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South County RI Beach Guide

Narragansett, Misquamicut, Scarborough, Roger Wheeler, Watch Hill: Rhode Island's South County is famous for its long, broad beaches with fine sand and gentle surf.

Southern Rhode Island, called South County, has quite a number of splendid fine-sand beaches (map) that lure both residents and visitors in summer. Some are controlled by towns, others by the state.

The state beaches have the best and most complete facilities, such as lifeguards, showers, toilets, food stands and adequate parking. The smaller town and nature-area beaches may have few or no facilities.

Here's a map of South County beaches, described below roughly west-to-east and noth. But first, some important beach tips.

South County Beach Tips

Here's what you need to know about all South County, Rhode Island, beaches.

Watch Hill Beach, Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Carousel Beach, Watch Hill RI

Summer Beach Season

Beaches are generally open, with lifeguards on duty, from Memorial Day weekend (late May) through Labor Day weekend (early September). After Labor Day and before Memorial Day you may visit the beaches, the parking fee may not be charged, but lifeguards may not be on duty, and facilities such as toilets, food stands, etc. may not be available.

Parking Fees

All South County beaches cover their expenses by charging per-car parking fees, generally $10 to $20 per car on weekdays, $15 to $28 on weekends. Rhode Island state beaches and some of the town beaches charge lower fees for cars with Rhode Island license plates. Money-saving season passes are available for state and some town beaches. If you walk or bike to the beach, in general you are not charged a fee.

Beach Facilities

Facilities vary from beach to beach, but almost all have toilets, and most have lifeguards in season. The majority have at least cold-water rinse-showers to wash the sand off; some have coin-operated hot showers to rinse the seawater off.

The larger beaches have food stands ("concessions") selling soft drinks, snacks and light meals.

  Beach wheelchair, South County, Rhode Island
  Beach (surf) chair...

Handicap Access

All beach parking lots have handicapped parking spaces near beach access points. All state beaches and some town beaches provide, without charge, beach (or surf) wheelchairs, special push-vehicles with large wheels capable of crossing sand. Beach-goers with disabilities may obtain Rhode Island State Parks disability passes for free admission to state parks and beaches.

  Beach warning flags, South County, Rhode Island
  Look for the flag...

Beach Safety & Warning Flags

Colored flags at state beaches and some town beaches warn of dangers such as

No Alcohol, No Glass, No Animals

Alcoholic beverages, glass containers and animals/pets are not permitted on beaches. Off-season, some town beaches may permit animals (such as for dog-walking) during certain hours, with clean-up to be done by pet owners.

No Camping, Smoking, Fires or Cooking

Although you may pitch a tent during the day for shade, no camping is allowed, no smoking on the beach or in the beach pavilions, nor are fires or cooking allowed.

Watch Hill Beaches

The village of Watch Hill near the Connecticut state line has several good beaches, but not many parking places. More...

Napatree Point Beach, Watch Hill

Nappatree Point Conservation Area, extending westward from Watch Hill Beach into Fishers Island Sound, is two miles (3.2 km) of beautiful, unspoiled beach west of Watch Hill. It's a favorite with boaters, fishers and water-skiers who walk here from the town. Because it is a wildlife refuge maintained by The Watch Hill Conservancy, there are no services whatsoever.

Carousel Beach, Watch Hill

Right in the center of Watch Hill village, right next to its historic carousel, it's convenient and popular, with good facilities, but parking is...nearly impossible.

East Beach, Watch Hill

Very limited parking, but within walking distance of Watch Hill center, this long, broad east-facing beach always has room for you—if you find a parking place in the village center.

Misquamicut State Beach

Everything for a great family beach vacation: long, soft sand beach and excellent facilities.

Misquamicut State Beach, North Kingston RI
Misquamicut State Beach, North Kingston, South County RI.

Misquamicut State Beach, 257 Atlantic Avenue, Westerly RI, south of Westerly and just east of Watch Hill and the Connecticut shoreline (map), draws eager beach-goers from both Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Besides the l-o-n-g soft sand beach, Misquamicut has changing booths, showers and toilets, snack stands, and—best of all for the kids—Atlantic Beach Park, a classic New England beach amusement area with bumper cars, kids' rides, game arcades, miniature golf, waterslides, souvenir shops and more.

