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RI’s Best Beaches

Monday, July 19, 2010


Someone had to have the courage to pick the best.

We took a long look at all of our state's public beaches, from far-flung Napatree Point to bayfront stretches in Warwick. And what we decided is that with some beaches being very use-oriented to some highlighting remoteness and lack of services, we sought the beach that was the best for the most. We rewarded natural gifts like quality of sand, clarity of water, and variation in surf; but we also honored a bit of civilization - food, access, the occasional class in ocean sports. And we looked for the zeitgeist that makes a beach a beach - surfing, skimboarding, boogie-boarding - plus just a smidge of honkytonk.

Purists may snort, but we've got a runner-up for them (so pure, in fact, it recently made a national list of one of eight eco-friendly top beaches in the world). Meanwhile, though, let's raise a Del's to our choice for RI's Best Beach:

Grand Prize: Town Beach, Narragansett

It's the perfect blend of everything that makes a beach great, and it's the closet thing to a California beach, and experts in these things know a winner when they skimboard it. The southern end hosts surfers and the attendant hang-out culture (not to mention there are daily surfing lessons), while the center stretch near the pavilions and to-go grill are just broad enough for families to spread out without being miles from the surfline. To the north, the strand opens up for quiet walking toward the private beaches, making it a perfect couples spot as well.

Want more? At all tides, there's enough shallow for wading, but close enough drop-off for swimming. And there's enough angling toward the open ocean to create enough waves frequently enough to make things interesting, but it's protected enough to keep the seaweed to a minimum. More? There's a surfshop (Narragansett Surf and Skate Shop) within walking distance. More? Crazy Burger, a bona fide California-style, vegan-friendly eatery, makes the post-beach scene ideal. More? Get there early enough and you can park on the street. So what if you have to pay to use it? With all this going on, it's money well spent. For the beach's Web page, go here. Seasonal resident passes are $20 for adults, $10 for kids 12-17; non-residents pay $40 for adults, $20 for kids 12-17 (all kids under 12 are free). A day is $5 for everyone over 12.

Honorable Mention: Napatree Point, Watch Hill

It's worth getting up early and making the long (in RI terms) drive to Watch Hill to score some good parking and get onto this gorgeous beach (free admission). The farther you walk from the entry point by the famous carousel, the narrower, more peacefully remote your day will be. It's a half mile of bliss, and you've still got the Olympia Tea Room back in civilization for a proper post-beach meal.

Honorable Mention: Mansion Beach, Block Island

Yes, Fred Benson Town Beach is wonderful, and it's much like Narragansett's Town Beach for combinations of amenities and strand, but for real beach afficianados, there is nothing quite like this small, tucked away cove considerably north. Easily reached by bicycle from the ferry, Mansion Beach carries the memories of ruins and has the pristine quality of the private beach released back to the wild. In a word, it's perfect. No services, so be prepared. A few parking spots, but only for the sharp-eyed early riser.

Honorable Mention: Goosewing Beach, Little Compton

Who are we to argue with CNN? This gem at our outer boundaries has ended up with international beaches in Brazil and Costa Rica as best combining beauty and eco-friendliness (see article, here). It's not great for kids or teens ("boring!"), but for lovers of unadulterated New England shoreline, it's, well, world-class. And now with the nearby Stone House Inn running a fine bar (and fire pit), this may be the best beach/apres-beach one-two ever.


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