Rhode Island is so small and you’ve lived here so long. You’ve been to the state and town beaches, traveled to Block Island, taken a boat out on the bay, snuck onto a private beach or two. There’s not really anything left to explore. You’ve seen it all, right? Wrong. Quick quiz: Rhode Island has over 100 public and private beaches – how many have you been to? How many can you even name? Thought so.
Several summers back, a friend and I set a guideline for ourselves: every time we went to the beach that year, we went to a different one. And for the most part, we chose beaches we had never visited before. We pulled up a list and got to work. This was in our beach bum days, and yet we still barely made a dent in that list – but along the way, we reminded ourselves how even in the smallest state, there’s so much we haven’t seen or done.
That was the year I discovered Gooseberry Beach in Newport, which remains one of my favorites – and my own personal “secret beach.” “Secret beaches” are not “secret” in the literal sense – nothing in this state is remote or distant enough to be kept secret. They’re more like under-appreciated beaches, hidden in plan sight, indicated by signs that you barely even acknowledge as you breeze past them en route to your old favorite. They represent the vast majority on that list of 100 that you’ve barely even heard of, never mind visited. Your secret beach is the one that, when you suggest it, causes your friends to pause, scratch their heads, and shrug, “Sure, but you’re driving.”
Here is a list of some “secret beaches” from both sides of the bay, and a little further out. Some are staff favorites, some are recommendations from fellow beach bums, and some were practically chosen out of a hat. Don’t even bother reading any of them: simply cover your eyes, point at one blindly, pack your beach bag, and hit the road.
If you love Charlestown Town Beach, but don’t love the crowds, then maybe Blue Shutters Town Beach is the one for you. Adjacent to East Beach in the Ninigret Conservation Area, Blue Shutters doesn’t boast much in the way of amenities, but it’s a nice wide, quiet stretch of sand where you’ll see lots of red Solo cups. Just be aware that the Charlestown Beach comparisons also extend to the quick drop-off at the shoreline and strong undertow. East Beach Rd., Charlestown. Pay to park, but no admission.
Some beaches are made for that later-in-the-day trip. You know the one: you’re not out there to work on your tan, or perhaps even swim – it’s more about bringing a chair, packing
Nestled in a quiet cove along Ocean Road on Aquidneck Island’s southern shore, Gooseberry Beach is open to the public but is also home to a private beach club. The relatively calm waters make it popular among families, and there is a large rock just a short swim from the shore that’s easily accessible and a great place to sunbathe. Ocean Rd., Newport. Pay to park, but no admission.
Cast off as unwanted by the elites who summer at Newport’s toney and private Bailey’s Beach, Reject’s Beach isn’t even an official beach. It’s a small strip of beachfront that’s separated from its ritzy neighbor by a fence and a rope that goes out into the water. There’s no parking, and it’s generally only accessible by foot or bike – just as it should be for us commoners. Off the Cliff Walk, Newport. No admission or parking fee.
Jamestown is known for its quiet retreats and beautiful vistas, so it should be no surprise that Mackerel Cove Town Beach is a relatively tranquil spot that’s popular with families. Located on the “beaver tail” of land that gives Beavertail State Park its name, it’s light on amenities so you’ll want to bring plenty of snacks and things to entertain the kiddies. Beavertail Rd., Jamestown. Pay to park, but no admission.
Occupying the same peninsula at the southeastern end of Aquidneck Island as Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Middletown’s Third Beach (aka Navy Beach) is small and relatively quiet. The water is shallow and the waves are minimal, but the winds make it a popular choice for windsurfers. Pets are welcome after 5pm. Third Beach Rd., Middletown. Pay to park, but no admission.
The other Sandy Point Beach is a shallow one facing out onto the Sakonnet from the eastern edge of Portsmouth. It’s relatively small and quiet, making it another good choice for families with children, or even just adults looking to set up shop with a chair and a good book. Sandy Point Ave., Portsmouth. Pay to park, but no admission.
You’ll want to bring your friend to Teddy’s Beach in Portsmouth – your best friend. This is one of the few beaches in the state that’s known for being pet friendly, which for some will make up for the lack of amenities. Up near the northern tip of Aquidneck Island, on a curled finger of land that surrounds Blue Hill Cove, Teddy’s Beach is directly across the water from Tiverton’s Grinnell Beach, itself worthy of “secret beach” status. Park Ave., Portsmouth. No admission or parking fee.
Perched out at the end of one of the two extensions of land that enclose Block Island’s Great Salt Pond, Charleston Beach is not easy to get to and offers no amenities. But in exchange for those inconveniences, it offers respite from the crowds and peaceful views of the boats entering New Harbor. Bring your own supplies and enjoy one of Rhode Island’s – nay, the world’s – last great unspoiled places. Off Champlin Rd., Block Island. No admission or parking fee.
Hidden away just above “the Neck” and the better known Crescent Beaches on Block Island, Mansion Beach provides big surf and small crowds. There is limited parking available near Searles Mansion, but it’s also accessible by bike. It’s also a short hike to the nearby Clayhead Trail. Mansion Rd., Block Island. No admission or parking fee.
Little Compton’s Goosewing Beach is another one that requires parking at an adjacent beach (in this case, South Shore Beach) and walking the rest of the way. Narrow and a bit rocky, Goosewing occupies a narrow spit of land between open ocean and a coastal pond. The beach is actually a historic landmark and nature preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy, where they manage populations of rare birds. Off South Shore Rd., Little Compton. Pay to park at South Shore Beach, but no admission.
If you’re looking for a great place to windsurf – and really, who isn’t? – Fogland Beach (aka Tiverton Town Beach) offers excellent conditions. Located on a small peninsula that juts out into the Sakonnet River between Tiverton and Aquidneck Island, it creates a small cove on its north side, great for nature lovers or families with children. It’s also got a nature conservation area. 3 Rod Way off Fogland Rd., Tiverton. Pay to park, but no admission.
If your ideal beach day involves a picnic basket, then consider Warren Town Beach. It’s got shallow water that’s good for kids (as well as a playground) and is right next to Burr’s Hill Park, providing even more picnicking and recreational opportunities. Off Water St., Warren. No admission or parking fee.
Almost more of a park than a beach, Union Street Beach is a tiny parcel of land just off the main drag in Downtown Bristol. There’s a grassy plot with benches and picnic tables leading down to a small area for swimming and sunbathing. Bring a cooler and watch the boats go by. Union Street, Bristol. No admission or parking fee.