Known as the Ocean State, with its roughly 400 miles of stunning New England coastline, Rhode Island is a dream of a driving trip. Motor your way along the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay, stopping for clams at seaside shacks, exploring historic towns, setting sail on a vintage yacht, and playing lots of pickleball.
Kick off your Rhode trip in Westerly, a coastal community on the state’s southern shore. To really start with a bang and get the feel of old-world grandeur, go for the splurge and check into Ocean House (oceanhouseri.com; rates from $1,200), a stately yellow-and-white Victorian hotel situated right on the bluffs. A full roster of summertime activities—from sailing and surf lessons to wine and culinary classes—makes it enticing to stay on property. But you won’t want to miss putting the top down on a loaner Mercedes-Benz Roadster convertible, available at the hotel, and taking the eight-minute drive to Rotary Park (westerlyri.myrec.com) for pickleball on the newly resurfaced courts (free to play; first come, first served).
Or drive farther (you’re in a convertible, after all) to West Kingston Park for a lesson with Ocean State Pickleball (oceanstatepickleball.com; balls and paddles available—call or email to schedule). For a slightly less splurgy stay, book a room at the nearby Weekapaug Inn (weekapauginn.com; rates from $465) for easygoing New England vibes and a refreshing saltwater pool overlooking Quonochontaug Pond.
For post-play fun, stop at Grey Sail Brewing (greysailbrewing.com) in downtown Westerly for great IPA sipping at the convivial microbrewery. Spend the afternoon in a cabana on Ocean House’s private beach or at the OH! spa, with its indoor lap pool and a eucalyptus steam room to soothe tired muscles. For dinner, book a table overlooking the ocean at Coast (oceanhouseri.com/culinary/coast), where the creative four-course menu from recent James Beard Award semifinalist William Rietzel spotlights fresh seafood and changes nightly.
Before setting off, hit up Knead Doughnuts (kneaddoughnuts.com) in downtown Westerly to stock up on road trip treats in inspired seasonal flavors. Take Route 1 east toward Narragansett, stopping about 30 minutes away at the Matunuck Oyster Bar (rhodyoysters.com; tours from $25). Tour the seven-acre oyster farm by barge to learn about the local aquaculture in the saltwater Potter Pond. Stay for lunch to taste the hyper-local oysters fried, butter-poached in stew, or raw on the half shell.
A GREAT PLAYDAY ENDS WITH POSTGAME TREATS AND A CHIC SLEEPOVER.
Afterward, make for Narragansett to spend a few hours on a patch of sand at the town beach (www.narragansettri.gov; adult tickets $12 per day, plus $10–$15 for parking), outfitted with changing facilities, food options, and Del’s Lemonade carts, offering the quintessential Rhode Island frozen favorite.
A little over 30 miles north of Narragansett, find Providence, Rhode Island’s capital city. Dye House (dyehouseri.com; rates from $129) is a four-room boutique hotel occupying a former wool mill in the Olneyville neighborhood. If you book the hotel’s Loft, you get a full kitchen, pour-over coffee service, and private outdoor space—a cushy home base for exploring the city’s dynamic culture and culinary scene.
Make your next stop the Providence Tennis Center at tranquil Roger Williams Park (providencepickleball.com). Summer programs ranging from high-intensity Morning Dinks to Sunday-morning Bagels + Pickle(Ball) are open to players of any level. For post-play drinks, check out the Industrious Spirit Company (iscospirits.com), said to be Providence’s first distillery since Prohibition, where they are making Ostreida, vodka distilled with oysters. Try it—or any of their other made-from-scratch spirits—mixed into creative cocktails, and head to the spacious outdoor patio, where you can find food trucks and live music.
A local lunch (or late-night) option is Olneyville New York System (olneyvillenewyorksystem.com)—just a few blocks from Dye House and open on weekends until 3 a.m. The classic order is a hot wiener “all the way” for a pork, beef, and veal hot dog topped with meat sauce, mustard, onions, and celery salt, paired with a coffee milk (think chocolate milk, but made with coffee syrup instead of chocolate).
