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Rhode Island Vacations: 8 Weekend Getaways Ideas

Rhode Island may be America's smallest state, but it's way bigger than you think it is

Rhode Island may be America’s smallest state, but it’s way bigger than you think it is. After years of writing about the Ocean State, my local bucket list is still pages long. Yes, many visitors picture sunny beaches and weathered docks, and you can see plenty of these maritime icons. But you’ll also find quirky villages, ethnic neighborhoods, sprawling nature preserves, and world-class restaurants. And that’s just a start.

Travelers have been vacationing in Rhode Island since the Victorian Age, and the state is drenched in historic landmarks. Millions of people visit Newport and Narragansett every year, and there’s plenty to do in these hotspots. Yet Rhode Island is a land of nooks and crannies; turn one turn, and the landscape changes completely. In a matter of minutes, you could drive across a picturesque bridge, pass a refurbished factory, round a rocky cove, and arrive at a surprise brewery.

Here are some of my favorite destinations, from well known vacation hubs to tranquil corners.

Westerly: A Blissful Peninsula

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Once made prosperous by a nearby granite quarry, downtown Westerly is dense with shops and restaurants. Catch a visiting author at Savoy Bookshop and Cafe, or sample the raw bar at Bridge Restaurant while gazing over the Pawcatuck River.

Westerly also claims Watch Hill – a storybook village of beautiful houses, seaside shops, and the Flying Horse Carousel, where the horses are suspended by chains. If it’s any indication how blissful this peninsula is in the summertime, Taylor Swift has a mansion here.

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Where to Stay in Westerly

The paragon of Watch Hill is Ocean House Resort, a mansion-like hotel that overlooks the lawns and beach with 150 years of confidence. Here you can treat yourself to the OH!Spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, and COAST Restaurant, which showcases the famous local catch.

Ocean House

Top rated
Westerly
8.8 Excellent (117 reviews)

Narragansett: Scenic Coastline and Fresh Seafood

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During a typical summer, legions of sun-seekers flock to Narragansett Town Beach. Hemmed in by a stone wall, the beach is famous for its mile-long crescent of sand and bodacious surfing (in all seasons). The town’s pride is The Towers, a stone archway that rises over the main road like a medieval gatehouse and has inspired photographers and painters since 1876.

Just south of Narragansett’s hubbub is Point Judith, a stretch of coastline best known for its bountiful commercial fishing and the Point Judith Lighthouse. When you explore Point Judith and nearby Galilee by car, you’ll find docks, scenic coastline, and the freshest seafood in the state.

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Where to Stay in Narragansett

A standout lodging is The Break, a boutique hotel with a spa, outdoor swimming pool, and rooftop bar. It also offers easy access to Scarborough Beach, a quiet alternative to Narragansett.

The Break

Top rated
Narragansett
9.5 Excellent (296 reviews)

Newport: Scenic Promenade and Great Dining

Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

Newport is the diamond of southern New England, and whether you come here for the mansions or the sailing, the dining or the museums, this Gilded Age capital is a showstopper. You could spend a whole day roaming the boutiques and cafes of Thames Street and Bowen’s Wharf. Tour sprawling estates, take a scenic promenade along the Cliff Walk, catch a professional polo match, and scare yourself silly on an Olde Town ghost tour.

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Where to Stay in Newport

Newport is bustling with high-end hotels, and you’ll find even more in neighboring Middletown, but one of the greats is Hotel Viking. This stately brick structure stands in the very heart of Newport, and it’s earned a far-reaching reputation since 1928. Hotel Viking boasts a pool, raw bar, and rooftop lounge overlooking the harbor. Meanwhile, One Bellevue Restaurant is among the most recognized dining spots in town.

Hotel Viking

Newport
8.2 Very good (1729 reviews)

Jamestown: Affordable Hotels and Beautiful Lighthouse

Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

Many visitors make the mistake of driving over Jamestown on their way to Newport, but this island is more than a stepping stone. Jamestown has country roads, a plucky village center, and Beavertail Lighthouse – one of the most calendar-worthy lighthouses in New England.

