Memorable Beaches

“For one weary and oppressed with the heat, noise, and bustle of the dusty street, there can be no better restorative than a few hours of quiet repose and recreation ‘down the bay.’” - "Reid’s Illustrated Seaside Souvenir: A Guide to Newport, Narragansett Pier, Rocky Point, Oakland Beach, Block Island, Watch Hill, and all Shore Resorts of Narragansett Bay" Vol III, 1884

While Rhode Island beaches in the 19th and 20th century could be peaceful places, “quiet repose and recreation” did not necessarily characterize the busy clambakes, dancing, and rides that littered Rhode Island shores. For those living in the city the beach was an escape, and with the rising popularity of steamboats, trips to the beach became a regularity for those who could afford it. These beach resorts peaked in the early 20th century, but several fell prey to hurricanes and economic troubles that eventually led to their closure. Most infamously, the deadly hurricane in 1938 was responsible for a slew of coastal damage as well as destruction throughout Providence. Beaches that survived still remain popular Rhode Island destinations for tourists and locals alike. Many of these historic beaches continue to operate their antique carousels as a reminder of their long past.

This Rhode Tour will take you across the state to five of Rhode Island’s most interesting beaches. Places like Rocky Point and Crescent Park are no longer buzzing amusement parks, but on your visit you will see relics of their past like the Looff carousel at Crescent Park. Pictures of these places in their prime will help you imagine what they would have looked like back before they closed. Beaches like Watch Hill, Easton’s Beach, and Oakland Beach are still well-visited, and the crowds that you will likely see mimic their historic popularity.

As you complete this Rhode Tour, larger themes of community, entertainment, and industrialization will color the different beaches you visit. You are about to take in beautiful scenery and get to be a part of the long historic record of Rhode Island’s beaches. Enjoy your time “down the bay.”

Hurricanes and Hotels at Watch Hill

The year? 1938. The weather? The worst you’ve ever seen. The hurricane that hit Rhode Island shook the coast to its core, wreaking havoc on its beaches. Watch Hill was no exception. Watch Hill in Westerly, RI, one of Rhode Island’s finest…

Rhode Island’s “Paradise” Oakland Beach

Close your eyes and think of the word, “paradise.” What do you see? For many Rhode Islanders in the late 19th and early 20th century, they would picture Oakland Beach. Oakland Beach is found in Warwick, Rhode Island, where one can still enjoy…

Rocky Point Park is Not Forgotten

Rocky Point Park is still on many Rhode Islanders’ minds. The park, shut down in 1995, was a beloved part of Rhode Island since the 1850s. Over the 19th and 20th centuries, the park grew to its final mammoth size, and continued to renovate and…

Crescent Park: Carousels and Clambakes on the Coast

“Flying Horses, Swings, Elevated Railroads, ‘Chutes,’ and other forms of attractions abound; there is a large hotel on the grounds, and the dining halls for shore dinners are the most extensive on the bay.” --Official Souvenir of the…

A Day in Newport: Easton’s Beach

Easton’s Beach is a beach of many names. You may also have heard it called First Beach or Newport Beach. But whatever its name is, the beach can be found on the strip of land on Easton’s Bay that connects the peninsula named Easton’s Point in…
This tour was completed by Janie Merrick, education intern at the Rhode Island Historical Society to coincide with the RIHS 2018 programming theme of R&R in RI. Ms. Merrick’s internship was supported by Brown University’s LINK Award.