For dinner, you have great choices at beloved spots: Los Andes (losandesri.com) for Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine, Avenue N (avenuenprovidence.com) for seasonal American fare, and Narragansett Beer’s Providence brewery (narragansettbeer.com) for pub fare and flights of Rhode Island’s hometown beer with views of Narragansett Bay. After your meal, head downtown to stroll along the river. On certain Saturdays in the summer and fall, the water is illuminated as part of WaterFire Providence’s fire art installation (waterfire.org). Whether or not you time it right, the walk is lovely. The organization’s arts center, a lofty industrial space in the Valley Arts District that features changing exhibitions, is also well worth a visit.
Rhode Island has a thing for donuts, giving you a perfect reason to taste-test! Stop by PVDonuts (pvdonuts.com) for a monthly changing menu of goods, such as buttery brioche lemon meringue pie donuts, filled with lemon curd and topped with toasted meringue. (Also on offer: old-fashioned, flourless, and vegan varieties.) From there, head to the RISD Museum (risdmuseum.org; adult tickets $17) to take in an impressive collection of artwork spanning millennia. Don’t miss the modern and contemporary galleries, with pieces from Louise Bourgeois, Charles Eames, and Henri Matisse. Afterward, walk south along the river to Plant City (plantcitypvd.com), the vegan food hall, for jackfruit tlayudas (Oaxacan pizza-like tortillas) and cacao smoothies. Or walk across the river and snag a picnic table at Dune Brothers (dunebrothers.com) for clam cakes and fish-and-chips, which come in heaping platters of fried pollock jutting off red plastic trays.
SCORE AND EXPLORE OFF-THE-COURT ROAD TRIP EATS.
After lunch, travel south by car near the Sakonnet River to historic Tiverton Four Corners (tivertonfourcorners.com). For its tiny stature, just 50 acres, the 18th-century-era coastal community has loads of charm, thanks to historic, gray-shingled buildings and rustic stone fences. Spend some time exploring the village, stopping into antique shops and art galleries, and grab a coffee and a chocolate chunk cookie at the café of the garden and home shop Groundswell (groundswellcafegarden.com).
Before driving to Newport, make the 5-minute detour to the Tiverton Town Farm recreation complex (recreatetownfarm.org/tennis-pickelball), where four public tennis courts may be lined for pickleball this summer. After working up an appetite, opt for dinner outside, at nearby Evelyn’s Drive-In (evelynsdrivein.com). The waterfront clam shack overlooking Nanaquaket Pond was established in 1969 and serves fried clam strips and Rhode Island–style calamari (with melted garlic butter and hot pepper rings).
From Tiverton, make your way south to Newport, the seaside city best known for its Gilded Age history and robust sailing scene via RI-114 south.
Check into the breezy Hammetts Hotel (hammettshotel.com; rates from $369), situated on the wharf. Coastal-chic rooms come with artisanal bath amenities, and plush common spaces spill out onto an expansive waterfront deck with a view of Newport Marina.
Start the day with a match at Hunter Park, with three public pickleball courts that are free to use and first come, first served. Afterward, grab a table at Corner Cafe (cornercafenewport.com) and order the Portuguese sweet bread scrambler, a sweet and savory combo of French toast and fluffy eggs.
VACATION GOALS: SURF TO TURF WITH PICKLEBALL IN BETWEEN.
Known to some as the sailing capital of the world, Newport is best explored by water. Hop aboard a vintage yacht that once competed in America’s Cup for a tour of Narragansett Bay with America’s Cup Charters (americascupcharters.com; daily sails $90), or traverse the bay from Newport to Providence on a Seastreak ferry (seastreak.com; round-trip adult tickets $24).
Don’t leave town without a stroll along the Cliff Walk (cliffwalk.com), a National Recreation Trail that winds along the ocean, past wildflowers and lavish mansions. Make time to tour the Breakers (newportmansions.org; adult tickets $29), the opulent, 70-room summer retreat built by a Vanderbilt in the late 19th century.
Finish the day with dinner back at the hotel at Giusto (giustonewport.com) for chef-owner Kevin O’Donnell’s Italian-influenced seafood and pasta creations, plus dry Lambrusco by the glass and a mostly Italian wine list. Naturally, the waterfront views include sailboats bobbing in the water.
Rhode Island Map Icon by Dolly Holmes from the Noun Project.