The Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island.
The Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island. © Srs5694

Once reserved as the resort for the rich, Rhode Island, smallest of the US states, is today a favourite east coast getaway, particularly for Bostonians and New Yorkers, being only 60 miles (97km) and 180 miles (290km) respectively from those major cities.

The extravagant 19th-century mansions of America's wealthy families that grace Newport, Rhode Island's southern city on the Atlantic Ocean, are now relics of a golden age that serve as tourist attractions to be marvelled at by visitors. It is easy to understand why Rhode Island became a popular Mecca for the idle rich in days gone by when one considers the state has miles of convoluted shoreline jutting into the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay, allowing for more than 100 beaches. This little State offers more than just water, however… more than 60 percent of its total area is covered in woodland, carefully preserved in state parks and management areas.

The state capital is the city of Providence, lying at the northern point of narrow Narragansett Bay about 30 miles (48km) from the open ocean. Both Providence and the southerly city of Newport have a fascinating colonial history well worth investigating via the local attractions, while the little resort island of Block, about an hour by ferry from the southern town of Point Judith, is an unspoilt and well-preserved paradise.

Rhode Island is not strictly an island as such, being rather a portion of coastline that has been jaggedly cleaved in two, bisected by Narragansett Bay, leaving an irregular coastline. The name is a legacy of the early Puritan settlers who thought their new homeland resembled the island of Rhodes in the Aegean. During the colonial period Newport prospered as an important port with ships trading in slaves, molasses and rum filling the harbour. After the Civil War the trading post began to turn into a resort as new-made millionaires discovered the beautiful beaches and gentle climate around the city and began to build their summer palaces.


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