It’s that time of year again! It’s beach-time baby! If sandcastles are on your kids' minds, then it's time to load up the car -- and I know just where to go. Plug Westerly, Rhode Island into Waze and hit the road.
Westerly is a southern Rhode Island coastal town that offers plenty of fun family activities, excellent hotels, and buttery lobster rolls to quench those summer culinary cravings.
You can leisurely explore the quaint village of Watch Hill, and spend the night at one of the luxurious hotel properties, including The Ocean House, Weekapaug Inn, and Watch Hill Inn. This is a town where the locals all know each other by name, and visitors return year after year to enjoy the gorgeous beaches, delicious food, and experience that idyllic New England summer. Downtown Watch Hill has a laid back vibe, yet there's still plenty to do to fill your summer itinerary. This article outlines some of my personal favorites, highlighting 15 kid-approved things to do in Westerly, Rhode Island this summer.
15 Things to do In Westerly, RI
1. Spend the Day at East Beach
A friend of mine – a Long Island native – once boldly admitted that this beach was the most beautiful on the East Coast… a courageous admission coming from the competition. However, I think he may be right, and spending the day here is one of the most popular activities in Westerly.
East Beach is a 2 mile stretch of super soft sand, and clear Atlantic waters. While this public beach is available for anyone to enjoy, there are private sections reserved for guests staying at The Ocean House, Weekapaug Inn, or Watch Hill Inn. Bring some shovels, your best body-surfing moves, and enjoy the sunshine all day long.
If you're visiting for just the day, it's best to park in Watch Hill Village and then walk 5 minutes to the entrance of East Beach. Street parking is very limited, and only available for 2 hours; however, the village has a few lots where it's possible to park for the entire day. Arrive early, because spots fill up fast!
2. Take a Boat Tour on Quonochontaug Pond
Another adventurous activity to do in Westerly with kids is hop onboard the Quonnie Queen for a ride through the waters of Quonochontaug Pond. The Weekapaug Inn offers short 30 min tours (perfect for kiddos), where it’s fun to spot birds and cruise along the waters. Don’t let the label “pond” deter you….it’s really quite large and dare I say would classify as a "baby lake" in my book. The ride costs $20/adult, unless you’re staying at the Weekapaug Inn, Ocean House, or Watch Hill Inn, in which case it's complimentary for all guests.
3. Explore Watch Hill Village
If you enjoy shopping, then you’ll want to spend some time in Watch Hill Village. The village is a charming coastal town, filled with shops selling homegoods and beachware. You could leisurely explore Main Street over the course of an afternoon, and then enjoy dinner along the harbor. Main Street is also home to some of the best restaurants in Westerly, such as Olympia Tea Room, Sift Bakery, and Ten Sandwiches. For unforgettable sunset views, grab a bite to eat at Olympia Tea Room at one of their outdoor tables (first come, first serve).
4. Ride the Flying Horse Carousel
The Flying Horse Carousel may look a bit old school at first glance, but there's a good reason for it...this merry-go-round is the oldest operating carousel in the country! It has been circling round-and-round since 1883, and today costs about $2 per ride. I lost count how many times Claire hopped on, but we did tell her the horses were unicorns, which may have played a part in her obsession.
5. Watch the Sunset over Narragansett Bay
Be prepared for some incredible pops of sunset colors. The sky may start reflecting shades of yellow, only to be illuminated minutes later in bursts of purple and pink. Everyone in town gathers in Narragansett Bay with ice cream from St. Clair's in hand. Give yourself plenty of time to find a spot, as this is one of the most popular things to do in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Hotel Tip/photography tip
The Watch Hill Inn faces Narragansett Bay and has unobstructed sunset views. We stayed in the room Eagle's Nest one year, which is the top floor -- there was plenty of space for 4 people, and had an incredible elevated view of the harbor. You can read the full review of this hotel in my Watch Hill Inn: Luxury Hotel Review article.
6. Walk Along Napatree Point Beach
If you’d rather watch the sunset from a more secluded spot, take a walk along the beach of Napatree Point. We climbed the sand dunes, and had the entire beach to ourselves one evening.
During the day, Napatree Point Beach is more popular with dog-walkers and vacationers out for a stroll. It’s a lovely place to take a walk and dip in the ocean. However, if you're bringing small kids, do keep in mind that there are no bathrooms or food/beverages directly nearby.
