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By Mary Lhowe
Little Rhode Island may surprise newcomers with its dramatic sights, including rocky coasts and islands, packed, in some seasons, with sunning seals; remote and majestic lighthouses, including one that accepts overnight guests; pretty and peaceful country roads among flower-drenched villages; and great public parks. [Map of Rhode Island] The famous coastline draws lots of visitors, but do not overlook a chance to drive inland roads, taste local seafood, and peak into unique shops. See below and find more choices at our Rhode Island foliage drives page.
Newport and Ocean Drive — A short drive from downtown Newport leads to a tour around southern Aquidneck Island on Ocean Avenue. This beautiful route offers dramatic views of trees and grasses bending in the wind, and rocky jetties and islands skirted by the foaming waves of Narragansett Bay. Hills and turns in the road reveal waterfront mansions, the Newport Bridge, and the famous Cliff Walk footpath. You will pass near Fort Adams State Park, where you can tour the Revolutionary War fort or just lounge on the lawns. Close out your drive with pleasurable dining or window shopping at Bannister’s Wharf, in town. Route map.
Jamestown Island Drive – This pretty little island sits in the center of Narragansett Bay, between the mainland and Aquidneck Island, where the city of Newport is located. You drive onto it via either of two vast, arching bridges, both offering glorious views of the bay, including Rose Island Lighthouse, and usually dotted with sailboats. Jamestown Island includes the village of Jamestown, with a tiny harbor and plenty of places to eat, from casual to elegant. Also on the island is Beavertail State Park, with a cool lighthouse, and, historic Watson Farm. Route map.
BLACKSTONE VALLEY REGION
Scituate Loop — The region, in the northern, forested part of Rhode Island, is named for a river of great historic importance: the Blackstone River is where the first water-powered mill in America was built in 1793 at the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in present-day Pawtucket. The route is very much a country drive, and it will take you around parts of the Scituate Reservoir. One of our favorite fall stops is Salisbury Farm at Pippin Orchard Road in the town of Johnston. Now in its sixth generational of family ownership, this farm celebrates fall with pumpkins, a corn maze, and a farm stand. Route map.
SOUTH COUNTY REGION
Route 1A Coastal Drive – Route 1A is a delightful, scenic diversion from US Route 1. The drive wanders along the breezy coastline of the Atlantic (strictly speaking, the water body is Block Island Sound; Block Island, which is part of Rhode Island, is offshore). Enjoy views of coves, inlets and dunes. Burlingame Park has a fresh-water lake and picnic tables; good for a refreshing stop. A unique shopping and dining place is the Fantastic Umbrella Factory on Old Post Road in Charlestown (see map). It is a collection of neat little gift shops tucked in among overgrown woods and fanciful gardens. Route map.