A great thing about living in southern Rhode Island is the sheer number of outdoor activities you’ll have at your fingertips throughout the year. Those who are into cycling will be happy to learn about the South County Bike Path, also known as the William C. O'Neill Bike Path.
This path officially runs from the Amtrak station in West Kingston to Mumford Road in Narragansett, which is adjacent to Narragansett Elementary School. Unofficially, however, you can continue all the way to Narragansett Town Beach, although you'll have to ride along a busy road for the final part of the journey.
Expansion plans are currently underway to lengthen the official trail to Narragansett Town Beach, and this new section is sure to make the path even more popular. Construction has been approved, pending a cultural survey of the land.
Currently, the trail is about seven miles in length, is completely paved, and runs through some scenic parts of the state. It is also the fourth longest bike trail in Rhode Island.
Once you buy a home in South County, you'll be looking for things to do on weekends with the family and this trail should be high on your list because it is safe, scenic, and always a great time for all ages.
Learn the History
Although the trail was only opened in 2000, it is a rail trail that follows the former path of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, which dates back to 1876. This railroad connected mills in Peace Dale and Wakefield to the station in West Kingston where the Amtrak is currently located. This station was home to the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad at that time.
The Narragansett Pier Railroad served local passengers until 1952 and was still in working order until 1981 when it was purchased by Anthony Guariello, who wanted to turn it into a bike path. Construction on the bike path started in 1995, with new sections opening in 2003 and 2011.
The Trail’s Route
As was mentioned before, many riders begin their journey at the Amtrak station in West Kingston. From there, you'll head south through a deep forest, before reaching the Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area. This area is a great place to do some birdwatching, particularly in the fall and spring. The wooded area is also home to the Tefft Historical Park, which has archaeological sites and the remains of Colonial settlements.
About halfway through the ride is Tri-Pond Park, where you'll come across hiking trails, streams, and ponds, before finally entering civilization in Peace Dale. Once you get into Peace Dale, the path changes significantly, as you'll follow the very busy Railroad Street for a few minutes before re-entering the trail.
The trail then heads south again and quickly reaches Wakefield. You'll cross a bridge before reaching Main Street and the village's commercial area.
Finally, you'll get to Mumford Road, the official end of the trail. You can ride past the baseball diamonds here, however, before turning left onto Narragansett Avenue, which you can follow all the way to Narragansett Town Beach. Keep in mind that this road gets busy and isn't recommended to travel with kids.
Restaurants Along the Way
All of the restaurants along the William C. O'Neill Bike Path are in Peace Dale and Wakefield. As you first enter Peace Dale, you'll find Kingston Pizza, a popular local chain with subs, gyros, and wings, in addition to its pizzas. It's right along the trail and the perfect place to stop for lunch. Sweet Cakes Bakery and Cafe is also directly on the path, just before it runs into Railroad Street.
As you get into Wakefield, you'll find many dining options on Main Street. Phil's Main Street Grille is known for its breakfasts, but also has burgers and seafood for lunch and dinner. It has a rooftop patio that is popular in the summer. Just down the street is Mary Murphy's, an Irish pub with a unique menu, and Pier Pizza Company, which specializes in New York-style pies. El Fuego Mexican Grill Wakefield is about half a block down Main Street and is known for its burritos and tacos.
Where to Park
Where you park depends mostly on where you want to start and finish your ride. There's plenty of parking at the Amtrak station in West Kingston, but keep in mind that you'll have to pay for it. As soon as you leave the station, the trail heads into the wilderness, and there isn't much in the way of parking until you reach Peace Dale.
If you choose to park on the Narragansett side of the trail, Narragansett Elementary School is probably your best bet on weekends and during the summer. There's a limited amount of street parking nearby, as well, but watch for signs prohibiting parking because you don't want to end up getting a ticket.
Those starting off in Wakefield will find a large public lot across from The Contemporary Theater Company, which provides direct access to the trail.
Enjoying the Outdoors
The South County Bike Path is a great way to enjoy the natural scenery in southern Rhode Island while getting some exercise at the same time. The path provides two different experiences, as the wooded area is quiet and secluded, while the sections in Peace Dale and Wakefield allow you to make your way through these villages quickly and efficiently.
Once you buy a home in South County, particularly in South Kingstown or Narragansett, you’re sure to get a lot of use out of this trail, so make sure you pack your bikes when relocating to this stunning part of the country.