The main drag is Narragansett Avenue, where you’ll find a range of dining options, specialty shops, and the Narragansett Cafe – a rollicking pub and concert hall. Savvy travelers stay in Jamestown, where accommodations are affordable and it’s easy to park, then take the ferry to Newport.

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Where to Stay in Jamestown

One great spot to stay is East Bay Bed and Breakfast, just a short walk from the East Ferry Wharf. This B&B was built in 1892 and features bright, newly renovated rooms. For a romantic getaway, East Bay staff can add a wine package or fresh flowers.

East Bay Bed & Breakfast

Jamestown
8.9 Excellent (20 reviews)

Little Compton: a Place to Relax

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Little Compton is part of the locally famous “Farm Coast,” and you’ll see plenty of woods, fieldstone walls, and livestock grazing in pastures. Little Compton is also considered off the beaten track, where roadside shops, tranquil beaches, and Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard reward the adventurous road-tripper.

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Where to Stay in Little Compton

Tired of hum-drum hotels? Old Tiverton Four Corners Schoolhouse may look quaint on the outside, but the renovated interior has a gourmet kitchen, 46-inch TV, and a functional stone hearth. It’s also a stone’s throw from Tiverton Four Corners, a major crossroads for local arts and crafts.

Old Tiverton Four Corners Schoolhouse No.1 - C. 1800 - Offered By Sakonnet Farm

Newport
9.2 Excellent (75 reviews)

Providence: A Cozy Pedestrian-Friendly City

Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

For visitors, Providence is full of surprises. “Downcity” is easy to walk, full of stores and dining, and close to Brown University. Much of the capital’s civic life straddles the narrow Providence River: gondolas glide down the water, parks and stone walkways line its banks, and a massive new pedestrian bridge spans the river like a levitating plaza. In summer, you can participate in WaterFire, a blazing, contemplative art installation that draws thousands every weekend.

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Where to Stay in Providence

Providence is in the middle of a hotel boom, but the most original location is still The Dean. Here you’ll find art-infused walls, individualized rooms (some with bunk beds) and North – the acclaimed restaurant by James Beard-nominated chef James Mark. The building even houses a popular karaoke bar.

The Dean

Providence
8.5 Excellent (1351 reviews)

Block Island: Edenic Beaches and Budget-Friendly

Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

Block Island is the perfect escape: it has all the charm, beaches, and historic intrigue of Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s way less expensive and much easier to reach. The town of New Shoreham has a wide range of diversions – the edenic beaches of Mohegan Bluffs, the live music of Ballard’s Beach Resort, and bicycling from one novelty shop to the next. Plus, you can stuff yourself on lobster rolls and gelato.

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Where to Stay in Block Island

Block Island has some great places to stay, including the 1661 Inn. This historic guesthouse blends Victorian wallpaper and paintings with sleek, modern layouts. Cozy decks overlook the water, and many rooms come with their own Jacuzzis. Just a short walk from the ferry, 1661 stands smack in the middle of New Shoreham’s dining and nightlife.

The 1661 Inn

Top rated
Block Island
9.1 Excellent (220 reviews)

The East Bay: Photogenic Riverbank and Many Art Venues

Photo: Rhode Island Commerce Corporation

If you’re visiting Rhode Island for its adorable New England villages, the East Bay will check a lot of boxes. Warren is an old factory town nestled against the water, with a marina, lots of eateries, and a startling number art venues. Down the road is Bristol, with its sailboat-studded harbor, the strollable Waterfront Park, and the oldest Fourth of July festival in the nation.

In the warmer months, the most enjoyable way to visit these towns is to pedal the East Bay Bike Path, a paved, 17-mile trail that hugs the photogenic riverbank.

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Where to Stay in The East Bay

The East Bay doesn’t have many hotels, and most visitors stay in Providence or Newport. But we recommend William’s Grant Inn, the erstwhile home of a local sea captain. Here you’ll find French Colonial architecture, antique furnishings, and a menagerie of teddy bears. It’s also a quick walk to Bristol’s busy nightlife.

William's Grant Inn

Top rated
Bristol
9.3 Excellent (205 reviews)