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Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, but don’t let the small size fool you. It’s home to some of the most exquisite places you’ll ever see. From historical landmarks, mansions of the Gilded Age to coastal lighthouses, there isn’t another place quite like Rhode Island.
Once you start exploring the great state of Rhode Island, you’ll realize that it has much more to offer than meets the eye. It proves that size doesn’t matter!
I’ll give you some of the most beautiful places in RI to visit on your next trip to the “Ocean State.”
Experience life in America’s Gilded Age by touring one of the most lavish mansions in Rhode Island – The Breakers. It is the former summer home for the Vanderbilt family and is now declared a National Historic Landmark. You haven’t seen wealth until you’ve stepped inside this beautiful property.
Take a tour of The Breakers mansion while visiting Newport. It was completed in 1895 and well preserved to give you a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle of one of America’s wealthiest families.
Even with a detailed audio tour, you’ll only barely scratch the surface of the 70-room home. For mansion lovers, its alluring sight makes it one of the most beautiful places in RI.
Colt State Park
There’s a reason why Colt State Park is the most popular and among the most beautiful places in RI. It’s a go-to spot for leisure and relaxation for locals and visitors, so you can join right along. Check out the park situated on the Bristol shoreline to enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
Colt State Park is known for its beautiful scenery. You’ll have plenty of space to relax out on the manicured lawn with views of the ocean. It’s a fun place for a picnic or excursions on the hiking trails.
If you’re familiar with the film The Great Gatsby, you’ll recognize the Marble House as soon as you arrive. It was used in the movie, which showcases a period during the gilded age and is true about the house in real life.
The Marble House was completed in 1892 for the Vanderbilt Family – it’s one of Newport’s most famous mansions. Nearly the entire house is made from marble, designed in a Beaux-Arts style.
Take a self-guided audio tour to see how the “other half” lived. It’s hard to imagine that it was only used as a summer house.
Prospect Terrace Park
The city of Providence is relatively flat, so there aren’t too many places offering a panoramic view of the city. Luckily, Prospect Terrace Park was established in 1869 thanks to a generous donation by residents of the neighborhood. Now, we can all enjoy the best view of Providence.
Prospect Terrace Park is a historical park that’s a go-to place for its views. Drive or hike up the hill to reach an overlook showcasing all of downtown. You’ll have a perfect view of the capitol building.
There are plenty of benches to sit and enjoy a picnic or watch the sunset.
Why not enjoy the scenic shoreline during your Rhode Island trip? Narragansett Beach is a favorite destination and one of the most top places in RI for beachgoers. It has the perfect conditions for a fun day at the beach.
Narragansett Beach is one of the cleanest beaches you’ll find in Rhode Island. It’s picturesque with golden sands and blue waters. On hot summer days, you can go for a swim or surf the waves. And there’s always sunbathing to pass the time.
You’ll have great views of the Towers landmark and the Point Judith Lighthouse from the shore.
The centerpiece of the Beavertail State Park is the Beavertail Lighthouse. It is one of the most visited lighthouses and surely one of the most beautiful places in RI. Its coast is full of cool lighthouses, but none as beautiful as the Beavertail Lighthouse.
The 64-ft lighthouse was completed in 1856 for aiding ships through Narragansett Bay. The park features paved trails that lead along the coast up to the lighthouse. Views of the lighthouse with the coastal backdrop make for incredible photos.
The lighthouse includes a museum to learn historical details and see artifacts collected over the years.
Rhode Island is an excellent summertime getaway destination, thanks to the beaches lining the coast. If you find yourself near Newport, stop by Easton’s Beach, one of the best coastal spots to hang out.
Easton’s Beach is a family-friendly beach with lots of things to do. It has the best waves for surfing and great for going for a swim. Walk the clean beach to see what seashells you’ll come across.
You can easily spend an entire day at the beach enjoying the scenic vistas. Lay out and relax with some tasty New England lobster rolls while taking in the ocean sights.
Brown University Campus
Brown University is a world-class Ivy League school in Providence. Founded in 1764, it’s one of the nation’s oldest universities. With historic buildings standing right beside modern facilities, the campus ranks among the top tourist destinations in Rhode Island that you’ll have to see.
The main campus is located on College Hill. There over 235 buildings, many of them historic. A few of the must-see sites are University Hall, Soldiers Memorial Gate, and the John Hay Library. Many of the buildings are open to the public to walk in to take a look. Or simply walk the grounds and appreciate the preserved architecture.
The beach at Mohegan Bluffs used to be a hidden gem, but it’s grown in popularity over the years because of its beauty. You can descend the steep cliffs to reach a secluded beach or enjoy views from above.
Mohegan Bluffs is located on the southern end of Block Island. The cliffs rise 200-ft above the shore with an incredible view of the ocean at the summit. You can climb down 141 stairs to arrive at the beach where you can enjoy swimming and surfing. Just keep in mind that eventually, you’ll have to make the trek back up the stairs to the top when leaving. For what is worth, Block Island is inevitably one of the most beautiful places in Rhode Island if not all of New England.
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
Located on a peninsula near Middletown, the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved area that’s home to more than 200 species of birds. The untouched landscape is the ideal habitat for birds and natural beauty. It uniquely places itself as one of the prettiest places in RI.
