When thinking about the most enticing destinations in Rhode Island, the two that immediately come to mind are Newport and Providence. While these are pretty amazing places, what about everything in between? How about all of those towns that you pass by on the highway, never bothering to take the time to consider what amenities they might hold? Well, the time has come to take a second look at these underrated Rhode Island towns, and we think you’re going to like what you see.
1. Little Compton
Little Compton is just the place for a relaxing getaway. Even many Rhode Islanders haven’t been to this hidden treasure, as it is somewhat out of the way of most attractions, however once you get there, you won’t want to leave. Between the beaches, the vineyards, farm-fresh produce stands, and shopping, you’ll return from Little Compton rested and refreshed.
When people think of Warwick, images of T.F. Green airport, car dealerships, and strip malls might come to mind. If you take some time to get to know this town, however, it has so much character and history hidden behind all of the neon lights and parking lots. Home to two state parks - Goddard and Rocky Point - several beaches, ponds, and family farms, there are many surprising opportunities to commune with nature in Warwick. Additionally, part of Pawtuxet Village is located in Warwick (it’s also partially in Cranston), which is Rhode Island’s oldest village and also a great place to shop and enjoy a meal.
It’s easy to simply drive right through Jamestown on the way to Newport, but if you never take a day to pull off of the highway and explore this town, you’ll be missing out. There is a quaint downtown with shopping, dining, bars, a marina, ice cream, yoga studio, and more. Further off the beaten path, you should also check out Mackerel Cove, a gorgeous beach, as well as the two state parks, Beavertail and Fort Wetherill, located on this little island.
4. North Kingstown
You could just head to North Kingstown in order to jump on the Martha’s Vineyard Fast Ferry, or you could pause to enjoy some of the pleasures this town has to offer. The charming village of Wickford is part of North Kingstown, and it has plenty of attractions to keep almost anyone entertained and happy for an afternoon visit. Spend some time visiting the locally owned shops and admiring the early 18th century architecture - maybe take a horse-drawn carriage ride!. Then grab lunch at any of the many waterfront restaurants and enjoy the view of the harbor.
While its neighboring town, Bristol, is well known for its vibrant college life, sailing accolades, and Fourth of July parade, Warren is often not seen for the gem that it truly is. Warren has some fantastic seafood restaurants along the water, cute shops in their small downtown, the East Bay Bike Path, and it is home to the 2nd Story Theater, which has received rave reviews from locals and tourists alike.
If you’re heading to Little Compton (and why wouldn’t you?) you might as well spend a little time enjoying all that Tiverton has to offer. You can browse handcrafted gifts and locally made foods at the Four Corners (definitely check out Gray’s Ice Cream and Milk and Honey Bazaar). There are also many beaches, parks, and wildlife refuges if nature is what you crave.
Unlike many of the other towns on this list, Portsmouth doesn’t have a centrally located downtown for shopping and dining, however this does not diminish its worth. Portsmouth boasts several smaller beaches, as well as Glen Farm, which is home to the Glen Manor House mansion, wooded areas for walking, the Newport International Polo series, the Beast of the East rugby tournament, and much more.
Another out-of-the-way town that is often forgotten but so worth the drive is Charlestown. Head to any of the state beaches or, if you desire some solace in the woods, head to Burlingame State Park for tent or cabin camping on Watchaug Lake. For a unique shopping experience, check out Simple Pleasures and the Fantastic Umbrella Factory.
Many flock to Newport or Narragansett for fun in the sun, but Westerly is really the place to be in summer. Go to the beautiful state beaches overlooking the wild Atlantic, stroll through Wilcox Park, visit the Watch Hill Lighthouse, eat in the historic downtown, and finish it all off with a pint at Grey Sail Brewing Company.
While Pawtucket may seem like Providence’s forgotten younger sibling, it has quietly been reinventing itself in the last few years, and has blossomed into a vibrant city. Home to McCoy Stadium and the Pawsox, multiple theaters, breweries, and a flourishing restaurant scene, Pawtucket is definitely a place to revisit if you haven't been back in a while.
Did your town make our list of towns that deserve a second look? Should it have? Let us know; we’d love to hear from you!