One Week in South County
South County, the colloquial name for Washington County, encompasses the towns of North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Exeter, Narragansett, Westerly, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, and New Shoreham. It is a popular destination for both tourists and local Rhode Islanders. In the summer, surfers, beach-goers, and the like flock to the Rhode Island coast for vacations and day trips. This itinerary highlights some of the places in South County one should be sure to visit during his or her week in South County. This itinerary is meant for summer trips, as South County offers the most during this season. It is loosely structured to give suggestions about where to see in South County; how long you spend at each destination should be based on your preferences. It will take you from the northern city of North Kingstown along the coast all the way to Charlestown. This one week itinerary will conclude with a two day trip to New Shoreham, also known as Block Island, one of Rhode Island's favored destinations.
Before embarking on your week in South County, be sure to pack some of the summer essentials: sunscreen, towels, beach toys for kids, etc. If you are not a Rhode Island native, acquaint yourself with some Rhode Island vernacular. (Note that South County is not even the official name for this region!) A few key Rhode Island-isms are as follows:
- Clam cakes and "chowda" -- a popular Rhode Island summer dish.
- Del's Lemonade -- a frozen, slushy, lemony drink native to RI; other flavors include blueberry, watermelon, etc.
- Bubbler ("Bubbla") -- a drinking fountain.
- "Wicked" -- used for emphasis (e.g., "That Del's looks wicked good!").
You can arrive at the first destination, Wickford Village in North Kingstown, by following these highway directions:
From Points North
Take I-95 S to Rt. 4 S (exit 9). Follow Rt. 4 S to Route 102 S (exit 5A). Continue on Rt 102 S for 3.2 miles and turn left on Brown Street to enter the southern end of Wickford Village.
OR - Rt. 1 S to Route 1A S. Turn left on Rt. 1A S/West Main Street to enter the northern end of Wickford Village.
From Points South
Take I-95 N to Route 102 S (exit 5A). Follow Rt. 102 S for 12.4 miles and turn left on Brown Street to enter the southern end of Wickford Village.
OR - Rt. 1 N to Route 102 S/Philips Street (1.9 miles after Rt. 1/Rt. 4 intersection). Turn right onto Rt 102 S/Philips Street and follow .5 miles. Turn left on Brown Street to enter the southern end of Wickford Village.
From Newport and Points East
Take Route 138 W over Newport and Jamestown bridges. Take the first exit after the Jamestown Bridge to Route 1A/Wickford. At end of ramp, take left onto Rt 1A N. Follow 3.2 miles and turn right on Brown Street to enter the southern end of Wickford Village.
The destinations in this itinerary require driving. If you are unfamiliar with Rhode Island, you will soon learn that you can drive anywhere in the state in less than an hour!
Day One: North Kingstown
The first destination includes a trip to Wickford, a historical village located in North Kingstown. Bring your friends, family, or just yourself to enjoy this charming little village. Park your car (Or, in Rhode Island dialect: "Pock your cah") along Brown, Main, or West Main Street, and spend the day shopping, eating, and kayaking. Wickford offers dozens of locally-owned shops as well as several restaurants located within walking distance of each other. Eat lunch at the Beachrose Cafe, the Wickford Diner, or the Tavern by the Sea, all located on Brown street. If the weather is suitable, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy by the Narragansett Bay. Finally, give kayaking a try at the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island.
- Note: If you are interested in art, plan your week in South County accordingly. Every year, the Wickford Art Association hosts the Wickford Art Festival in Wickford Village. Wickford is known for its outdoor festival, held every year during the second weekend in July.
Day Two: South Kingstown
From Wickford, journey southwest to Kingston (Rhode Island), a village in South Kingstown. Start your day by visiting the University of Rhode Island's main campus at Kingston. Located in historic Kingston Village, the University of Rhode Island is a rural college campus with historic charm. Walk around the tree-lined quad, check out the original academic buildings, and visit the Botanical Gardens, what URI calls "a showcase for sustainable plants and sustainable landscape practices." Once you are done wandering around campus, take Route 108 South to experience Wakefield (Rhode Island), a small town in SK. Here you will find myriad activity options. Stop by Old Mountain Field, located off Route 108 and enjoy the skating park, baseball field, basketball and tennis courts, as well as the picnic area. Stop for lunch off Route 108 on Tower Hill Road, a strip which features a variety of places for a wide range of tastes. Possible ideas include Panera Bread, Pick Pockets Deli, and Bagelz Bagel Bakery. Conclude your day by traveling west to Wakefield's Main Street. Spend time browsing the shops, like the Purple Cow, a shop offering unique gifts and jewelry, as well as The Watershed Surf/Skate/Snow Shop, for all your boarding needs.
- Panera Bread
160 Old Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879-3731
- Pick Pockets Deli
160 Old Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879-3731
- Bagelz Bakery
90 Pershing Ave.
Wakefield RI 02879
Day Three: Narragansett
On your third day in South County, plan to head south from South Kingstown and into Narragansett, where you will find the majority of Rhode Island's beautiful beaches. A beach community, Narragansett offers a tourist-friendly destination with plenty to do. Start by spending a few hours at either Narragansett Town Beach, located on 77 Boston Neck Road, or Scarborough State Beach, at 870 Ocean Road. Plan to arrive early, as Narragansett Beach tends to become crowded throughout the summer months. Admission costs $5.00 from 8 am - 5 pm daily. Narragansett Beach is a popular destination for the younger crowd, surfers, and locals. Scarborough State Beach, about eight minutes south of Narragansett Town Beach, offers a more family-friendly beach with fixed rates for cars: $7.00 for Rhode Island residents, $14.00 for non-residents.