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge occupies 242-acres of the peninsula. Birdwatching is the most popular activity to see species like the Rhode Island Harlequin ducks, Red-tailed Hawk, and Peregrine Falcon.
Stop by the visitor center to find the best hiking trails and fishing spots in the refuge.
Newport Cliff Walk
A stroll on the iconic cliff walk is one of the top things to do in Newport. It has exciting sights on either side. You’ll either look at the picturesque Narragansett Bay or impressive, stunning mansions.
The Newport cliff walk is a paved walking trail that extends for 3.5-miles. It’s a popular place for leisure. You’ll see everyone from couples going on a romantic walk to locals out for a stroll with their pets. Then there are the tourists who can’t help but take photos every couple of steps since the views are unmatched.
Green Animals Topiary Garden
Portsmouth is home to the Green Animals Topiary Garden, the oldest of its kind in the US. The waterfront garden is one of Rhode Island’s most unique places, where you’ll get to see flora combined with art.
The Green Animals Topiary Garden features large bushes trimmed to the shape of your favorite animals. Take a self-guided tour to find animals like elephants, rabbits, giraffes, unicorns, and bears. The walkways take you on a journey past the figures while viewing colorful flora.
Visitors can have a picnic out on the lawn and tour the 19th century estate.
Blackstone River Bikeway
The Blackstone River Bikeway runs for 18.2-miles alongside the Blackstone River, where you’ll escape into the scenic natural landscape. The area is designated as the Blackstone River State Park, which is full of natural landmarks.
Biking is the best way to explore. You’ll ride past waterfalls and through wooded areas. There is plenty of wildlife and flora to see along the way.
There are parking lots along the route, so you don’t have to do the entire route in one go. Walking is also perfectly fine on the trail.
Rhode Island’s most famous harbor isn’t even on the mainland. Take a ferry to Block Island, where you’ll dock at Old Harbor on the eastern shore. It’s an artificial harbor where you’ll have spectacular views of the ocean.
Old Harbor is the main gateway to Block Island. A rock breakwater barrier protects the harbor, where you’ll see lots of yachts and other boats entering and leaving.
Stand on the waterfront of the Old Harbor Historic District to enjoy the scenery filled with ship masts and boat activity.
Of course we’ve named several spots on Block Island, but we can’t forget the entire island in its own right. The charming Block Island is a great place to go for a day trip from mainland Rhode Island. Hop on the Block Island Ferry for a 10-mile cruise out to the island, where you’ll get to enjoy a secluded, scenic destination.
Block Island has a small local population, but it’s a favorite for tourists. You can rent bikes to explore many of the top attractions – Southeast Lighthouse, Mohegan Bluffs, Old Harbor Historic District, and more.
There are plenty of places to swim and hike while exploring the beautiful island.
To call The Elms the most modest of the famous Newport Mansions is a bit of an understatement to its beauty. In fact, some people prefer the mansion over the others because of its simplicity. Luckily, you’ll get to decide for yourself!
The Elms is a Gilded Age period mansion built for the Berwind family, who used their wealth from the coal industry to finance it. It is modeled in Neoclassical architecture after a French mansion. The inside features lots of European art and furniture.
The outdoor gardens make it stand out from the other mansions. The Colonial Revival design includes pavilions made of marble, bronze sculptures, and decorative fountains.
The forested area surrounding Rhode Island’s highest point provides great scenery for exploring the area. Jerimoth Hill has a total height of 812-ft above sea level, but it’s in stark contrast to what you might imagine as a high peak.
For a while, Jerimoth Hill was off-limits to visitors, but it is now open to the public. The summit, however, is very flat, and you can easily reach it just off the road. It’s marked solely by a rock, so it’s not much to see at the actual high point. The trails and gorgeous scenic beauty make it a must-see in RI.
If you’re up for a bit of hiking, you can walk the nearby trails to reach some fantastic landscape overlooks.
Here’s an insider tip: anywhere with a scenic coastline, you’ll surely find a scenic drive. That’s true for Rhode Island. Ocean Drive is a famous drive curving along Newport’s Atlantic Coast.
Ocean Drive takes you past several historical landmarks like lighthouses, mansions, and a fort – not to mention the incredible views of the ocean. You’ll have a captivating view the entire trip to see where the blue sky meets the blue water.
Hop out and take photos or sit back and enjoy the ride.
Did you know that Providence is one of the first cities established in the US? It was first settled as early as the 1600s and remains the largest city in Rhode Island. You can take a walk through time at Benefit Street, a place most people call the “Mile of History.”
There’s something charming and alluring about the historic buildings lining the streets that you have to check out for yourself. The cobblestone street runs for approximately 1.2-miles, where many of the buildings were built between the 18th-19th centuries. For an old soul, it is one of the cutest places in RI.
Walking tours are available to learn about its history or visit to appreciate the architecture.
Rhode Island State House
The scale of the Rhode Island State House seems contradictory for it to be the smallest state in the US. That definitely makes it a monumental building that you can visit while in Providence, the capital.
The Rhode Island State House is one of the most impressive buildings you’ll see. It has a grand presence with neoclassical architecture and one of the world’s largest unsupported domes.
Tourists are welcome to enter the building for tours. You can explore the government offices, house chambers, see historical documents, art, and more. The beautiful marble and detail finishes will blow you away.
Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.