It's our fourth edition of Gothamist's travel content, Gothamist Getaways. A few times a year, we'll have a week of posts featuring looks at travel, food, products and tips—near and far—for making your trips more enjoyable. So sit back, dream of your next journey and let us know if you have any hints for us—email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the summer, Narragansett, RI is expensive and filled with tourists, as is typical with any beach town. What's not so typical is that during the off-season, the beach houses are mostly rented out to rowdy University of Rhode Island students. (I was one of those students many years ago, and can tell you all about the terrible shock of being thrust into the real world with the false idea that you can live in an oceanfront property for $400/month for the rest of your life). Still, you too can choose the off-season when visiting, even if you shake your fist at college kids these days.
The Towers in the distance (Shutterstock)
Winter Beach is just as enjoyable, if not more, than Summer Beach, and while Narragansett can be enjoyed year-round, it's actually better to go, you know, now. More specifically: between September and May.
Located about 3.5 hours from NYC by car, you'll even pass by other worth-stopping-at areas on your way—at the very least, carve out some time for a tomato pie in New Haven, which is right off I-95 on your drive up. Once there you can settle into Winter Beach Life, not to mention everything else the small state of Rhode Island has to offer (it only takes about 40 minutes to drive through!)
As for Narragansett, we're talking about a few little villages: Bonnet Shores, Narragansett Pier, Scarborough Beach, Point Judith, Galilee, and Great Island. Though nearby Charlestown, Matunuck, and other neighborhoods will all give you a similar vibe.
Point Judith (enfi/istockphoto)
LODGING: I worked at both The Village Inn and Atlantic House front desks while I was in college, so I can tell you first hand that they're not that great... pretty terrible, actually.
Luckily, there are PLENTY of house rentals (some folks, believe it or not, don't like renting their summer homes to college kids), ranging from $80/night and up (even less during the off-season). You definitely want to stay in a home—check out Airbnb, or contact a local realtor, like Homestead Properties, Lila Delman, or Durkin to see what they have available for a short term stay.
My favorite areas are Bonnet Shores and Point Judith (near the lighthouse and Block Island Ferry). Sure, you'll have more to walk to if you're by Narragansett Pier, but there's actually not much worth checking out over there aside from Narragansett Beach and the Coast Guard House.
FOOD & DRINK: The Mews is great if you love beer (they have a large craft beer menu) and good bar food, including burgers, wings, pizza, and even lobster mac n' cheese. There's no view here, but there is a very weird tree growing through the floor.
Crazy Burger has been around for a while, and that's because they serve Very Good Food at a reasonable price. From breakfast sandwiches to burgers topped with their homemade ketchup, be sure to drop by for a meal.
If you want a view, and can loosen the pursestrings a little more, The Coast Guard House has got you covered. They've rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy, and are now fully open for business—they've got $7 glasses of wine, good food, and one of the best views in the area, from almost every seat. See if anything is going on in the iconic Towers while you're there (look at how pretty they are in the winter).
Other places worth checking out: Monahan's, the BonVue Inn (a dive bar with a view), and Aunt Carrie's for some killer clam cakes (but they close for the season after September, opening again in May).
FORT WETHERILL: In the summer, this place is great for some cliff jumping (it's situated upon 100-foot-high granite escarpments), but it's also worth exploring in the colder months. This is a former coast artillery fort in Jamestown, overlooking the entrance to Narragansett Bay. After WWII it was turned over to the state, and turned into a 51-acre state park. You'll find old structures from when it was an active fort, and most of them are covered in graffiti.
THE FANTASTIC UMBRELLA FACTORY: Located just outside of Narragansett in Charlestown, this quirky place has been around since 1968 and definitely has the feel of a hippie commune—it's kind of as if the Source Family decided to run a gift shop and small animal farm. There are stores, a cafe, animals, and lots of nature. It's mostly enjoyable for the "taking it all in" factor, but you'll probably leave with a dreamcatcher or something. Check out this video for a little look at what's in store there.
After that, stop by The Ocean Mist, which has amazingly not fallen into the ocean yet despite being precariously supported by some stilts jutting into the water. You're likely to hear some local music if you stop by later in the evening.
BLOCK ISLAND: Located right in Point Judith, the ferry takes about 55-minutes to get you to your destination, where you'll be greeted in December by a Lobster Pot Tree. Here's a guide to help you out with picking a restaurant. If you'd rather drive around RI, we'd recommend you head over to Providence (one of the greatest, littlest cities), Newport ( which is enjoyable year-round and way less crowded this time of year), or Wickford, a cute old seaport town with plenty of shops.
And finally, did you know you could even ski in Rhode Island? When you get off I-95 to make your way over to Narragansett, you'll pass a turn-off to Yawgoo Valley, which is the area's ski spot. It's basically one little hill, but good for beginners!