Day Four: Narragansett
On your fourth day in South County and second day in Narragansett, explore the Narragansett Pier, across from Narragansett Town Beach. At the pier you will find a variety of shops and boutiques. Grab an ice cream cone at Nana's Ice Cream & Gelato Café, open daily from noon - 11 pm. Enjoy an ice cream or a decadent cup of gelato and head to the Narragansett wall bordering the Narragansett Beach to watch the surfers. Stroll along Ocean Road and admire the Narragansett Towers, a landmark in South County, which is also host to many summer weddings and events. Finally, enjoy an upscale dinner at the Coast Guard House, located in the heart of Narragansett at 40 Ocean Road( +1 401-789-0700 ).
Day Five: Charlestown (Rhode Island)
On the fifth day of this South County excursion, head south to Charlestown, a popular beach and fishing spot in southern Rhode Island. Spend your day at one of Charlestown's renowned beaches:
- East Beach / Ninigret State Beach - East Beach Road. A kid-friendly beach that costs $12.00 per carload on weekdays and $14.00 per car on weekends and holidays.
- Charlestown State Breachway - Route 1A. The Breachway is a smaller alternative but offers camping and saltwater fishing areas.
- Blue Shutters Public Beach - East Beach Road before Ninigret State Beach. Blue Shutters is a tourist-friendly beach that allows access to restrooms as well as a concession stands.
After spending time at the beach of your choice, be sure to stop at one of Charlestown's less well-known attractions, The Fantastic Umbrella Factory, at 4820 Old Post Road off Route 1A. The Umbrella Factory offers much more than umbrellas. It is an outdoor cluster of shops, gardens, and animal grounds. Wander through the unique shops, offering hand-crafted ceramics, jewelry, and gift items at affordable prices. Feed the domesticated animals. How often can you feed goats and emus between browsing shops?
Day Six: Block Island
The final two days of this itinerary include a trip to the town of New Shoreham, more commonly referred to as Block Island. Before venturing 13 miles off the coast of the Rhode Island mainland, make reservations to stay overnight at one of Block Island's hotels or bed-and-breakfasts. The 1661 Inn and Hotel Manisses, on Spring Street, for example, is a desirable place to stay overnight. Rates range from $50 to $399. From Charlestown, travel north on Route 1 to Route 108 to Point Judith, Narragansett, where you will take the Block Island ferry. Depart from Point Judith in the morning, and arrive in Block Island's Old Harbor in about an hour. Upon arrival, walk to the Old Harbor Bike Shop, located immediately off the ferry. Rent a bike or a moped for easy travel around this small island. From the bike shop, bike or ride approximately three miles on Spring Street, along the Block Island coast, towards the Southeast Lighthouse. Stop at the Southeast Light to enjoy a traditional Block Island monument. Next, head to the Mohegan Bluffs. Once you arrive at the Bluffs, lock your bike and prepare to climb the hundred and fifty stairs down to the beach. Enjoy the stunning views of the Mohegan Bluffs as you descend. Spend as long as you like enjoying the beach beneath the staggering bluffs. Adults and kids alike will marvel at this location. The surf can get rough at times, however, and there is no lifeguard on duty, so plan to swim at your own risk.
Spend the rest of the day biking around the island. You can head back into town, or continue to bike the approximate 12-mile perimeter of the island towards New Harbor. Enjoy dinner at one of Block Island's numerous restaurants, ranging from burgers to fresh seafood. The National, a hotel and restaurant conveniently located on Water Street is an ideal place to eat dinner while enjoying the views of Old Harbor.
Day Seven: Block Island
On your final day in Block Island and in South County, make sure to do as much - or as little! - as you can. If you prefer a lively beach day, walk or bike to Ballard's Beach at 42 Water Street, adjacent to Old Harbor. Ballard's features a restaurant, bar, and live music throughout the summer. Umbrellas and beach chairs are available to rent, and bartenders serve drinks on the beach. The beach at Ballard's, like all of Block Island's beaches, maintains pristine sand and water. Ballard's also offers beach volleyball. They do not, however, allow guests to bring in their own food or drink. Located next to Ballard's is Block Island Parasail & Watersports, where you can satisfy your parasailing, banana-boating, or jet-boating desires!
If you prefer a quieter beach day, head to Fredrick J. Benson Beach, Scotch Beach, or Mansion Beach, the three sections of the stretch known as Crescent Beach. All beach admissions are free and include access to restrooms. Ample parking is available at Benson Town Beach.
After spending time at the beach, head back to Old Harbor. While you wait for your ferry back to Point Judith, browse through some of Block Island's dozens of novelty and gift stores, or grab a bite to eat at Rebecca's Take-Out on Water Street. Don't forget to buy a Block Island souvenir to remember the conclusion of your week in South County, Rhode Island!
In order to leave Block Island, the last destination in this itinerary, you must take the Block Island Ferry to either Point Judith (Narragansett) or Newport to arrive back on the Rhode Island mainland.
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