Rhode Island earned the nickname the “Ocean State” for its 400 miles of swirling, saltwater coastline, carving out Narragansett Bay and inlets up to the Massachusetts border. “Little Rhody” is also the smallest state in the U.S – only 1,500 square miles – and it is a 30-minute drive from any geographic point to the waterline. Recreation abounds along the shore: sailing Narragansett Bay, unwinding on Little Compton’s pebble beach or savoring a lobster bake at Point Judith.
The capital, Providence, punctuates the northern tip of Narragansett Bay, only 30 miles from the Atlantic. Near the grand colonial homes of Benefit Street, on the east side of town, sits College Hill with Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Shoppers peruse the trendy boutiques on Thayer Street or dine at notable restaurants on Atwells Avenue in the Federal Hill neighborhood. The East Bay Bike Path—14.5 miles from Providence to Bristol—winds along Narragansett Bay past Colt State Park.
Seaside villages and islands speckle the shoreline, as the coast curves upward from Connecticut. Ornate mansions line the streets of Newport, nestled on the southern point of Aquidneck Island, which has been a summer respite for the wealthiest families on the eastern seaboard. The Breakers estate—an Italian Renaissance-inspired palazzo with 70 rooms built as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt—offers a glimpse of luxury. Near Newport’s western shore, Bishop’s 4th Street Diner serves a regional specialty: johnnycakes, or skillet-fried cornmeal cakes covered in maple syrup.
Across the bay, in the town of Narragansett, sunbathers relax on Scarborough County Beach and lunch at Aunt Carrie’s restaurant for the signature clam cakes. At Block Island, an hour ride by ferry from Point Judith, cliffs overlook lighthouses and 17 miles of sugar-white beaches. Walking and horseback riding trails crisscross through Rodman’s Hollow, an outwash basin created by a moving glacier.
Natural beauty also lies northwest of the coastline, where forestland, meadows and general stores dot the countryside. The leaves in Blackstone Valley turn crimson and gold as Macoun apple-picking season begins at Phantom Farms in Cumberland.