Two weeks along the seashore in Narragansett, Rhode Island

Break_Out_of_Bushwick's picture
11 years
2012-08-18 to 2012-08-21

I was born and raised in the state of Rhode Island, but now only have the chance to return every couple of years for vacations. This coastal state bordered by Massachussets and Connecticut not only boasts being the smallest state in the union, but is recognized for epitomizing New England beaches, seafood and ambiance. On this particular trip, my daughter and I stayed for two weeks in the town of Narragansett to soak in the sun and take long walks along our favorite family-friendly beach and see wildlife. If you're looking for a relaxing vacation far away from the city, this is just the spot.

Where to Stay?

Sand Hill Cove BeachStaying along the East Coast during the hot summer months isn't cheap. The best bang for your buck is to rent a beach house with friends or family, sharing the cost. For many years, my family has rented private homes that have been managed through Durkin Realty. The homes each have their own charm, with many of them decorated in traditional New England decor and sometimes even funny little wooden fishermen and lobsters. Of course, for those who like the great outdoors, a camp site can be rented at Fisherman's State Park and Campground for only $20.00 per night.

Sand Hill Cove Beach (Robert Wheeler)

While Narragansett has four great beaches, the Robert Wheeler State Beach, called by locals 'Sand Hill Cove', is surrounded by rocky breakers, meaning that the water is calm and shallow- perfect for beginning swimmers and adults alike! While the lifeguards don't encourage people to walk on the breakers (and indeed, will yell at people to get off), they are home to countless species of snail, mussels and crabs, which gives youngsters willing to wade next to the rocks with their plastic buckets hours of entertainment. Because the beach gets flooded by vacationers, the best times to go are early morning before 10:00AM or late afternoon after 3:00PM. Not only can you then avoid the crowds, but you avoid getting sunburned and also free up a portion of your day to explore the rest of the Narragansett area. It's common for families to set up their "beach camp" early in the morning, leave during the hot hours of the day, and come back late afternoon as many beach-goers are making their way back home.

A lobster about to go into the pot from Champlins!Point Judith Lighthouse

I'm a runner, and Narragansett's long, windy, desolate roads make for perfect running tracks. One of my favorite runs is to start a run (or a walk with my daughter!) is at Sand Hill Cove, and towards the Point Judith Light House. The area, once home to the Narragansett Native American tribe, juts out a mile into the ocean. With sharp, rocky outcroppings and a lot of fog, this area was once the site of many shipwrecks. Built in 1857, the Point Judith Lighthouse was built. Truly, nothing says 'New England' like a lighthouse, and this one, which underwent extensive restoration in 2000, is a fine example. In addition, the run or walk along the roads to the lighthouse allow one to birdwatch and just generally appreciate the quiet of nature.

Narragansett Beach and the Towers

If Sand Hill Cove is a wonderland for young children, Narragansett Beach is a playground for teens. Boasting big waves, the water is filled with surfers on their boards, and there is a lovely path just beyond the beach for walking that affords great views. The area is abound with shops and litte restaurants, but the main attraction is the Towers. Built in the late 1800's in the midst of what was then a bustling resort area, the building was a casino which offered bowling, shooting and boating, as well as restaurants and even a ballroom. Today, with its two tours arching over a main road along the ocean, the Towers is an iconic place to enjoy an ice cream or people watch.

Salty Brine Beach

As long as we're on the topic of beaches, Salty Brine isn't to be missed. Connected by a thin strip of shore just down from Sand Hill Cove, one can easily walk from beach to beach. Salty Brine, although relatively small compared to other beaches in Narragansett, is located in the neighborhood of Galilee, which not only has great shopping and restaurants, but is next to a channel from which fishing boats come and go, making it one of the best places in the area to get a glimpse into the life of fisher-folk. My daughter loves watching the boats, as well as the water fowl who make the channel their home. The beach itself, crowded and covered with blankets and umbrellas, isn't my favorite place for bathing in the ocean, but offers so many other "perks" that I always make sure to visit at least once or twice during a visit. In addition, the beach pavilion is "green," using environment-friendly energy such as solar paneling to power its beach pavilion.


