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What Makes Narragansett New England's Best Beach Town?


Aerial photograph of Narragansett coast of RI

There are great beaches all over New England, as famous vacation destinations like Cape Cod and the Connecticut Shoreline draw visitors from Boston, New York, and the rest of the country all summer long.

That's why it might be a bit surprising to learn that a 2018 poll conducted by the Boston Globe named Narragansett, Rhode Island, as the region's best beach town.

Of course, there's more that goes into creating a great beach town than the beach itself, as visitors will want restaurants, ice cream shacks, shops, and other amenities close to the waterfront. All of these elements come together at multiple beaches in Narragansett, giving locals and visitors alike the chance to experience the quintessential New England resort community.

And, naturally, the beaches of Narragansett are scenic, expansive, and easy-to-reach, ensuring that you can spend your days lounging in the sun once you buy a house in the area.

Here's a look at what you can expect at each of the town's major beaches and why Narragansett is at the top of this list.

Scarborough State Beach

Upon arrival at Scarborough State Beach, the first thing you'll notice is that it's busy. There's a good reason for that, as the beach is the state's most popular; you're sure to find a crowd on a sunny weekend.

The good news is that Scarborough State Beach stretches out for a fair distance along the water, and has a massive parking lot. There's overflow parking across the street, as well. Speaking of parking, it costs $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends, so it's affordable for the average family.

As far as amenities go, Scarborough Beach has two pavilions, some picnic tables, coin-operated hot showers, and a concession. There's also a boardwalk with an observation tower and benches that allow you to enjoy the scenery from multiple vantage points.

If you want to step away from the beach for a quick bite, Dad's Deli and Ice Cream is across the street, while Spain of Narragansett, a fine dining venue, is a three-minute drive from the waterfront.

Narragansett Town Beach

Another top-rated beach in the community is Narragansett Town Beach. The town, rather than the state, runs this venue, so things a little different here.

For starters, it's $10 per person to enter the beach, in addition to a parking fee of $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends. You can get a seasonal pass as a Narragansett resident for $25 per adult and $10 for kids between 12 and 17, however, with younger children and seniors being free.

Because of these seasonal passes, Narragansett Town Beach is popular with beach-frequenting locals, and it's the place to be seen for the young crowd in the summer. The beach has some of the East Coast's best surfing, and people from all over New England visit to catch some waves in the warm water, too.

Additionally, there are cabanas at the beach that are only available to residents. However, there's a significant waiting list for these rentals, so don't count on getting one anytime soon.

Narragansett Town Beach has two pavilions, including one with private change rooms for residents. You'll have to pay a yearly fee for a private change room, though, and there is a waiting list for access. The pavilions also have showers, concessions, and picnic tables.

Completing the beach town atmosphere at Narragansett is the presence of Nana's Ice Cream & Gelato Cafe, Trio Restaurant, and other dining options across the street from the water. You'll find numerous shops at Narragansett Pier Marketplace, too.

Roger W. Wheeler State Beach

On the south end of Narragansett is Roger W. Wheeler State Beach, which is a go-to place for families because it has calm water and a playground. Locals also love Wheeler State Beach because its parking fees are the same as Scarborough, making it a great place to stop if you aren't interested in being in the heart of the action.

The beach has a pavilion with change rooms, showers, a concession stand, and picnic tables, so you'll have access to all of the amenities you need throughout the day. Restaurants like Aunt Carrie's, Iggy's Doughboys, and Benny's Clam Shack are within walking distance of the beach, too, so you can quickly step away for some lunch.

Salty Brine State Beach

Finally, there's Salty Brine State Beach, which is the smallest on this list but also the least likely to attract tourists. That's good news for locals, however, as you'll find an uncrowded section of sand in a surprisingly central location.

Salty Brine Beach sits in Narragansett's Galilee neighborhood, just a few blocks west of Roger W. Wheeler State Beach. Galilee is home to the Block Island Ferry and a pier that houses numerous fish markets and restaurants, including the ever-popular George's of Galilee, making it a great area to visit if you're hungry.

As for the beach, Salty Brine is big with families because the ocean is calm and shallow, and the parking lot is close to the water. When visiting with kids, not having to carry their gear for long distances is reason enough to try this beach.

You'll find a brand new pavilion at Salty Brine, featuring a concession, hot showers, and restrooms. There are picnic tables, lookouts, and a boardwalk here, as well, creating a compact version of a New England beach town.

Multiple Beach Towns in One

Perhaps the reason why Narragansett is New England's best beach town is that it's actually four beach towns rolled into one.

Each of these beaches has a unique atmosphere and is almost like a separate town, so you can experience the sand and surf in different ways depending on which venue you visit.

Living in Narragansett puts you close to all of these beaches, making them easily accessible in the summer. If you're into the New England beach town atmosphere, Narragansett is a community worth exploring.