The Ocean State might be small, but it’s a mighty nice place to vacation—particularly if you’re seeking a quiet coastal retreat, replete with natural beauty and as much fresh seafood as you can put away. Check out our list of the most charming small towns in Rhode Island and get ready to pack your bags.
The 15 Most Charming Small Towns in Rhode Island
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. You can learn more about that process here.
- Why We Recommend It: water activities, beautiful beaches, laid back vibe
- Where to Stay: Misquamicut Westerly Beach Cottage, Harmony Cottage
Located on Rhode Island’s southwestern shore, Westerly boasts impeccably clean, sandy beaches and a more homegrown vibe than some of the better-known beach towns in the state. In fact, throngs of tourists are the only thing you’ll be missing out on when you pay a visit to Westerly, since there is an abundance of water activities on offer (sailing, surfing and fishing, to name a few), and a good number of shops and family-friendly parks in town, too.
- Why We Recommend It: historic, impressive architecture, beautiful beaches
- Where to Stay: Bonnet Shores Cottage, The Break Hotel
This historic seaside village is easy to recognize by its two iconic, castle-like towers, which originally served as a casino in the 19th century and continue to draw tourists from near and far. Stunning architecture isn’t the only thing you’ll find in Narragansett, though. There are also a number of pristine beaches—including Roger Wheeler and Scarborough state beaches, as well as Narragansett Town Beach—where visitors can soak up the sun.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, outdoor recreation, historic
- Where to Stay: Boat House Cottage, Escobar’s Farmhouse Inn
This quaint farm town on the Sakonnet River is home to a host of historic buildings and just a stone’s throw away from some of the state’s most beautiful hiking spots, including the Audobon Emilie Ruecker Wildlife Refuge and Weetamoo Woods, where the trails wind through a stunning landscape of wildflowers and oak-holly forests. In town, there are charming cafes and art galleries galore. If you’re looking for a place with small town appeal and outdoor attractions, Tiverton fits the bill.
4. New Shoreham
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, quiet beaches, outdoor recreation
- Where to Stay: The Barn, Champlin’s Block Island
When it comes to picking a destination for a peaceful seaside escape, New Shoreham is hard to beat. New Shoreham is the smallest town in the smallest state; it’s also the only town on Block Island—a 700 acre swath of land just 12 miles from the Rhode Island coastline. If you hop a ferry to this picturesque town, we suggest you visit the Mohegan Bluffs for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, stroll the scenic nature trails, tour the historic lighthouses and lounge on one of the many pristine beaches.
- Why We Recommend It: historic, scenic, outdoor recreation, water activities
- Where to Stay: The Carriage House at Old Mystic, Stagecoach House Inn
Located in the southwest corner of the state, recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and prized for its proximity to major natural attractions—this Washington County gem will make nature lovers swoon. Scenic day hikes are on offer at the nearby Narragansett Trail Trailhead or Eli Pond Trailhead, water activities abound at the freshwater ponds in the area, and there are memorable backpacking and camping experiences to be had at the Yawgoog Scout Reservation. When you’re done with your outdoor adventure, be sure to check out the art galleries, food shops and restaurants in town—all of which are easily accessible on foot.
- Why We Recommend It: relaxing, local wine, water activities
- Where to Stay: The Carriage House at Chaprae Hall, Blueberry Pointe on the Lake
The atmosphere is peaceful, the locals are oh-so welcoming, and the town is so quaint, you’ll feel like you died and went to postcard heaven. For these reasons and more, Foster ranks high on our list of places to go for an authentic small town experience—and though it might be on the sleepy side, there’s still plenty to do in this rural Providence County town. For starters, Swamp Meadow Bridge and Jerimoth Hill are ideal places to take a romantic walk in a picturesque setting, Killingly Pond is a popular spot for fishing and kayaking, and the local wines served up at Nickle Creek Vineyard can’t be missed. Basically, a stay in Foster is like chicken soup for the city dweller’s soul.
- Why We Recommend It: antique shopping, wine tasting, hiking, water activities
- Where to Stay: Faith Street Retreat, White Rock Motel
Glocester is yet another Providence County spot with a vibrant personality and plenty to offer. Once you’ve scored something unique at one of the impressive antique stores in town, head to the outskirts of town for a taste of the outdoors at the nearby lakes, ponds and hiking trails. Finish up with a visit to the Purple Cat Winery—a quirky and unpretentious place to taste top-notch vino—and you’ve got yourself a small town success story in the making.