The quieter westward continuation of Misquamicut State Beach is the excellent North Kingston Town Beach.

North Kingstown Town Beach

The western continuation of Misquamicut State Beach, Rhode Island, has fewer facilities, but is also quieter.

North Kingston Town Beach RI
North Kingston Town Beach RI.

This sand-and-gravel town beach has the basic services: toilets, a picnic area with grills, and a small playground.

North Kingston Town Beach
North Kingston RI 02852
Tel: 401-294-3331

Blue Shutters Town Beach

Family-friendly beach with excellent facilities open to both town residents and visitors: lifeguards, outdoor showers, toilets, changing rooms, food shop, picnic tables and beach-accessible wheelchairs.

Blue Shutters Town Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island
Blue Shutters Town Beach, Charlestown RI.

Blue Shutters Town Beach, in Charlestown RI off US Route 1 about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) at the southern end of East Beach Road (map), is open to all for a parking fee of $15 on weekdays, $20 on weekends.

Facilities include lifeguards, outdoor showers, toilets, changing rooms, food shop, picnic tables and beach-accessible wheelchairs.

The slope from the beach into the water is fairly gentle, the light beige-colored sand is powdery-soft and easy on the feet.

Blue Shutters Town Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island
Blue Shutters Town Beach on a weekday...with a storm brewing.

Exit US Route 1 following signs for "East Beach" and "Blue Shutters Town Beach" and you'll follow East Beach Road south, coming to Blue Shutters Town Beach first.

East Beach State Beach is a few hundred yards/meters farther along to the east on an uneven sand road.

East Beach State Beach

Three miles (5 km) of prime ocean shoreline, but limited parking and few facilities—but Blue Shutters Town Beach is nearby.

East Beach State Beach, Charlestown RI
Plenty of beach on a weekday morning...with a storm gathering.

East Beach State Beach in Charlestown, Rhode Island, is just a few hundred yards/meters along an uneven sand road from Blue Shutters Town Beach (map).

East Beach charges the same daily parking fee as other Rhode Island state beaches, but has limited parking and facilities: just composting toilets and lifeguards.

The beach itself is of medium-fine golden sand, but drops off fairly steeply to the sea, which means the surf is farily active and not good for children not immediately attended by an adult.

You reach East Beach State Beach from US Route 1, then south along East Beach Road. Watch for signs saying "East Beach" and "Blue Shutters Beach."

Charlestown Breachway Beach

On the east side of the Breachway (map), it's designed for self-contained recreational vehicles, with limited facilities‚ but a fine beach nonetheless.

Charlestown Breachway Beach, down at the end of Charlestown Beach Road from the Charlestown Town Beach (map), is designed for recreational vehicle campers.

RVs at Charlestown Breachway Beach, Rhode Island
The "camping area:" really just a parking lot...

A camping area—really just a parking lot with no hookups—harbors the RVs, which must be completely self-contained as there are no services in the beach reserve except lifeguards and composting toilets:

Composting toilets at Charlestown Breachway State Beach
Composting toilets—the totality of services...

There are no facilities for tent camping, only for RVs.

You can pay the parking fee and enter in a regular vehicle, of course, but other beaches offer better facilities for the same parking fee—except if you're in an RV, in which case the Breachway beach and campground is good for you.

All that having been said, it's a good beach: lifeguards, a jetty good for fishing, a good golden sand beach—two beaches, actually, one on either side of the jetty.

Charlestown Breachway State Beach, Rhode Island
The golden sand beach, with the jetty beyond...

Charlestown Town Beach

A relatively small town beach adjoining Charlestown Breachway State Beach. Both are fine, but there are better choices if you don't fit the profile of most beachgoers here.

Charlestown Town Beach, Rhode Island
Charlestown Town Beach pavilion.

Charlestown Town Beach, reached from US Route 1 by Charlestown Beach Road (map), is relatively small as South County beaches go.

The 100-yard-wide beach is limited on both sides by private property—signs and flags alert you to this fact, to keep you within the beach confines.

The lifeguards are only responsible for the marked limits of the beach.

