In terms of tourism, little Rhode Island is a land of separate communities. You don’t so much vacation in Rhode Island as you do in Providence, Newport, South County, or Block Island. That being said, wherever you go in Rhode Island and whenever you choose to visit, you’ll find it quite simple to venture over to any other town in the state, which are all just a short drive away.
Providence and Vicinity
Providence somehow manages to feel like the cool college town it is while maintaining a very genuine blue-collar vibe at the same time. It also offers a culinary experience you might expect of a city several times its size, some beautifully preserved colonial and 19th-century architecture, and a youthful, unconventional, and thriving music, art, and club scene, largely due to the presence of Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Johnson and Wales.
Greater Providence encapsulates a diversity of environments that reward day trips, drive-throughs, and even longer stays. The Blackstone River Valley features recreational opportunities, thanks to the historically notable Blackstone River.
Newport, known for its posh luxury hotels and elite seaside estates, offers the lodging and dining variety you might expect of much larger East Coast cities, and yet it’s a fairly small place that’s easy to navigate. It’s a well-preserved colonial seaport community and a living-history museum of the Gilded Age, with stunning mansions situated on rocky cliffs. But you needn’t be rich to enjoy the natural beauty of Newport’s scenic coastline and sandy beaches.
Block Island is both beautiful and accessible, thanks to a conservancy that preserves more than a quarter of the island’s open spaces. You’ll find historic bed-and-breakfasts and inns here, including several mammoth Victorian hotels, as well as some of the most breathtaking stretches of coastline in the state.
The East Bay and Sakonnet
East Bay is a great weekend destination: Warren is an antiques hub with a few excellent restaurants, while Bristol offers charming inns and museums. Sakonnet makes a great day trip as it’s laced with country roads and contains a handful of fun shops, cafés, roadside farm stands, and a bit of beach access. Alas, there are hardly any accommodations in Sakonnet’s two towns, Little Compton and Tiverton, but it’s a short drive from either Aquidneck Island or Bristol.
This part of Rhode Island offers a mix of colorful beach towns studded with condos, motels, and guesthouses along with quieter interior communities known for lush forests, rippling ponds and rivers, and great hiking. The coastal area tends to be seasonal and is best visited from spring through summer. This is a very family-friendly part of Rhode Island, owing to its busy beaches with kid-oriented diversions, from water sports and whale watches to carousels and miniature golf.