7. Visit Manfredi Farms
Manfredi Farms is about 10-15 mintutes from downtown Watch Hill. This farmers market / petting zoo filled with barnyard animals is an exciting place to visit with kids in Rhode Island. Is it going to feel like Disneyworld? Nope! But it’s the perfect "honey-pull-over-that-looks-cool" kind of spot.
The main shop has fresh produce, homemade jams, tasty sauces, and heavenly pies. When you’ve finished exploring the aisles, purchase some corn feed and let the kids try their hand at Old McDonald outside with the animals.
8. Spend Time On the Beach at Weekapaug Inn
If you’re staying at the Ocean House, Watch Hill Inn, or Weekapaug Inn, you’ll also have access to Weekapaug Beach. Even though we visited during the popular summer season, we had this entire beach to ourselves. The waves were perfect for little ones to play in, and the beach was stunning. It's definitely worth your time if you're a hotel guest at one of these properties, and you're looking to explore more things to do in Westerly.
9. Walk to Watch Hill Lighthouse
Watchhill lighthouse has been part of the Westerly landscape since the 1700’s, when it was constructed to help the colonists during the French & Indian War. Walking out to this historic landmark is another fun and easy activity to do in Westerly with kids. You'll weave in and out of local streets, and even have an unobstructured view of Taylor Swift's mansion perched high above the bluff!
Once you arrive at the lighthouse, you can simply take in the views, or visit the museum (open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday from 1-3pm). Given we had a then-2-year-old tagging along, we opted for a game of chase on the grassy lawn.
10. Relax at the Pool at Weekapaug Inn
Who knew poolside relaxation next to the pond could be so glorious! I highly suggest spending a day here soaking up the fresh New Engalnd summer air, breathing in the smells of clambake wafting from the outdoor kitchen, and feeling the warm sundeck beneath your toes. Access to this pool is another perk of staying at Weekapaug Inn, Ocean House, orWatch Hill Inn.
Compass Roam Planning Tip
If you're staying at The Ocean House or Watch Hill Inn, I recommend allocating a full day to enjoy the facilites at their sister property, the Weekapaug Inn. Lay by the pool and beach in the morning and afternoon, and then hop on board the Quonnie Queen as a pre-dinner cruise. Or, if you'd like to stay at this hotel instead, you can read my Luxury Rhode Island Family Resort: Weekapaug Inn review to learn more about our experience. We love this property!
11. Grab Some Lemonade From Del's
You simply can’t visit Rhode Island and skip trying the frozen lemonade from Del’s! It’s the perfect cool-down summer treat. There are numerous locations and many local restaurants sell the product on their menu.
12. Go Kayaking
If you love to kayak then grab yourself some oars – because this is another family favorite activity to do in Westerly! The most popular rental shop is Watch Hill Outfitters, which offers daily rentals and boats for sale. They have their own launching spot located on the Pawcatauck River, and offer small tours.
13. Visit Fenway Beach and Dunes Park Beach
Spending time at Fenway Beach or Dunes Park Beach is another family-friendly activity in Westerly, Rhode Island. I love this side of town because you're more likely to run into locals, and there's that small town community feel in the air.
The boardwalk pathway down to the sand is lined with family storage bins, each decorated differently. And while the beaches themselves are rockier compared to East Beach and Weekapaug Beach, they are perfect for exploring tidepools and playing mermaid amongst the rocks.
14. Visit Savoy Bookshop
Hopefully your vacation to Westerly includes plenty of sunshine and beach down-time. However, if the clouds roll in, or if you simply need a beach “tap out,” then check out Savoy Bookshop. This local store carries a curated selection of books for both adults and kids, hand-selected toys, cards and other small gifts. There’s also a cafe with some snacks and drinks available for purchase.
15. Explore Misquamicut Beach
Yup, that’s right! There’s yet another beach to visit if you’re searching for things to do in Westerly. Misquamicut Beach is a half mile long public beach with plenty of soft sand to play in. It’s incredibly family friendly, as it offers concession stands, public restrooms, outdoor showers, and even a small playground if the kids need a body-surfing break.
That's a Wrap
We became addicted to Westerly after our first trip, returning the next summer. It’s not a boardwalk beach town, but instead has a quieter coastal seaside vibe. It’s the summertime New England destination you'll want to return to time after time for creating unforgettable family memories.
I hope this article has inspired your own family getaway to Westerly, Rhode Island. If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below. Also, don't forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.
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