Charlestown Town Beach, Rhode Island
Note flags and signs marking the limits of the beach...

The beach has fine light sand, but the shore is rather steep, surf moderate but the incline makes the surf "crashier."

The beach pavilion, with toilets and cold salty-water rinse-showers, is on the far side of Charlestown Beach Road, as is the parking lot. Beach-accessible wheelchairs are provided free of charge.

Charlestown Beach Road continues westward from the Town Beach to Charlestown Breachway State Beach, which you can also enjoy, though it's aimed particularly at recreational vehicle campers.

As for town beaches, the best on the coast is the very nice South Kingstown Town Beach.

South Kingstown Town Beach

The best of South County's town beaches, it has all facilities, including a children's playground and picnic tables.

South Kingstown Town Beach, Rhode Island
Early morning walkers on South Kingstown State Beach.

The best beaches in Rhode Island's South County are the state beaches, but each of the four towns along the shoreline—Westerly, Charlestown, Kingstown and Narragansett—has a town beach as well.

The best of the town beaches is South Kingstown Town Beach, off US Route 1 at the southern end of Matunuck Beach Road (map)—signs direct you.

South Kingstown Town Beach, Rhode Island
Beach pavilion and lifeguard....

Bounded by beach cottages and cornfields, the beach has full facilities: showers, toilets, lifeguards, beach wheelchairs, food stand, a playground and picnic tables—even Yoga on the Beach.

The darkish sand is smooth and fine. The beach slopes to the sea somewhat steeply in places, making for good splashing surf (if that's what you want), but these parts aren't the best for toddlers:

South Kingstown Town Beach, Rhode Island
Fun for older kids, but not for toddlers....

Note that, as at most South County beaches, there is no shade except for bits in the pavilion. Even the picnic tables are in full sun. Bring your own beach umbrella or other shelter if you want some shade.

The small commercial zone just inland, north of the beach, has a few shops and a restaurant.

South Kingstown Town Beach, Rhode Island
The tidy playground at South Kingstown Town Beach.

To the west of the beach is the Theatre by the Sea for summer musical theater.

The nearest alternative beach is the fine East Matunuck State Beach to the east.

East Matunuck State Beach

One of Rhode Island's best full-service beaches, a long crescent of golden sand with up-to-date facilities near the quaint village of Jerusalem.

East Matunuck State Beach, Jerusalem, Rhode Island
The modern solar-powered pavilion.

East Matunuck State Beach, next to the coastal village of Jerusalem, and just west across the channel from Galilee, Rhode Island (map), is among Rhode Island's best: a long, curved, fine-sand ocean beach with moderate surf and excellent up-to-date facilities.

Lifeguards, food stand, toilets, free rinse-showers, coin-operated hot showers, beach-capable wheelchairs for free, adequate parking. (No animals allowed, however, as on all South County beaches.)

Signs clearly point the way from US Route 1 south along Succotash Road to the beach, which is backed by salt marsh.

On summer weekends the parking lot fills early, in which case the beach is closed to latecomers as there is no other parking allowed nearby.

East Matunuck State Beach, Jerusalem, Rhode Island
L-o-n-g, broad golden sand beach with fine facilities...

Several seafood restaurants dot the road north of the beach, and others are in the village of Jerusalem near the beach.

Block Island ferryboats come and go to Port Galilee, right across the channel from Jerusalem.

If you have a good arm you could throw a ball from Jerusalem to Galilee, but there's no bridge across the channel, so to reach Galilee without swimming (or a boat), you must drive north, east, then south for 11.4 miles (18.4 km), all the way around Point Judith Pond.

Salty Brine State Beach

From this small (100-yard-long) beach in Port Galilee you can watch the ferries to Block Island come and go. Seafood restaurants and camping are within walking distance. It's good for little kids because a sea wall blocks the surf.

Salty Brine State Beach, Galilee, Rhode Island
Salty Brine State Beach, Galilee RI. Note the Block Island ferry heading out to sea.

Salty Brine State Beach is really the western end of the fine Roger W Wheeler State Beach, with the advantage that Salty Brine is located right in the village of Galilee, Rhode Island (map).

