Summer in the Ocean State means three things: Del’s lemonade, near-tropical levels of humidity and checking out the best beaches in Rhode Island. (Beach traffic, too, but that’s a topic we’ll save for another day.)
It is the Ocean State, after all. For hundreds of years, folks have flocked to the Rhode Island coastline to escape the sweltering summer temperatures. (Newport mansions, anyone?) If you’re of a similar mind, we’ve rounded up our five favorite beaches for you to explore this summer.
Stay cool, my friends! And grab a Del’s if you can – it’s the perfect beverage to pair with the beach.
It takes a little walking to get here, but you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds than other Rhode Island beaches – even in the peak of summer – and nature galore. The parcel is owned by The Nature Conservancy, with the town managing the beach in the summer months. If you want to commune with nature and avoid the typical beach scene, this is the place for you. It’s decidedly rustic, with portable toilets and a few private food vendors. Park at South Shore Beach and walk to the end to get to Goosewing. On your way home, make sure to stop by Gray’s Ice Cream in neighboring Tiverton. The homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt is said to be some of the best in the state.
Beach parking costs $18 on weekdays, $23 on weekends/holidays.
Poor Scarborough. For years this beautiful, tidy beach has been trying to shed its past image as the Ocean State’s Muscle Beach – a place where boomboxes jammed, hairspray-teased hairdos ruled and gold chains shimmered in the sun.
Yes, you’ll still find avid sun-worshippers and more than a fair amount of college students, but it’s also a place where families and friends gather to enjoy the sandy, wide swatch of coastline and the gentle, rolling surf. It’s not too gentle, though – you can bring a boogie board and catch a fair amount of waves. It’s perfect for seashell-picking and walking too. You can explore the mysterious ruins of an old building – the good folks at Rhode Island Monthly recently sleuthed out that it was the 21-room mansion Windswept – while you spy Point Judith Lighthouse in the distance, standing sentinel over the steely Atlantic. As for amenities, Scarborough is stacked: concessions, picnic tables, hot and cold showers, and shady gazebos from which to watch the scene. It’s all here.
A visit to Brickley’s Ice Cream on the way home would be 1) welcome after a scorching day at the beach and 2) highly recommended. TripAdvisor.com named the Narragansett icon one of the top 10 places in the U.S. for homemade ice cream.
Rhode Island resident parking is $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends/holidays; non-resident parking is $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends/holidays.
If you’re looking for waves, whether for surfing or boogie boarding, you can’t beat Narragansett Town Beach. Yes, you pay for both parking and admission, but what you get in return is a mile-long beach that’s spotless and sandy, with the added bonus of getting to watch surfers plying the waves. Just across the street you’ll find tons of eateries – everything from crepes to classic seafood fare – as well as shopping and ice cream spots. The wall ringing the beach is a popular spot to sit and indulge in some serious people-watching, especially with an ice-cold cone of gelato in your hand.
It’s open daily from June 7 through Labor Day. Admission is $12 for adults. Children age 11 and under are free. Parking is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays.
Its official name is Sachuest Beach, but Rhode Islanders know this strip of shore as Second Beach. (Easton’s Beach in Newport is known as First Beach, and a beach near Third Beach Harbor is – you guessed it – Third Beach.) Like Scarborough, this is another of those quintessential Ocean State beaches; the one everyone’s family went to when they were little. The amenities are plentiful: a concession stand, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and grills dot the sandy expanse. The beach is perched between two natural wonders: Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge at one end, filled with walking trails that snowy owls love to visit every few winters; and Purgatory Chasm, a natural ravine sluiced away by seawater, at the other. It’s a rocky scramble to get there, though, so bring sneakers or hiking boots.
It’s open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. Parking is $20 on weekdays and $30 on weekends/holidays.
OK, so it’s technically not a beach, per se: it’s a freshwater pond. But what Spring Lake lacks in saltwater spray and seashells it makes up for in family-friendliness, small-town charm and picturesque views. Little touches like slides set up in the water and a floating dock just perfect for jumping into the lake will appeal to young and old alike. A little swim store likely carries anything you may have forgotten, and the facility also has restrooms, outdoor showers, shady picnic tables and kayak rentals. But the best part just may be the penny arcade. It’s been lovingly maintained throughout the years and has some of the oldest games in the country. Some even take pennies, nickels and dimes. It’s a great place to escape the blistering sun for a little bit and feel like a kid again.
Daily admission is $4 for Burrillville residents and $7 for non-residents.
What are your picks for the best beaches in Rhode Island? Tell us in the comments.
Find top beaches throughout the Northeast at AAA.com/BeachGuide.
This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.