Come Explore Lil’ Rhody’s State Beaches (& Thank Me Later)
Did someone say summer fun?!
Our favorite season might be flying by, but fret not. There is still time, and this Rhode Island native is here to tell you all about the best beaches Lil’ Rhody has to offer.
Rhode Island might be the tiniest state in the nation, but it packs a big punch when it comes to beautiful beaches. Despite having just over 1,200 square miles of land, the Ocean State boasts 400 miles of coastline. And dotted all along the way are beaches that range from secluded to busy, party town to family friendly, and everything in between. There is something for everyone.
I got to spend seven full days exploring Rhode Island’s state beaches last week, when a New England heatwave made it impossible to think of doing anything else. I’m here to spill the tea for you on these coastal gems so that you can start planning your Rhode Island beach getaway. Let’s go!
Rhode Island Beach Week
Exploring All of Rhode Island’s State Beaches
With a full week off from work and temperatures in the mid-to- upper 90s all last week, there was nothing to do but hit the beach. I’ve been wanting to explore more of Rhode Island’s beaches, and this was the perfect time to pack up my towel, book, and cooler, and see all the surf and sand Lil’ Rhody has to offer.
I spent the week visiting most of Rhode Island’s State Beaches—Scarborough, Roger Wheeler, and Salty Brine in Narragansett, East Beach in Charlestown, Misquamicut in Westerly, and East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown. The beaches are spread out, and I drove about 40-60 minutes to each one. Not exactly down the street, but I had the time and found the drive well worth it. I’ll get into each beach in this post to help you decide which Rhode Island beaches to check out on your next Rhode Island getaway.
First, we’ll talk a bit about logistics.
I love the beach and used to be a total beach bum in my younger days. But you know how it goes- life gets busy, you buy a stupid house that takes all your time, you travel for work, for fun, to see family. There are a million little obligations to get in the way of spending your days at the beach. Not least of which is parking.
One of the best secrets I discovered last year was the Rhode Island State Beach Parking Pass.
Rhode Island has eight State beaches. These beaches are cared for with taxpayer dollars, meaning they are kept clean and have amenities like bathrooms and lifeguards. They are cheap to park at—just $6 on a weekday and $7 on Saturday and Sunday. But there is a secret to getting it even cheaper.
For just $30 you can get a state beach parking pass that is good for the whole season, Memorial day through Labor Day. This means unlimited trips to the beach, for just $30 parking. I know this will hit differently, depending on where you live and which beaches you frequent. But having grown up on the north shore of Massachusetts, where parking is difficult to find—sometimes reserved for town residents only, sometimes requires walking long distances, and sometimes costs up to $40 for one car to park at the beach—this little $30 all-you-can-beach pass is an absolute STEAL. I hit the beach 7 days in a row last week, making each visit about $4.29 for parking. And we’re only in July! By the end of summer my average might be down in the $2 range or less!
Sorry, I get way too excited about a good parking spot and a good bargain.
Whether you will want to invest in the RI State Beach Parking pass will depend on 1. How long you’re planning to stay in Rhode Island and 2. Where you are staying in Rhode Island.
I 100% recommend purchasing a season parking pass for these state beaches if you are living in Rhode Island or plan to be here all Summer. Even a 2-week getaway could make it worth it.
It would not be worth it if you are doing a quick summer getaway to Lil’ Rhody, or if you will be staying within walking distance of a beach. In that case, we all know convenience wins out and you’ll probably stick to the same shores day after day. And hey, no shade (literally). Sometimes an easy little beach routine is just what the doctor ordered.
You decide for yourself if a parking pass is necessary, but for me this little hookup made my beach week so much easier.
It's a tough job, beaching for 7 days. But someone's gotta do it.
Scarborough State Beach- Narragansett, RI
Day one of my Rhode Island Beach Week brought me to Scarborough Beach in Narragansett. There is a Scarborough North and a Scarborough South, but it’s really all the same. When parking, I always head to the South part of the beach. I think it’s a little nicer, but again, it’s all connected.
The good thing about Scarborough Beach is its size. The parking lot is huge, as is the stretch of sand, meaning even on a crowded day you can usually get a parking spot and a beach spot. Anyone who has lived or vacationed in New England before knows that our little beaches can get extremely packed on hot summer days. Scarborough is my go-to beach for those times when everyone and their brother is at the beach.
