also has full convenience facilities, including showers and restrooms, and there are lifeguards posted along the beach during the summer months.

For those who want to explore the island, bicycles and mopeds can be rented near the ferry landing. There are nearly 17 miles of beaches on Block Island, including Baby Beach, Surf beach, and Mansion Beach; tourists will also find numerous picturesque lighthouses.

7. Roger W. Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett

Roger W. Wheeler State Beach in Point Judith, Narragansett

Located on the southern shore of Narragansett's Point Judith, within a protective three-mile seawall, Roger W. Wheeler State Beach covers 27 acres of soft white sand and has calm surf that is ideal for families. There is ample parking and a pavilion with restrooms, showers, and concessions. There is also a good playground on-site, and the beach is staffed with lifeguards seasonally.

At the far western end of this same stretch of shore, Salty Brine State Beach is a much smaller space but popular for its proximity to the route for the Block Island Ferry and local fishing boats-it's a great place to relax and watch as they make their way in and out of the harbor.

The beach is also convenient to several restaurants and is within walking distance of both the ferry terminal and the Galilee Bird Sanctuary.

8. Watch Hill Beach, Westerly

Watch Hill Beach

Located in Watch Hill, an upscale neighborhood of Westerly, Watch Hill Beach is known for its antique 1867 Flying Horse Carousel and beautiful sunsets. The beach has miles of soft sand and hosts numerous events all summer long, with public facilities including restrooms and showers.

Watch Hill Point extends south into the Atlantic at one end of the beach, and tourists can easily reach Watch Hill Lighthouse via a short walk.

On the other side of the point, East Beach is another alternative for those who don't mind finding parking in town and making the short trek to the shore. Both beaches are convenient to the shops and eateries in the lovely small town of Watch Hill.

9. Ballard's Beach, Block Island

Ballard's Beach on Block Island

One of Block Island's most popular beaches, Ballard's Beach is conveniently located just a few steps from the ferry port. All facilities are provided by Ballard's, the oceanfront hotel of the same name, and day visitors are welcome to take advantage of chair and umbrella rentals, as well as luxurious cabanas with private table service for the hotel restaurant. Summer evenings are always celebrated with live music and beach bonfires that go late into the night.

Another good alternative nearby is Fred Benson Town Beach, a long stretch of sandy beach just north of the docks. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer months, and you can also find chair and umbrella rentals here, as well as food vendors and beach supply shops.

10. Reject's Beach, Newport

Reject's Beach, Newport | Mike G / photo modified

Located right next to the exclusive Baileys Beach Club, the small but uncrowded Reject's Beach sits at the eastern end of Newport's Cliff Walk. Visitors will need to park in town and walk or bike to the shore, but this just means that there will be fewer tourists crowding the sand.

There are no facilities here and no lifeguards, but it is a perfect spot for seclusion-seekers or those who want to dip their toes in the water after a stroll along the Cliff Walk.

11. East Beach, Charlestown

Blue Shutters, Charlestown | Roger Williams / photo modified

East Beach in Charlestown is located on a strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Ninigret Pond, a coastal salt pond. Surrounded by conservation areas and a wildlife refuge, this is one of the most pristine beaches in the state.

Access to the beach is limited to a small parking lot, so be sure to get here early in the day; additional parking can be found at Blue Shutters Town Beach, which is situated at the east end of the beach.

Despite its secluded location, sections of the three-mile stretch of sand are monitored by lifeguards during the summer months and there are toilet facilities and changing rooms.

Along with swimming and sunbathing, the area is ideal for bird-watching and fishing, as well as kayaking in Ninigret Pond. There is also a small campground here for those who want to enjoy a few nights by the ocean.

12. Napatree Point Beach, Westerly

Dunes on Napatree Point

Napatree Point Beach begins at the entrance of the Napatree Point Conservation Area, a birder's paradise just east of Watch Hill in Westerly. In contrast to the nearby Watch Hill Beach, Napatree Beach is uncrowded and has no amenities or facilities. What you get instead, however, is an abundance of wildlife, especially birds that live in the dune habitats and stop by on their migratory routes. This protected area is an ideal place for a quiet day enjoying unspoiled nature.

13. Second Beach/Sachuest Beach, Middletown

Rainbow over Sachuest Beach

Located in Middletown, just a few minutes from Newport, Sachuest Beach (also known as Second Beach) is a great spot for families. Less crowded than many of the neighboring areas, the beach offers a full range of amenities, including restrooms, changing areas, and showers, as well as concessions and shaded picnic areas. The west end of the beach is commonly referred to as "Surfer's End," and those who don't want to lug their own board along can easily rent a surfboard here.

14. Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island

Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island

The shores of Mohegan Bluffs may not be ideal for a day of sunbathing and sandcastle-building, but this is definitely the perfect spot for those who like to explore. Accessible only by foot from the Mohegan Bluffs Trailhead, visitors can head down to the sea via the path or continue along the upper trail to enjoy spectacular views from atop the bluffs.

Trails also lead to the South East Lighthouse, an exceptionally well-maintained and stunning brick and granite structure that was built in 1875.

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Rhode Island Vacation Ideas: If you want to enjoy your beach time in comfort, have a read through our list of Top Resorts in Rhode Island and find a property that suits your needs. There is more to Rhode Island than just beautiful beaches. For ideas on things to see and do in the state, see our guide to the Top Attractions in Rhode Island. Popular destinations for tourist include Providence and New Port.

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