Rhode Islanders will tell you that they have the best food in the world. If you like seafood that is boiled, baked, fried and sometimes raw, then I'd say they're right! One of my favorite Rhode Island restaurants is Champlins. When the fishing boats come back with their catches, they dock right out back of Champlins and deliver the freshest seafood around. Lobsters, crabs, shrimp and all manner of fish fill the tanks in a storefront housed beneath the restaurant. While my family and I love dining in, we also enjoy picking up our own lobsters, bringing them back to the breach house we're renting, and having a traditional lobster, sweet corn and potato dinner al fresca in the evening. Make sure to try Champlins' Rhode Island clam chowder. Made with quahogs, a type of clam that lives in the salt water ponds in the area that is typically sweeter than other clams, their clear-brothed Rhode Island chowder, with only potatoes and some spices, hits the spot.

Another great meal at Aunt Carrie's!Aunt Carrie's

When, all of a sudden, you realize that you've done nothing but eat at Champlin's for a week, it's necessary to find a change of pace. Aunt Carrie's, a Narragansett restaurant that has been owned since 1920 by the same family, is famous for not only its seafood, but for the warm, homemade raisin bread that is served with meals. If Champlins is where I go for my lobster, Aunt Carrie's is where I go to eat steamers, which is basically a bucket of steamed clams, drawn butter and, because they are messy, wet-naps!

Galilee Bird Sanctuary

Owned by the state of Rhode Island, the Galilee Bird Sanctuary has been carefully maintained since the early 1990's to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the salt water marshes. While there aren't paths over which to walk, it's easy enough to walk, bike or drive to the sanctuary and observe the many bird species such as egrets and cranes living in the marsh. For kids, particularly fun is watching the quahog diggers- men, women and children who wear rubber waders and dig in the fertile mud for the sweet clams that will later be incorporated into delicious meals.

Scarborough Beach

The largest beach in Narragansett, Scarborough Beach does get crowded during the summer months, but, being a nice, windy stretch, is a great place to fly a kite. With two big pavilions that serve affordable 'beach food' (burgers, hot dogs and the ilk), this is a great beach for socializing and enjoying the sun. E

Beach Tips

1. Every Rhode Islander has his or her favorite beach- truly, none is better than another- they each offer slightly different experiences and cater to different crowds, but if you're to stay in Narragansett for a week or two, it's worth visiting all the beaches in the area during the first few days of your trip, figuring out which is YOUR favorite, and then, like the locals, setting up "camp" for the rest of your stay. 

2. If you're driving to the shore, then it's worthwhile to bring beach towels, an umbrella, sunscreen and toys for the kids along. If, however, it's too cumbersome to carry everything along with you, there are a number of beach "shack" stories in Galilee and Narragansett proper where you can purchase sundries. 

Kite flying at Scarborough Beach 3. Vegetarians beware: Rhode Island is known for its seafood, not its salads. If you have kids with special dietary needs, you might want to consider stopping at a supermarket to pick up the items you'll need.

4. As I wrote above, the sun is strongest between 10AM and 2PM! Exercise caution- if you plan on staying awhile, the last thing you want to do is get a sunburn your first or second day in. My family often will leave the beach and have lunch at one of the restaurants I mentioned above, or go back to the beach house we've rented for a bite to eat, board games, and a siesta.

5. Every beach pavilion has a first aid station, and lifeguards are on duty during the daytime hours over the summer months, but it's ultimately up to you to keep your family safe. As longtime beach-goers, my family has a couple of rules for kids: little kids can't go swimming unattended, and big kids can only swim up to their thighs unless an adult is directly next to them. Sand Hill Cove is definitely the safest beach listed, but the others sometimes have a bit of undertoe. You may want to check in with your lifeguard when you arrive to find out the conditions for the day. Other than that, have fun!

Sand Hill Cove Beach
A lobster about to go into the pot from Champlins!
Enjoying ice cream and watching the fishing boats come in
Enjoying a traditional New England dinner at our beach house (rented through Durkin Realty)
Bird at Galilee Bird Santuary
Another great meal at Aunt Carrie's!
The backdoor at Champlins- right to the channel where the fishing boats come in!
Watching the boats come in
Kite flying at Scarborough Beach
Playing in the surf at Narragansett
Article Type: 
In-Person Impressions


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