Roger W Wheeler State Beach is the preferable beach because of its longer extent, large parking lot and excellent facilities, but Salty Brine shares some of its neighboring beach's advantages: the breakwaters protect the beachfront from surf, making the calm water, gradual slope and warm, shallow water good for small children.

Salty Brine State Beach, Galilee, Rhode Island
Breakwaters make the difference at Salty Brine...

Salty Brine's beach pavilion offers the usual services: toilets, rinse-showers and a food stand, though the beach and facilities seem more crowded and busy than at Roger W Wheeler State Beach.

The parking lot is small and fills early, but if you're planning only a short beach visit, you may be able to find a free 2-hour parking place on the street in Galilee.

Considering that you will not then have to pay the beach parking fee, you'll at least come out even.

Salty Brine State Beach, Galilee, Rhode Island
Parking lot full: not unusual at Salty Brine State Beach.

Roger W Wheeler State Beach

Fine sand, good facilities (picnic tables, bathhouse with coin-operated hot showers, playground, food stand and plenty of parking) and, at 100 Sand Hill Cove Road (map), handy to the Block Island ferry, it was formerly known as Sand Hill Cove Beach.

Roger W Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett RI
Roger W Wheeler State Beach, Point Judith RI, is the best for small children.

Named in honor of the man who developed the Rhode Island State Life-Saving System, Roger W Wheeler Memorial State Beach is the first choice for families with small children.

Located on Sand Hill Cove Road just northwest of Point Judith on the way to Galilee (map), the beach has obvious advantages for families.

The powdery-soft beige sand, the gradual slope of the sand into the water, the warmth of the shallow water, the offshore breakwater that blocks the surf—they all protect little ones from dangerous currents, waves, and deep water.

Roger W Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett RI
Modern beach pavilion and playground at Wheeler Beach.

Lifeguards, a playground, picnic tables, food stand, toilets and showers in the modern beach pavilion all add up to one of South County's best, most enjoyable beaches.

The western end of the beach, right in Galilee near the dock for ferries to Block Island, is Salty Brine State Beach, with its own parking lot, administration, and beach pavilion with services.

Roger W Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett RI
Plenty of space to spread out, and a gradual slope into the water....

The ferry dock and beach are a 10- to 15-minute walk from Fishermen's Memorial State Park & Campground in Galilee, and only a little farther from Scarborough State Beach, one of Rhode Island's best and most popular beaches.

Scarborough State Beaches

Officially Scarborough North and South State Beaches, these popular summer destinations 35 miles (56 km) south of Providence are next to one another, off RI Route 108 just north of Fishermen's Memorial State Park (map) and northeast of Point Judith and Galilee, Rhode Island.

Scarborough North State Beach

Scarborough North State Beach, at 970 Ocean Road (map) Narragansett RI, is Rhode Island's most popular beach for good reason: broad beaches of fine sand, good facilities (lifeguards, coin-operated hot showers, food stand, toilets, boardwalk, observation tower) with camping and the ferry to Block Island nearby.

Scarborough State Beach, Point Judith RI
Scarborough North Beach.

Each beach (North and South) has its own large beachfront pavilion with free cold- and coin-operated hot-water showers, picnic tables, concrete boardwalks with gazebos and observation towers, toilets (including for the disabled), food and drink stands, and telephones.

There are 75 picnic tables as well.

Scarborough South State Beach

Formerly known as Olivo's and Lido’s beaches, this southward continuation of Scarborough North is just as fine, with similar facilities.

Scarborough State Beach, Point Judith RI
Scarborough South State Beach.

The broad swaths of fine sand stretch for 2,325 feet (709 meters) along the Atlantic shore, and are backed by large parking lots and good facilities open weekends in May, and seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

There's camping at nearby Fishermen's Memorial State Park and Campground, 1011 Point Judith Road (map), with rules for minimum and maximum nights' stay during high season (late May through Labor Day).

The ferry to Block Island departs from Great Island Road in Port Galilee (map), which is within walking distance from Fishermen's Memorial State Park.

Narragansett Town Beach

At 39 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett RI, just north of historic Narragansett Pier, the delights of a fine sand beach and an interesting town are both yours here. Parking lots are reserved for residents and season ticket-holders, but you can park in town and walk.