Another plus to Scarborough is the grassy areas between the parking lot and the sandy beach. I love everything about the beach, but I know sand is a real annoyance to some folks. For those of you sand-haters, Scarborough offers the best of both. Grassy areas to lay out your beach blanket and enjoy the weather without the sand getting in every crack and crevice of your body. You’ll still be able to hear the ocean waves from your spot, and when it gets too hot, you can bee-line it for a dip in the water and then come back up to the grass. A local friend said she likes coming to Scarborough because the grassy area provides good handicap accessibility and she brings her mom in her wheelchair.
There are also walking trails to the northside of the beach, where you can get some exercise and dope views. (Beach AND hiking? Is this my wet dream?!)
Day one was a Sunday that would kick off a heat wave in New England. I only spent the afternoon at the beach, but it was quite lovely.
Learn more: Rhode Island State Parks (riparks.com)
Beach ruins by Blackpoint Trail, Scarborough State Beach, Narragansett, RI
Days 2 & 3
East Matunuck State Beach- South Kingstown, RI
Day two and three of my Rhode Island Beach week brought me to East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Matunuck is a great little beach. I have fond memories of visiting it and partying at the Ocean Mist Beach Bar when I was still in my 20s and rather wild. These days, I’ve traded in my beers and bloody marys for a seltzer and a good book. But it’s still just as exciting.
The parking lot for East Matunuck Beach, while not as big as Scarborough, still has a good amount of space, and I found parking easily the two days I visited. My pro tip here is to keep walking to the left of the bath house when you get onto the beach. It seems people just plop down wherever they first step onto the sand, making the area closest to the parking lot quite crowded. Walking just a bit further from the lot and the bathhouse takes you away from the crowds. Despite this being a popular beach, you can find yourself with tons of open space, not a neighbor in earshot.
There was quite a bit of reddish-brown seaweed the two days I came to East Matunuck. I’m not sure if it was due to storms further out in the Atlantic or something else. But there were clear sections to be found with little to no seaweed, so it wasn’t terribly disruptive.
For more info on East Matunuck State Beach, check out this page: Rhode Island State Parks (riparks.com)
Misquamicut State Beach- Westerly, RI
Misquamicut Beach in Westerly was next on my list of Rhode Island beaches. I hate to say it, because I’ve heard good reviews about Misquamicut, but this was my least favorite of all the state beaches so far. It wasn’t awful. The beach itself is nice enough, another long stretch of sand like Scarborough, with plenty of parking. The turn off for me at Misquamicut was the crowds. It was soOoOo busy.
I never expect to have the beach to myself, and in New England the lack of space and abundance of people means it is often the case that you’ll be squeezed into a small area on a busy beach. Especially in heatwave conditions. But on the day I went it felt a little overwhelming and under-impressing. Misquamicut is a popular beach. There are restaurants and hotels around, making it ideal for a family vacation spot. There were tons of kids, groups of adult friends, large family gatherings. Music at one beach setup competed with the tunes a few feet away, and all of it was over the loud hum of voices and waves crashing. This is an excellent place for people watching. It is not an excellent place for peace, serenity, or solitude.
If you are going to the beach early with a group of friends, this beach could be perfect for your fun beach day. If you are riding solo—like I was—and are looking for a little surf and sun while you read a book, this is may not be the best option.
I can’t say how Misquamicut would stack up on a less crowded day. Perhaps I would enjoy it more.
One piece of excitement, besides the people watching, was that for about an hour during my visit to Misquamicut Beach, the water was shut down. An announcement was made that the water was closed, and lifeguards went along the shore commanding every swimmer to come back to the beach. We never got an explanation, so I’m not sure if it was due to rip currents, strong waves, or, as the rumor mill suggested, a shark sighting. I stood at the edge of the water, scanning the surface for a dorsal fin, but never saw anything. Still, though. Pretty exciting, eh!?
Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly, RI
East Beach- Charlestown, RI
Day five of my Rhode Island Beach Week brought me to Charlestown, RI. Charlestown, like Westerly, runs along the southern coast of Rhode Island and makes up part of “South County.” The beaches of Charlestown are located on strips of land that I might call an “Isthmus” if I were more comfortable throwing around geography terms.
East Beach is on the Quonochontaug Neck, a thin strip of land surrounded by water—Ninigret salt Pond on one side, and the good old Atlantic Ocean on the other.
