Not all beaches are created equal, even in the Ocean State. Of our 400 miles of coastline, here are our favorites - well, some of our favorites. The rest we’re keeping just for ourselves.
Best beach for scenery: Goosewing Beach, Little Compton
This tucked-away beach isn’t easy to find, but that makes it all the more enjoyable. Once you get there, you’re going to have plenty of space to stretch out. Goosewing is technically an extension of South Shore Beach, which is where you’ll park - and where your GPS will be able to navigate to. The serene stretch of shoreline is a nature preserve for nesting birds, and has gorgeous views for days, all the way to Martha’s Vineyard and beyond.
Amenities: Portable restrooms at South Shore Beach
Best beach for surfing: Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett
If you don’t associate Rhode Island with surfing, that’s because you haven’t spent much time on Narragansett Town Beach. Three places in Narragansett offer lessons on Town Beach, which has the state’s best waves and surf conditions: Narragansett Surf and Skate, Warm Winds and Peter Pan Surf Academy. You can book in advance, or walk up to the groups of tanned beach bums convening around surfboard-filled vans from the stores and get a lesson on the spot.
Amenities: Pavilion, cabana rentals, lifeguards, restrooms, snack bar, water sports, morning and evening activities
Best beach for cocktails: Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly
Popular with tourists – and for good reason – Misquamicut is a vacationer’s paradise… even if you’re only taking a one-day vacation. The expansive beach has several restaurants – like The Andrea, Paddy’s and The Windjammer – with service in the sand, meaning the waitstaff will bring you some clam cakes and a tropical cocktail while you lounge on a beach chair and soak up the sun.
Amenities: Pavilion, lifeguards, restrooms, snack bar, connected to beach bars and restaurants
Best beach for kids: Roger Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett
The waves are gentle, the parking is plentiful (and close by) and the snacks from the snack bar are never more than one looming meltdown away. Rhode Island’s only state beach with a playground on site, Wheeler is popular among families with younger kids. Once they’re old enough to hit the surf without help, it’s probably time to relocate to nearby Scarborough and leave the baby surf for the babies.
Amenities: Pavilion, lifeguards, restrooms, snack bar
Best beach for pets: Fred Benson Town Beach, Block Island
There are so many things to love about a beach day on Block Island: the sun, the surf, the ferry ride that makes you feel like you’re a world away in just 30 minutes. The best part for animal lovers, though, is that Fred Benson Pavilion in the heart of Crescent Beach is pet-friendly at any time of day, not just super early in the morning before the lifeguards chase you away. Just make sure Fido stays on a leash and you clean up after him. You can also rent chairs, cabanas, umbrellas and boogie boards, rather than carrying them over from the mainland.
Amenities: Pavilion, lifeguards, restrooms, snack bar, rentals, pet-friendly
Best beach for foodies: East Matunuck State Beach, South Kingstown
With three line-out-the-door restaurants nearby, East Matunuck State Beach is a must-visit if you like your beach day to include a delicious waterfront meal. Fine dining Matunuck Oyster Bar, casual Cap’n Jack’s and BYO - in a bathing suit - Jim’s Dock are all within walking distance, meaning you can leave your car at the beach, have lunch, and head back for relaxation round two.
Amenities: Pavilion, lifeguards, restrooms, snack bar, picnic area