One of the numerous perks of living in the Ocean State is, well, the ocean. Sure, you can see it every day when you’re driving down the road. You can soak it in from any number of local waterfront restaurants. If you’re lucky, you can even spy glimpses of blue from your house. But seeing as how Rhode Islanders are creatures of the utmost habit, when it’s time for a beach day, you probably just go to your usual one or two. It’s time to mix things up. Check out our rundown of prime local beaches, then make some time to explore a different patch of sand this summer… no drive to South County required.
1. 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 - it’s $15 per car - 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, all the way to Martha’s Vineyard and beyond. Bring your surfboard: This beach is popular with surfers well into the fall. Amenities: Portable restrooms at South Shore Beach. What’s Nearby: Wishing Stone Farm has a farmstand with local vegetables and eggs, and is home to The Rusty Leek Cafe, with sandwiches and prepared foods to take to the beach.
2. Grimmell’s Beach, Portsmouth
Sometimes known as Island Park Beach, this strip of sand along the Sakonnet River has all of the components you want from a beach day – sun, sand and surf – without any real time or money commitment. Whatever you choose to call the beach that runs along Park Avenue, you can easily stop by for 15 minutes of me-time between errands, or spend a day there sunning and swimming. Parking spaces up and down the street can be limited during peak hours, but it’s free, as is admission to the beach. There are no lifeguards or bathrooms. Your GPS will recognize Grimmell’s Beach, but you might want to use one of the restaurants below as a destination if you have trouble finding the right spot. Amenities: Easy, free parking. What’s Nearby: Two restaurants are across the street. Flo’s Drive-In is a piece of Rhode Island history, built in 1936 and rebuilt after two hurricanes. Shultzy’s Snack Shack serves burgers and dogs from its walk-up window, plus ice cream.
3. Sandy Point Beach, Portsmouth
This town beach on the Sakonnet River has tons of amenities, including a revamped concession stand that sells hot food and snacks, along with beach necessities like sunscreen and towels. This season, you can rent oversized storage tubs to avoid lugging your gear back and forth to your car (and filling it with sand). Ultimate ease, though, comes from the other rentals Sandy Point offers: chairs, umbrellas, flippers and even volleyball nets, all for under $10 each. Amenities: Lifeguards, changing rooms, concession stand, chair and beach gear rentals. What’s Nearby: Greenvale Vineyards is open daily for tastings and has live music on the weekends. Newport Polo (NPTPolo.com) has matches on select weekends.
4. Warren Town Beach
The smallest of the beaches on this list, Warren Town Beach on Water Street isn’t going to win any awards for rolling waves or windswept dunes - they don’t even give out awards for that, right? What it lacks surface area, it makes up for in amenities. There’s a huge playground, plus a grassy expanse that’s bigger than the beach with picnic tables and waterfront benches. It’s a popular spot for fishing, and an even better one for a quick alfresco lunch or to sit with a book and a cup of coffee. Parking is free in the Burr’s Hill Park lot across the street. Amenities: Playground, picnic areas, free parking. What’s Nearby: Burr’s Hill Park is right across the street, and has ample parking, baseball fields, a basketball court and a bandshell where movies and concerts happen in season.
5. Fogland Beach, Tiverton
Grinnell’s Beach (not to be confused with Grimmell’s Beach) is closed for the season while it undergoes massive upgrades, so your best bet for beaching in Tiverton is Fogland Beach. Another stretch of sand along the Sakonnet River, Fogland is popular with watersport aficionados, particularly wind surfers. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent, and there’s a playground for little adventurers. A boat launch nearby allows easy access to the water, with prime fishing spots. Non-resident parking rates are $10 on weekdays and $15 on the weekend. Four-legged friends are allowed, too, as long as they’re on leashes. Amenities: Food vendors, lifeguards, restrooms, picnic tables. What’s Nearby: Gray’s Ice Cream in Tiverton Four Corners might be open 365 days a year, but it’s a scientifically proven fact that it tastes best after a day at the beach.
6. Barrington Town Beach
When you think of Barrington, you probably don’t think of the beach… which is exactly why Barrington Town Beach, an uncrowded expanse of sand at the end of Bay Road, is worth a visit. Non-residents pay $10 to park and smart residents get the inexpensive season pass. Gentle waves make this a great place for young kids, and the proximity to town means it’s easy to stop by between camp and dinner, even on a weekday. The sunset concerts on Sunday nights are a must-visit at least once this summer. Amenities: Lifeguards, restrooms, showers, picnic tables. What’s Nearby: The East Bay Bike Path is only a little over a mile from the beach, so you can easily take a break by the shore during a bicycling trip and skip the parking fee. Stock up on beach reads at Barrington Books, the area’s only independent bookstore.
7 & 8. Second & Third Beaches, Middletown
The closest beaches that really, truly feel like beachy beaches, Second and Third Beaches in Middletown have sun and surf to spare… and the crowds to show for it. Second Beach, also known as Sachuest Town Beach, has honest-to-goodness sand dunes – a rarity in the East Bay – as well as lifeguards, restrooms, outdoor showers and picnic areas with grills. There are even surfboard rentals and surfing lessons at Surfer’s End, the west end of the beach. If you’re dreaming of the ocean while you’re at your desk – because work is an unfortunate reality around your beach days – check out the Beach Cameras (MiddletownRI.com) for a midweek fix.
Third Beach is something of a misnomer, because it actually has four areas: the boat launch, East Middletown Town Beach and the two semi-private areas of Peabody and Third Beach Club. Because Second Beach faces the ocean and Third Beach is protected by Third Beach Harbor, the former has bigger waves, and the tamer surf of the latter is better for smaller kids. Third Beach also has picnic tables, grills and shaded areas, but the restrooms are of a decidedly more portable kind and the concessions are limited, though they do offer equipment rentals. Non-resident rates for both are $15 on weekdays and $25 on the weekend. Amenities at Second Beach: Lifeguards, restrooms, outdoor showers, concessions, equipment rentals, surf lessons; Amenities at Third Beach: Boat launch, lifeguards, restrooms, equipment rentals. What’s Nearby: Explore nature at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, which has walking trails along the coast, a kids’ activity center and endangered species to spot.
9. Bristol Town Beach
Next to Colt State Park and the Bristol Athletic Complex, Bristol Town Beach is a popular piece of waterfront, and it’s easy to see why. The beach might be pebbly, but the seashell hunting will keep little ones busy (and away from screens) for hours on end, as will the really nice playground with ample swings. A sand volleyball court is there for all of your Top Gun fantasies, and a picnic pavilion with a roof means that the party won’t stop just because of a little rain. Amenities: Playground, sand volleyball court, picnic pavilion, lifeguards, restrooms, proximity to East Bay Bike Path. What’s Nearby: Colt State Park is a must-visit at least once in the summer for the prime water views, fishing spots, excellent kite-flying and picnic areas. And if you’re there just for the frozen lemonade truck, well, we’re not judging.