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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Weekender's Guide to Jamestown, Rhode Island

Weekenders Guide to Jamestown RI

I love Jamestown 100 different ways. For many, it's the island between the bridges, the town next to Newport, the exit right before the tolls.  For me, it's all quiet roads and ocean views, historic lighthouses, and gorgeous parks. You can find quiet farms and historic forts, scuba diving spots, and seafood menus. Spend an afternoon in the cove watching sailboats float by, soak up the sun or go for a swim. When you want to get moving, jump in a kayak and drift with views of tall ships and beautiful bridges. If you prefer to stay dry, grab a bagel and a bike and cycle the island loop, challenging yourself over the rolling hills. If golf is how you prefer to move, play 9 holes on the local course - I hear the burger after hits the spot.  

Jamestown, RI

Newport gets all the attention and anyone who knows about Jamestown is completely fine with that. Jamestown is Newports softspoken, super cooler, doesn't-need-to-brag next-door neighbor. It's Newport in miniature which means fewer people and generally speaking, less stress. It's easy to park, easy to walk around, cycle-friendly, and easy to make a dinner reservation (but you probably don't even need one). You can head to Newport for the vineyards and the folk fest, the sailboat races, and nightlife, I don't mean to bash it, I love Newport too, but Jamestown is where I go when I want things to move a lot slower. 

Jamestown RI

Beavertail Lighthouse

Up until this summer, I had only spent the day or an afternoon in Jamestown really - either diving and dinner with friends or stopping for a meal on the way homes when the crowds of Newport drove me back over the bridge. Three days in Jamestown meant I had a lot more time to explore the island. I left my dive gear behind for this trip and enjoyed the island by foot and by wheels. If you don't want to leave the dogs behind I can happily report that this is the kind of place you don't have to. Jamestown is one of the most dog-friendly places I have visited with so many dog-friendly beaches, restaurants, and parks. 


I stayed with my parents in their RV which was parked at Fort Getty Park **. If you are camping (RV or tent) this is a great home base, equipped with bathroom/shower facilities, walking trails, a dog-friendly cove/beach, a boat ramp, and a sailing camp for kids. If camping isn't for you, there are plenty of hotels on the island, ranging from affordable to luxurious. Here is a Tripadvisor list of the top 10 accommodations on the island.

Fort Getty while beautiful with remnants of a historic fort, a fishing pier, boat launch, beaches, pavilion, and walking trails, charges a fee. If you are staying elsewhere on the island, I would skip Fort Getty and save yourself the $20 per day parking admission, saving more time for the more exciting state parks that also offer free admission. 

Village Hearth Bakery

Village Hearth Bakery

Friday - Lunch, Relax, Raw Bar 

From the central Connecticut Shoreline, Jamestown is an easy 1.5-hour drive. I left Friday morning around 10:30 with two dogs and a 3-month old in tow with plans to be in Jamestown around lunchtime. Because I had the dogs, I wanted a quiet spot off of the main drag with easy/close parking. I pulled into the picturesque Village Hearth Bakery and Cafe which to my surprise, was dog-friendly inside and out. The beautiful Jamestown Community Playground was the fanciest playground I have ever seen and its location right across the street made this a perfect spot if traveling with kids (let the littles run around before sitting down to a nice lunch out on the grounds). Lunch was a little pricy (a sandwich and iced coffee ringing in at $16) but I was happy to have found such a great little spot with its friendly staff and a dog-friendly atmosphere. 

Jamestown Windmill

After lunch, you can make a quick stop before heading to check in to wherever you chose to stay for the weekend. The Jamestown Windmill perched on Windmill Hill Historic District is listed as one of the top attractions in Jamestown. I have to admit, without its sails, the small lot and structure are a bit underwhelming. If you would like to see this historic 1787 structure on the list of National Register of Historic Places, stop on your way into town or during a bike ride around the island.

After lunch, I met my parents at Fort Getty where we set up our campsite and spent a few hours doing exactly what I came here to do, relax. Check in to wherever you are staying, have a drink, and enjoy the cool ocean breeze. 


