With 26 miles of shoreline, Narragansett is a hot summer destination
A surfer walks along the shore at Narragansett Town Beach. Yankee magazine named it one of New England's best. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Long and skinny, Narragansett hugs the ocean from Saunderstown in the north to Galilee in the south. It boasts 26 miles of shoreline (including Pettasquamscutt Cove and Narrow River), and in summer the year-round population triples. There's a beach for everyone. The Narragansett Town Beach , famous for its waves, has been named one of the top surfing destinations in the country by Family Circle magazine and one of New England's best town beaches by Yankee magazine. Scarborough State Beach , more than a mile long, has less undertow and a more gradual drop, making it a good choice for families. Roger Wheeler Beach , inside the Harbor of Refuge , is well protected and best for small children. Salty Brine State Beach, named for a beloved radio personality, is a small crescent of sand abutting the clam shacks of Galilee. It is from this port that you board vessels for sightseeing, whale watching, fishing, or travel to Block Island, some 12 miles offshore.
DoThe Towers , originally part of the Narragansett Pier Casino designed by McKim, Mead, and White and built between 1883 and 1886, is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August from noon to 4 (35 Ocean Road, 401-782-2597, thetowersri.com ). It also serves a lunch buffet on Wednesdays from June 4-Aug. 29, as long as no other events are booked. It's worth a quick peek into the light-filled, 130-foot-long Great Hall with fieldstone walls and windows on three sides affording a spectacular ocean view. The Narragansett Visitors Center is on the ground floor of The Towers.
You can't visit the 1816 Point Judith Lighthouse (1460 Ocean Road, 401-789-0444 ), an active US Coast Guard station, but you can get a great view of it from the adjacent Rose Nulman Park .
The Southland Riverboat (State Pier #3, Port of Galilee, 401-783-2954, southlandcruises.com ) offers sunset cruises, fall foliage trips, and private charters on Point Judith Pond aboard an authentic flat-bottom Mississippi riverboat. The popular sightseeing cruise is an 11-mile narrated tour among the salt pond's islands, with views of the fishing port of Galilee, Point Judith Lighthouse, and Block Island.
The Frances Fleet (33 State St., Galilee, 401-783-4988, francesfleet.com ) offers Rhode Island's only whale watching excursions. Finback whales are the most common kind seen in summer. Tours depart daily at 1 p.m., weather permitting, in July and August ($38 adults, $32 seniors, $25 children).
PlayFrom the Black Point public fishing area off Ocean Road, a short path through the woods leads to a rocky outcropping overlooking the ocean and remnants of forts used during World War I and World War II to defend the coastline. There is a small parking area and a sign.
The South County Museum (Strathmore Street, 401-783-5400, southcounty museum.org ) has lots of attractions for children, including farm animals and demonstrations of blacksmithing, carpentry, and printing.
On a rainy day, the Narragansett Ocean Club Roller/Inline Skating Rink (360 South Pier Road, 401-783-1711) might be just the ticket. Beneath colored lights and a rotating disco ball, children can rent skates and take off.
RestThe Ocean Rose Inn (113 Ocean Road, 401-783-4704, oceanroseinn.com, $119-$329 in season) is in a charming Victorian house, with intricate woodwork and molding. Three rooms on the second floor feature large decks overlooking the ocean. On the first floor the Turtle Soup restaurant offers eclectic cuisine, including a great selection of salads.
There are several bed-and-breakfasts in town. Sheppard's Place (172 Boon St., 401-742-5903, $100 rooms, $200 suite) is known for its gardens. Guests can enjoy a full breakfast on a deck overlooking Patti Sheppard's topiary, flowers, fountain, and koi pond . Along with three rooms, there's a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen and living area for families.
At Sir Edward's Folly (97 Narragansett Ave., 401-789-7097, siredwards folly.com, $90-$130) innkeeper and artist Maryann Stenson has decorated each room to reflect an artist, from Vincent van Gogh to Georgia O'Keeffe. Among the many items she and her husband have brought back from the Southwest is a mesmerizing wind sculpture in the backyard.
The Lighthouse Inn of Galilee (307 Great Island Road, 401-789-9341, lighthouse-inn-ri.com, $89-$199) is a sprawling lodging near the ferry docks. The owners have recently completed a big renovation of the inn's 100 rooms.