- Why We Recommend It: historic, natural attractions, beautiful beaches, good eats
- Where to Stay: Middletown Modern Apartment, The Sea Breeze Inn
Presenting a Newport County town that’s decidedly cooler than the (namesake) resort destination next door. Skip Newport and head to Middletown instead for historic architecture, unspoiled beaches and nature preserves, breathtaking geological sights and amazing seafood without the yuppy tourist hubbub.
- Why We Recommend It: historic architecture, natural beauty, outdoor activities, family friendly
- Where to Stay: Cargo 7 Cozy Suites, Courtyard by Marriott Providence Lincoln
Lincoln is best known as the home of Lincoln Woods State Park, a 627-acre woodland treasure that nature enthusiasts flock to for hiking, swimming, horseback riding and just about every other form of outdoor recreation you can think of. That said, history buffs might want to stick around town, where attractions like the well-preserved Arnold House and the Hearthside House museum promise to give visitors a taste of the town’s rich past. Traveling with kids in tow? No problem: Between paintball wars at BattlegroundZ and an interactive gaming experience at TimeZone, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
- Why We Recommend It: bird and animal watching, beach, boutique shopping, good eats
- Where to Stay: Water Street Loft, Candlewick Inn
Here, a tiny Bristol County town with a little bit of everything. It’s easy enough to spend a day at the art galleries, quality restaurants and boutique shops that line the streets of Warren, but there’s also a beautiful beach for swimming and lounging, and opportunities for bird and animal watching at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and the Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge. Hint: We suggest you set aside a full weekend for this one.
11. East Greenwich
- Why We Recommend It: good eats, great shopping, museums, natural beauty
- Where to Stay: Good Vibrations, Springhill Suites
For a swankier small town experience, head to East Greenwich—one of the state’s most well-to-do communities and a paradise for foodies and shopaholics alike. That said, East Greenwich is more than just first rate waterfront restaurants, craft cocktails and bougie boutiques. You can also get some education at the Varnum Armory Museum and the New England Wireless and Steam museum, and view some wildlife in an idyllic natural setting at the Frye Nature Preserve, which is just a hop, skip and jump away.
12. Little Compton
- Why We Recommend It: unspoiled beaches, wine tasting, natural beauty
- Where to Stay: Coastal Oaks Little Compton, The Edith Pearl Historic Bed and Breakfast
Not to be confused with the Compton on the other coast, Little Compton is a serene seaside town that has, against all odds, fought the commercial-powers-that-be and won. You won’t find any big box stores spoiling the natural beauty of the town, or its two gorgeous beaches (South Shore Beach and Goosewing Beach Preserve). Plus, when you’re done with the sun and sand, this little oasis on the peninsula has plenty of art galleries to explore and is just a short drive away from Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, an oh-so pretty 150-acre property where award-winning wine is always on the menu.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, great of easy hiking, 4th of July destination
- Where to Stay: Independence Lodge, William Grant’s Inn
Calling all patriots: The folks of Bristol love the red, white and blue…and there’s a good chance you will, too, if your visit coincides with the town’s annual Independence Day bash—a full weekend affair featuring parades, fireworks and lots of enthusiastic locals. The charming mom-and-pop stores and cute cafes that line the streets of town are open year-round, though, and the same goes for the 464-acre Colt State Park and 14.5 miles East Bay Bike Path. Suffice it to say, there’s no wrong time to visit Bristol.
- Why We Recommend It: waterfront views, quiet charm, good eats
- Where to Stay: The Cottage, East Bay Bed & Breakfast
It might be best known as the starting point of the Conanicut Sailing Around the World Competition, but Jamestown has plenty to offer folks interested in land activities, too. Enjoy a scenic coastal hike at Beavertail State Park or head to the lighthouse for the spectacular views of the Naragansett bay before browsing the many shops on Main Street and digging into a delicious seafood dinner at a local restaurant.
15. Watch Hill
- Why We Recommend It: beautiful beaches, scenic views, shopping
- Where to Stay: Altomare, The Ocean House
Maybe its the town’s flying horse carousel and waterfront boutiques, or perhaps it’s just the breathtaking coastal views and gleaming beaches. All we know is that Watch Hill is so wonderful that not even Taylor Swift could resist its charm. (Seriously, she has a house there.)