Stay: Unplug with a Trip to Rose Island

Unmatched coastal views and modest charm make an overnight visit the experience of a lifetime

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To live in the Ocean State is to never be very far from the ability to feel very far away. Even if you think you’ve seen it all, surprise destinations exist at every turn. One of these not-so-hidden gems is Rose Island. Only a mile offshore with its lighthouse easily spotted from the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, the land mass named for resembling the shape of a rose and stem is only accessible by boat. On all of 18 acres, find the Fort Hamilton Barracks, the Foghorn Room, walking trails, an honor-system gift shop, outbuilding restrooms, a wildlife refuge (closed through August 16 to protect nesting birds), and the lighthouse.

For over a century, the 1870-built lighthouse was home to keepers and their families. After the Newport Bridge was erected, the light station was no longer used and the property fell victim to many years of neglect and vandalism. In 1984, volunteers of the Rose Island Lighthouse and Fort Hamilton Trust restored the building to its 1912 appearance, with mindful renovations including the installation of environmentally sensitive utilities. After much fundraising to pay for the rehab, the beacon was relit on August 7, 1993. Today Rose Island Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and appears on charts as a private aid to navigation. 

There are a few ways to get to the island and they’re all by boat. The Jamestown Newport Ferry offers daily unreserved “hop-on, hop-off” service; visitors are allowed to take their own watercraft, but only if able to beach it – no anchoring or tying up at the dock is permitted. Once on land, Rose Island is a beautiful place to wander its walking trails, search for sea glass along the shoreline, and take a guided tour. However, the magic of the island happens at dusk when the premises are quiet and the night sky is uninterrupted, making an overnight stay something to experience. Accommodations are available on the main level of the lighthouse (the museum), the second-floor keeper’s apartment, and nearby at the now-silent foghorn room and Fort Hamilton Barracks. Transport is provided to overnight guests.

If you’re one for luxury amenities and room service, this isn’t the lodging for you. Think of a stay on Rose Island as glorified camping. For starters, the keeper’s apartment is the only room in the lighthouse that has a full bathroom with shower. Linens and towels are provided, but guests are asked to bring their own beach towels, and dining is BYO food and drink. However, if you’re seeking seclusion, perhaps a game of tic-tac-toe, and unmatched views of Narragansett Bay, you’ll easily give a five star review. 

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