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Monday, February 6, 2017

East Beach - Charlestown, Rhode Island

February probably seems like a weird time to post about the beach. Stick with me for a few more paragraphs and I promise it will all start to make sense.   The small state of Rhode Island is known for its beautiful wide sandy beaches, steady surf, and seafood shacks. Beaches like Watch Hill, Block Island and Misquamicut are always popular spots for beach lovers from June to September.

While summer is the season here in New England, there is something to be said for these beautiful (and virtually empty) beaches in the off season.  For starters, many of Rhode Island's state beaches allow dogs in the off season.  East Beach in Charlestown, Salty Brine Beach in Naraganset, East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingston and Misquamicut in Westerly all allow dogs on their beaches from October 1st to March 31 (ban from April 1 to September 30).

While I have been to many of the areas beaches, East Beach was so different from all of the area beaches I have visited. The main reason is simply that it is one of the least developed of Rhode Island's State Beaches. The real shining star here is that you can even go horseback riding on the beach (BYOH of course). Three miles each way, you have six miles of perfect flat sandy beaches to enjoy a sunny day on horseback.  East Beach in Charlestown with its beautiful beach and critter friendly atmosphere is my kind of hidden gem.  

Unfortunately the beach does have a few drawbacks. What you get in pet friendly freedom you miss out on for "luxuries". No big pavilion/restaurant, no bars, and only a small portion of the beach is staffed with lifeguards. The beach charges admission ($14 a car, out of state, weekend), has very limited parking, half a dozen changing rooms and a few restrooms.  I am totally fine without the fancy amenities as long as there is plenty of room on the beach and no crowds.  In my opinion, this no frills beach is one of the best Rhode Island has to offer.

If you are okay with no frills, then you are rewarded with this perfect wide, flat sandy beach.  I hate to be dramatic but I was impressed with just how big this beach is.  In this area, it is nearly impossible to find 3 miles of undeveloped beachfront.  My January trip meant I was bundled up in my winter gear but I could picture how lovely this spot much be on an August afternoon with a beach chair and a good book (Rhode Island State Beaches/parks are unfortunately alcohol free).   The "lack of amenities" and limited parking means that this beach is often far less busy than the more popular and accessible Rhode Island Beaches.  If you visit in the winter, you will have most of the beach to yourself, sharing the sand with an occasional jeep, horse or dog walker.

What I really loved about this beach was the fact that it is pet friendly.  No, you cannot bring your dog in peak summer hours as dogs are only allowed in the off season and outside of 9-5.  As I have mentioned, dogs are allowed on the beach After October 1 and until March 31. While there are some restrictions, it can be really hard to find any form of a dog friendly beach. East Beach had made itsw way to the top of the list (first has to go to the all season anytime dog friendly beaches of Block Island).

The real gem is that horses are allowed on the beach.  As an equestrian, I am always looking for new trails to go riding.  While the ground is frozen in the middle of winter on virtually every trail, the sand is always perfect for riding.  Horseback riding is allowed on the beach between Labor Day and Memorial Day.  I wish I knew about this sooner.  The only reason I found out was the tiny sign I noticed on my way out.  Nothing online, no word of mouth, Rhode Island equestrians must be keeping this secret to themselves.  This may not sound very exciting but it is really rare to find a horse friendly beach in the area (and a beach long/wide enough to bring your horse to ride on). During the off season, there is no fee to get to the beach and there is plenty of room to park your horse trailer.

The next week I was back with my horse, riding along the sandy beaches of East Beach.  Riding is only allowed from Labor Day to Memorial Day and make sure you clean up after your horse.  3 miles out and 3 miles back, you have 6 miles of rideable beach practically to yourself.  

If horseback riding isn't your thing and you want to enjoy the beach in the winter without any crowds, it is a great place to take a walk.  East State Beach is a barrier beach, with open ocean on one side and Ninigret Lake on the other. The beach borders the Ninigret Conservation Area and a sandy walking path is popular among runners and bird watchers.

There is a 20 site campground.  Unfortunately, the campground is for "self contained units" only, must be equipped with 4 wheel drive, and is closed through April.  A self-contained unit is defined as “A camping unit which contains permanent holding tanks for potable water, grey water and black water. Bathroom equipment must be permanently affixed to the unit.”

All campers MUST obtain a barrier beach permit prior to their stay. The permit is required for driving on any RI State Barrier Beach or access road. Barrier Beach permits are valid from July 1st through June 30th of the following year and must be renewed. For questions concerning the barrier beach permit, please contact (401) 322-8910.

Closure of part or all of East Beach may occur during the camping season due to the nesting of a tiny shorebird called the Piping Plover. The Piping Plover is listed as a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. If a closure should occur, reservations will be cancelled and refunded in full. No Pets Allowed in the camping areas.  Reservations can be made HERE.

Not only can you bring your dog and ride your horse down the beach, you can even bring your jeep.  When we were out riding, a couple was sitting on top of their jeep, enjoying the sunshine with a drink and a view wrapped up in blankets.  If you think this is as dreamy as i did, you too can take your car 4x4 to the beach.  Vehicles driving on the beach (including camping vehicles) will need a Barrier Beach Passes. For more information on the registration and use of 4x4 vehicles on a beach, click here.  

East Beach Road, Charlestown, Rhode Island
From Providence, Rhode Island, take Interstate 95 South to Route 4 South. Connect to Route 1 South and exit in Charlestown. As of March 2011, Rhode Island residents pay $6 per car weekdays and $7 per car weekends. Parking for nonresidents costs $12 weekdays and $14 weekends. Parking fees are separate from campsite fees.

I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of this beach until recently.  This Rhode Island gem was practically right under my nose all those summers I lived in New England.  The perfect place to bring your dog outside the busy hours/season, and one of the only beaches that allows horse back riding in the off season.  East Beach in Charlestown, Rhode Island should be on your list if you want to soak in the Atlantic without the crowds of Watch Hill.  Another reason to love Rhode Island, but who is counting.

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  1. I like advertising these beautiful places in the off-season. I focused on the dog and horse friendly activities that can be enjoyed when the beach is virtually empty :) Thank you for reading!


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