After you unwind, make your way to Narraganset Ave which is essentially the main street with shops and restaurants. Jamestown is a small island which makes it pretty bikeable if you don't mind a few (okay, a lot of) hills. Take two wheels or four if you prefer to drive and head to Narraganset Avenue for dinner. If you time it right, and you should, you can head to J22 Tap & Table before 6 o'clock to enjoy their dollar oyster/clam specials. Nothing pairs better with an island vacation than a raw bar, especially one with a buck-a-shuck deal.

J22 Jamestown

J22 is known for its great food and staying for dinner inside the small restaurant or out on the patio next door is a great option. You can also head to one of the neighboring restaurants on the strip - Simpatico offers a wonderful outdoor patio which is a perfect spot to enjoy a warm summer night. Chopmist Charlie offers more of a family-friendly seafood restaurant. There are also plenty of options ranging from casual fish and chips to fine dining (Tripadvisor list here)

End the night with drinks wherever you are calling home for the weekend. Tomorrow is all about moving around the island. 

Saturday - Beavertail and Kayak/Bike/Golf

This is the kind of place where mornings are slow. There is no need to get up and out early to try to cram everything in. A weekend is plenty of time to see the sights on a slower schedule while finding time for an afternoon nap or a good book.  We had breakfast and coffee at the campsite while the morning rain rolled through. When the skies were clear, we jumped in the car and headed to one of the State Parks, Beavertail State Park. Here, you can stop to see the lighthouse (site of the third oldest lighthouse in America) and even step inside the lighthouse museum. While you are here, expect panoramic views of Narraganset Bay and walking trails that take you along some of the ocean cliffs. A 2.3-mile hiking trail around the edge of the park offers a bit of a workout and promising views along the way (trails can be a bit muddy and beware during tick season). This would be a great place to picnic if you decide to bring a blanket and lunch with you (or these easy-breezy "Tables in a Bag" that make picnicking 100x easier). If you rather sit down for lunch at a restaurant, head into town for something light. 

Beavertail Lighthouse

After lunch, you can rent a kayak, or if you brought your bikes, bike a loop of the island (a smaller 11-mile loop on the southern/central section or a larger 25 ish-mile loop that takes you around the entire island). You could also play 9 holes at the Jamestown Golf Course. If you prefer to just unwind, head into town to check out the shops and enjoy the views of the bay and the bridge from East Ferry Beach. Grab dinner and drinks and relax for the evening. 

Sunday - Fort Wetherill 

Enjoy a Sunday-style breakfast on the island. Pack up a few things for the beach and head to Fort Wetherill State Park. Fort Wetherill sits upon 100-foot high granite cliffs and is a former coastal defense battery. The area is popular and is well-known and loved for its spectacular views of Newport Harbor as well as the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. If you happen to be in town during one of Newport's Tall Ship Events or America's Cup Race, this is a popular spot to watch the boats.

Fort Wetherill

Fort Wetherill

Fort Wetherill

Moonrise Kingdom Beach is one of the prettiest spots in New England and a great place to park in a beach chair, swim, jump off the rocks, and watch the sailboats and scuba divers. This little cove is one of the most popular scuba diving spots in New England so make sure to stop to ask the divers about any interesting critters encountered on their dive. When you need a break from the beach, check out the rest of the park. You will find an abandoned coast artillery fort which is now a graffiti canvas and another vantage point to the bay. 

After the beach, and likely on your way out of town, take a slow drive around bid farewell to the island to see some of the lesser-known-areas of town. You will find quiet neighborhoods, treelines streets, rolling farms, a million rabbits, and quiet little parks and beaches where the locals relax. If you are visiting during the height of the summer season, head out in the early afternoon or in the late evening after dinner before summer traffic ramps up from places like the Cape and the northern New England states. 

Why Jamestown?

This island is quintessential New England - it's the kind of place that makes you understand why a New England summer cannot be beaten. When the weather is warm and the sails are out, Jamestown is perfection, it's relaxing summer bliss. It offers amazing views, a ton of history, sightseeing and vistas, and best of all a chance to relax. It's calm and quiet even on a sunny June weekend. It's affordable and accessible, it's dog-friendly and family-friendly. It's the perfect mix of unwinding and sightseeing, the kind of place where you can enjoy something new without being pressured to see it all. 

Jamestown is lovely on a day trip but it's a weekend spent within its shores where you really get a feel for the island. 

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