*You may notice some interesting names for towns, bridges, land masses, and beaches in Rhode Island. Lots of letters (Misquamicut, Weekapaug, Quonochontaug) due to its Native American populations & roots. And lots of religious undertones, too. (Jerusalem, Galilee, Providence). Interestingly, Rhode Island is the colony that birthed the idea for the separation of church and state that was later adopted by the framers of our constitution. Rhode Island’s founder railed against the religious extremism of the Puritans and against the exploitation of Native populations. It’s pretty cool, and you can read a little more about it here: Roger Williams – Founder of Rhode Island & Salem Minister – HISTORY
East Beach was one of my favorite beaches. It was stunning, natural beauty. It lacks the large bath house and concessions of the other state beaches. Instead, East Beach offers only a few composting toilets in the small parking area, and a couple of lifeguard chairs. This leaves the beach preserved in its pristine, natural splendor. The sand extends three miles, straight along the neck. An uninterrupted shoreline, making for large crashing waves and the feeling of being tiny next to the ocean. Plumes of beach grass sprout along the upper area of the beach, adding to the feeling of being truly immersed in nature. The parking lot is small, I’d say no more than two dozen spaces. So even when the parking lot is at capacity, the beach will never feel that way.
This is the type of beach to go and reflect, write poetry, read a book, or listen to the waves and doze into contented slumber. This is a beach for meditating, for quiet time alone, for watching gorgeous scenery.
The one complaint I had the day I visited East Beach was that it was tough to swim. The waves were huge and crashing, the undertow felt strong. This was exacerbated by the fact that the sand sloped down into the water. The slope, huge waves, and undertow made it feel a little dicey. I was worried that I’d get pulled under or dragged along the sand if I went in for a real dip. A few people did, but I wasn’t one of the brave. Instead, I stood on the sideways slope of sand, letting the waves crash against my legs, and wishing my body was submerged. On another day this would have been fine, an 88-degree day, for example. A day with a nice sea breeze or intermittent clouds. But it happened to be a full sun, 97-degree day in Rhode Island. And I longed to be floating in cool water.
That little complaint aside, I will definitely be back to East Beach. It was the prettiest by far of all the ones I’ve mentioned, and the quietest too. Even the drive there—through a beachy but expensive neighborhood with beautiful homes, impeccably landscaped—was relaxing.
After East beach, I stopped at Tropic Frost Ice Cream and indulged in a waffle cone. The perfect cherry on top, if you ask me.
For more information about East Beach, check out Rhode Island State Parks (riparks.com)
East Beach, Charlestown RI
Days 6 & 7
Roger Wheeler State Beach- Narragansett, RI
Days six and seven were spent at Roger Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett.
Roger Wheeler is a great little beach. The breakwater barrier ensures calm waters and waves that never get too big. This is one of the reasons Roger Wheeler is such a popular beach for families, and especially those with young children. I don’t mind the family atmosphere—I like little kids, and the scene is not nearly as raucous as Misquamicut was. But I did feel, acutely, my single, childless (friendless) status, wading into the water full of bobbing 3-10 year-olds.
Everyone is different, but for me, if I’m going to be at a crowded beach, I would prefer it to be crowded with little kids learning to swim over drunk, loud 20-year-olds learning to binge drink. Another single person might not love the vibe at Roger Wheeler, but I find it very nice.
Roger Wheeler Beach has soft, light sand, a large bathhouse and concessions stand, and plenty of parking. To learn more about this gorgeous little state beach, check out this link: Rhode Island State Parks (riparks.com)
Afternoon at Roger Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett RI
Salty Brine State Beach- Narragansett, RI
I never parked at Salty Brine State Beach, the state beach with the smallest parking lot, but I did drop by for a visit. You see, Salty Brine is connected to Roger Wheeler via a “private” strip of sand called Galilee Club Beach. (I put private in quotations, because I don’t believe that someone can own a beach.)
Wherever you stand on the issue of private beaches, rest assured that the walk from Roger Wheeler to Salty Brine State Beach and back is quick, easy, and comes without hassle. On beach day number seven last week, I met up with an old friend. We attempted to park at Salty Brine, but 15 minutes after the parking lot opened, it was already full. This friend was a local and knew the ropes. So we parked and set up at Roger Wheeler, then took a walk all the way west to Salty Brine Beach.
Salty Brine, formerly called Galilee, is the smallest of the Rhode Island State Beaches. It was crowded on the beautiful sunny Sunday we visited. It is similar to Roger Wheeler, but the water was clearer—hardly any seaweed in sight. It sits next to a long seawall, making the waters naturally calm. But the long rock wall frames the channel to the harbor where boats, including the Block Island Ferry, come and go throughout the day, making waves with their wakes.
