A seaside town, once the center of Rhode Island summer for long vacationers, Narragansett is now home to daytrippers, beachgoers, and weekend getaway adventurers.
Known to the locals as ’gansett, the beautiful, historic village has a wild past. Since the late 1800s, the town has come to life each summer as tourists swarm to the beautiful beaches, warm waters, and friendly atmosphere.
Back in the good ol’ days visitors would arrive early in June and stay until the end of August. While there, they relished in gambling, parties, and beachside fun. Narragansett is still a local summer attraction. The gambling and three-month-long summer vacations are mostly a thing of the past, but the beachside fun now pairs with amazing food, boating, and kicked-back relaxation.
1. Visit The Towers
Steeped in history, The Towers were the gate to Narragansett Pier Casino. They represent bygone days when ’gansett was the summer-long party location for a well-off crowd. In the Gay Nineties, the Narragansett Pier Casino was the centerpiece of summer living.
The Casino burned down in 1900, was rebuilt in 1905, weathered many storms, and finally went the way of most turn-of-the-century wooden structures.
The stone towers, however, have remained strong and are a symbol of Narragansett’s past, present, and future.
Modern-day events at the Towers include luxuriously rustic weddings, ballroom dancing, and a summer music series. Historical tours are available. Your docent will guide you through the gilded age of Narragansett, highlighting the many families who flocked to the seaside town and made her famous.
When you stand under The Towers’ bridge, you can almost hear the casino chips clicking.
2. Relax At The Beach
Narragansett offers great beach options for your toes-in-the-sand vacation.
Narragansett Town Beach is the major sandbox for ’gansett beachgoers. With almost 19 acres of sandy beach, plenty of parking, soft sand, and room to spread out, you can understand why locals and visitors love this beach. Situated near the center of the action, you can walk along the beach, take a break at one of the nearby restaurants for lunch, and head back out for more sun and surf. The town beach also has a designated surf area where you can try your hand at hanging ten or just sit back and watch the show.
Scarborough State Beaches (North and South) are popular places for spending the day. The long swath of soft sand sprinkled with cool, shady parks is the quintessential beach-day escape.
Roger Wheeler State Beach offers gentle surf due to the breakwater barrier dialing back the waves. This is a great place for small children and families due to the gentle surf and amenities. Formerly known as Sand Hill Cove, Roger Wheeler State Beach offers showers and a concession stand.
Salty Brine State Beach has a recently completed beach pavilion. The new pavilion project involved the installation of a concession stand, a new boardwalk with overlook platforms, and shade structures.
3. Hike The Area
The Narragansett area is fairly flat, making it easygoing for hikers. AllTrails.com highlights several easy Narragansett hikes that showcase Rhode Island’s rocky coastline.
The Black Point Trail is an easy 2.1-mile trail, however, it offers opportunities for rock scaling, bluff climbing, and awesome exploration. If you have a gang and need a break from the beach, this is a fun place for some beachside adventure. It is a good place to wear out those energetic little munchkins and tweens.
The easy, 2.1-mile Whale Rock Trail is another fun trail to explore. After a short walk through the woods, the trees open up and surprise you with a wonderful ocean view. There are plenty of options for exploration along this trail, too.
4. Sail To Block Island
With the Point Judith Ferry to Block Island at your disposal, relax on an enjoyable hour ride over to New Shoreham. The ferry docks right in the center of the very walkable town studded with fun restaurants and shops.
You can take your bike across on the ferry or rent one at the dock when you land for a quicker way to get around town. Moped rentals are also available for your island exploration.
If you plan to take a trip over for a day or more, don’t miss our tips on the best things to do during a Block Island getaway: where to eat, stay, and play.
5. Gone Fishin’
You will find many great fishing charters out of Narragansett Harbor. One of the best is Seven B’s V. Scheduled trips focus on porgy, squid, cod, fluke, and sea bass. They offer equipment and instruction for the new-to-fishing and big water fun for the more experienced angler. If you have never been deep sea fishing, a half-day excursion, gear included, with instruction is perfect for newbies. Be careful, you might find yourself a new hobby.
Boatsetter.com will hook you up with a private charter. You can be the captain or hire a professional so you can fish or just relax. Rental options run the gamut from zodiaks to yachts. Imagine kicking back in your private boat, captain at the helm, beverages in the cooler, and the entire world at your feet. Sounds perfect.
6. People Watch
Park along Ocean Drive and grab a seat on the breakwall. You will have an unobstructed view of the bay on one side and a view of the gorgeous beach houses with sweeping lawns and wrap-around verandas on the other. As happy beachgoers pack and unpack their vehicles, walk by, or grab a seat on the wall, too, you will be entertained by the sights and sounds of seaside vacationing in full summer swing.
Watching families juggle chairs, kids, coolers, strollers, toys, blankets, et cetera may be very relatable or bring back some wonderful memories.
7. The Coast Guard House
The Coast Guard House on Ocean Drive is planted squarely between The Towers and Narragansett Bay. Originally a U.S. Coast Guard Station built in the 1800s, the restaurant has served the region for three-quarters of a century.
Inside the wrap-around dining room, a wall of windows affords diners an unobstructed view of the rocky shore and bay waters. On the second floor deck, in addition to the bay view, you can relax in the shade of the Towers and enjoy watching beachgoers further down Ocean Drive.
Known for its wonderful cuisine, the Coast Guard House is also the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail while sitting by the bay.
Narragansett Beer, remembered best for its 1950s “Hi Neighbor, have a ’gansett” tagline, is making a comeback. Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy a tall one at this iconic Narragansett location.
8. Oysters Are King
At Matunuck Oyster Bar you will find the most delicious seafood dishes on the Rhode Island coast. Ask for a seat on the patio, the view of Potter Pond is the perfect backdrop for your meal. Whether you prefer a raw bar oyster, oysters Rockafeller, or even bourbon oysters, you won’t find any fresher than at Matunuck. The main course menu encompasses every kind of fresh seafood you can imagine and the opportunity to pair your entree of choice with the perfect wine.
Curious about where your dinner comes from? Book a private, one hour tour of the Matunuck Oyster Farm, where you can experience Rhode Island aquaculture and pond-to-table farming. Located in Potter Pond, the tour leaves from the restaurant. Book a late afternoon tour and an early dinner for a unique and memorable outing.
9. Take A Drive
Some days just call for a “Sunday” drive. Navigate over to Route 1 and 1A, the coastal route, and head north to the village of East Greenwich or south to Watch Hill. Route 1A will split and rejoin Route 1 several times. When you can, stick to 1A, where you will drive along the coast, explore quaint little towns, and ogle at gorgeous mansions. This dreamy coastal drive is an adventure waiting for you to arrive.
For more on enjoying Rhode Island’s coast, consider our beautiful Rhode Island coast road trip: Providence to Westerly.
Narragansett is a water lover’s vacation dream. You will find yourself walking everywhere since there is really only one road in and out of the beach area. Make sure to pack your most comfortable flip flops, plenty of sunblock, and a fun hat.