The Village Inn Hotel & Conference Center (1 Beach St., 401-783-6767, v-inn.com, doubles $85-$270) is one of the few large hotels open year - round. The complex includes an indoor pool, spa, and the award-winning Amalfi Restaurant.
PartyMany local clubs target the college set during the school year, then change their entertainment to appeal to an older crowd in summer. Okie's Bar and Grill (140 Point Judith Road, 401-789-5454 ) offers live music five nights a week, dancing, and acoustic Sunday afternoons. Manager Alan Longtin said summer weekends tend to draw a 40-plus crowd. Okie's also features food specials on Wednesday nights in summer, such as taco or wing buffets or a barbecue on the patio.
George's of Galilee (250 Sand Hill Cove Road, Galilee, 401-783-2306, georgesofgalilee.com ) offers entertainment nightly in summer on its outdoor deck, overlooking Salty Brine State Beach.
The Bon Vue Inn (1230 Ocean Road, 401-789-0696 ) tends to draw 20- somethings year - round. This club and bar is set in the dunes near Point Judith.
And there's live music and dancing on Thursday evenings from 7-10 in the summer at The Towers ($10; see "DO").
FuelAs you might imagine, seafood is the specialty at many restaurants in this oceanfront town. Two seafood shack legends are across the street from one another in Point Judith. Aunt Carrie's (Route 108 and Ocean Road, 401-783-7930, auntcarriesri.com) was honored this year by the James Beard Foundation as one of "America's Classics." Still run by the family that started it in 1920, it specializes in chowder, clamcakes, fish, and wonderful homemade bread. There is a large dining room overlooking the ocean as well as picnic tables outside. Iggy's Doughboys & Chowder House (1157 Point Judith Road, 401-783-5608, iggysdoughboys.com) has a similar menu, along with its signature fried dough.
Monahan's Restaurant (190 Ocean Road, 401-782-2524) at the beginning of the seawall has been offering clamcakes and chowder for some 50 years. Matt Combs is the third generation of his family to run the takeout-only operation. Customers can sit at picnic tables and enjoy the view of the Claiborne Pell (Newport) Bridge and Beavertail Light.
Crazy Burger Cafe and Juice Bar (144 Boon St., 401-783-1810, crazyburger.com) caters to the health conscious, with fruit and vegetable juices and several vegetarian and vegan menu items. The small dining room includes a counter with swivel stools and is decorated with icicle lights year - round. Try the Luna-Sea burger, fresh ground salmon mixed with pistachio pesto and topped with an orange-chipotle mayonnaise.
For Mediterranean specialties and several varieties of paella, head for Spain (1144 Ocean Road, 401-783-9770, spainri.com, dinner $14.50-$33). The restaurant has outdoor dining on a pretty tiled patio in season.
SpendAfter spending a good part of her life trying to find products kind to her sensitive skin, Tina Giammarco decided to share the results of her research and opened Most Naturally (22A Pier Marketplace, 401-788-9077, mostnaturally.com ). The shop stocks fragrance- and chemical-free skin-care products, organic cotton and hemp clothing, even organic household cleaners and detergents. Giammarco buys from organizations that subscribe to fair trade principles, especially cooperatives representing women.
There's a great selection of beach toys and paraphernalia at Brainwaves Toy Shop in the Salt Pond Plaza (91 Point Judith Road, 401-792-8697 ), including the ultimate sand castle building kit, and huge, soft fabric Frisbee-like discs open in the center called BeamOs that you can catch over your whole body.
Lola of North Beach (1004 Boston Neck Road, 401-783-4611, lolaofnorth beach.com ), the only East Coast outpost of a shop started in San Francisco, has one of the funniest and most irreverent selections of greeting cards we've ever come across. It also has fine stationery by Crane and William Arthur, prepackaged baby gifts, journals, gift wrap, and soy candles.
BackYard Card and Print Gallery (141A Boon St., 401-782-1715, backyardcard gallery.com ) is an arts cooperative featuring local scenes and nature photography by Bill Krul. It also has oils, watercolors, photography, and stained glass, and the shop is always manned by one of the exhibiting artists.
At Crosswynds Traders (1175 Boston Neck Road, 401-782-1110 ), you'll find "brand name clothing at bargain prices," as well as owner Chris Woodbine's Gansett Surfwear , featuring references to iconic Narragansett locations and traditions. "I started it for the locals," Woodbine said, "but it's really caught on with tourists as well."