You can sit on the rocks, or walk all the way to the end, watch the ferry pass by, and wave to its passengers. There are also a few seafood restaurants right at the top of the beach that I have not experienced, but I’m told are famous: George’s of Galilee and Champlin’s Seafood. There are some other restaurants and shops close by to the beach, so if your clique gets bored easily this is a great beach for wandering in and out. The people watching, the boat watching, and splashing in the calm, clear waters made this beach a really fun time.
To read more about Salty Brine, to check conditions and parking, click here: Rhode Island State Parks (riparks.com)
The last Rhode Island state beach on my list that I have yet to visit is Charlestown Breachway State Beach, in Charlestown RI. I attempted to go to Charlestown Breachway last Thursday, but the lot was full, and I ended up in East Beach instead. The two are very close to one another, as the crow flies. But since there is a channel of water separating them, the drive around is about 20 minutes total. Not terrible.
I’m anxious to check out this last Rhode Island State Beach, so hopefully we will get lots of hot, sunny days in our last month of New England Summer.
Enjoying the F*ck out of my Rhode Island Beach Week
It is important to note that this list only sums up my visit to Rhode Island’s state beaches. There are a ton of other beaches around these ones, and in other places in Rhode Island, that are worth checking out, too. I simply have stuck to these because it’s a good starting point for getting acquainted with Rhode Island beaches, and because my parking pass makes it so easy and convenient to go to the beaches mentioned.
There are town beaches near all the state beaches I’ve listed—Narragansett Town Beach, South Kingstown beach, and Charlestown Town Beach are a few examples. Watch Hill is a famous beach in Westerly, not far from Misquamicut, where locals can try to spot Taylor Swift at her Rhode Island beach mansion. And I have not even ventured over to Newport, Jamestown, or Little Compton. In a list of “Best Beaches in Rhode Island”—and I’ve looked at many of them—all these places seem to make the cut. Then there is of course Block Island, which I talked about in my Rhode Island Summer post from last year. (You can check it out here: How To Spend A Rainy Rhode Island Weekend With Your Bestie )
You can filter through some other people’s opinions about the best beaches in Rhode Island if you’d like, by looking through a few of these links:
9 Rhode Island Beaches to Visit in 2022 – Best Beaches in Rhode Island (townandcountrymag.com)
15 Best Beaches In Rhode Island – The Crazy Tourist
Or you can hit up one of the 7 dope state beaches that I’ve vetted for you. It’s all the same to me!
If you’ve got personal recommendations for Rhode Island beaches I absolutely MUST visit, please leave them in the comments! I’m trying to earn back my beach bum status and get to know my tiny home state in the process.
That’s all I’ve got for you folks today. It’s been a fun and relaxing week, one of the best I’ve had since moving to Rhode Island in 2020. Now it’s back to flying the friendly skies and fitting in my summer fun like the rest of you—once in a while.
I hope you’re having the best summer ever. And if you haven’t yet, then start now. The season is zooming by and boy, oh boy, do we New Englanders miss it when it’s gone.
Happy weekend, and I’ll catch you all back here in two weeks’ time.
Hey you! Yes, you.
Thanks for stopping by. I’m Toni and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here, we talk travel, flight attendant life, and overtly vulnerable personal anecdotes. I hope you liked reading about these awesome Rhode Island state beaches. If you’re interested in more New England content or summer stuff, try some of the posts below. And don’t forget to click Subscribe to catch all the latest travel tips, insider secrets, and juicy stories.
8 Summer Travel Essentials- From A Flight Attendant
How To Spend A Rainy Rhode Island Weekend With Your Bestie
Top 10 Things We’ll Miss About Summer in New England
Why Flight Attendants Love (And Hate) Summer Flying
New England Summer Week 2019
8 Reasons Summer Travel Is The Worst
(And don’t forget to start planning your New England Fall getaway! Deets below!)
The 11 BEST Things About Fall in New England
Thanks again for coming!
Officially putting “visit a RI beach with my bestie” on the calendar for summer ‘23.
And you read my mind, you know I was curious about Watch Hill!!
This makes me want to move to RI, lol! It’s $45 for a DAY pass at Crane Beach now, $35 pretty much anywhere else. Even my sacred Long Beach jacked up their prices this year. $30 for the whole summer, I can’t even imagine!
I know! I’m floored by how much of a steal this is! I don’t think Rhode Islanders even realize how lucky they are for this!!