A state that captivates first-time visitors with its majestic coastline and old-world charm of yesteryear, Rhode Island may be compact but there’s much to see. Officially known as the State Of Rhode Island, the smallest US state forms part of the greater New England area, consisting of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Thanks to its flat terrain and compact size, the state is a dream to visit, with all the towns and attractions easily accessible by car from virtually anywhere. A drive through the entire state takes less than an hour.
There is plenty of cultural diversity and natural beauty to be experienced and discovered. With its 643 km (400 miles) of unblemished coastline known for nautical traditions, ocean-fresh seafood, scenic coves and beaches, you’ll see just why Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State.
Inland, this state turns into a nature lover’s dream, offering everything from biking to hot-air ballooning with spectacular views as far as the eye can see. With its rich Colonial-era history, year-round activities, and chic culinary scene – not to mention its closeness to Boston and New York City – Rhode Island is a desirable and unmissable travel destination. Here’s our pick of the best landmarks in Rhode Island to visit.
- 20 Rhode Island Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks in Rhode Island
- Historic Landmarks In Rhode Island
20 Rhode Island Landmarks
Natural Landmarks in Rhode Island
1- Green Animals Topiary Garden
Famous for being the oldest and most northern topiary garden in the United States, Green Animals Topiary Garden is home to more than 80 animal-shaped topiaries.
Located in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, the garden also has a wide array of colourful flowering bulbs, perennials, annuals, and shrubs that are best observed when they bloom during the spring, summer and fall months.
The garden is also home to the Brayton House Museum, an 1859 Victorian-style building, which displays a small collection of old children’s toys as well as the original house’s furniture.
The gift shop’s walls are lined with ribbons for prize-winning dahlias and vegetables, looked after by the Preservation Society of Newport County.
Green Animals Topiary Garden is at 380 Corys Ln, Portsmouth, RI 02871.
2- Brenton Point State Park
With some of the most commanding and strikingly beautiful views anywhere on the American East Coast, Brenton Point is an unmissable attraction for anyone visiting Rhode Island.
The park is located right where the Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic, around the halfway point of the state’s famous Ocean Drive.
An excellent place to go hiking, fishing, picnicking, or simply enjoying the fresh ocean breeze and breathtakingly views, free-to-visit Brenton Point has activities for the entire family.
A popular destination in summer, the park can get a bit crowded during July, when the family-friendly Newport Kite Festival takes place at Brenton Point State Park.
The colourful show of kites dancing on the brisk Brenton Point breezes invites kite-flying aficionados from all across the state to join in this thrilling yearly event.
Brenton Point State Park is at Ocean Drive, Newport, RI 02840.
3- Block Island
Situated about 10 miles (16 km) off the coast from Galilee in the South-Eastern part of the state is Block Island, a 283 km2 (176 mi2) island accessible via ferry from Point Judith.
Visitors to Block Island are spoiled for choice, from the relaxed town of New Harbor with its great dining and lodging options to the Victorian-style Southeast Lighthouse.
At the southern end of the island sits Mohegan Bluffs, a 3 mile (4.8 km) long stretch of cliffs dropping over 200 feet (61 m) into the Atlantic Ocean below.
It’s a fantastic spot to watch the sunset and the waves crashing down below, including a very picturesque beach that’s a 151-stair climb to the bottom of the cliffs.
Mohegan Bluffs remains a popular destination to those not fazed by getting a little exercise traversing up and down the stairs.
The Block Island Ferry is at 304 Great Island Rd, Narragansett, RI 02882.
4- Cliff Walk
No doubt one of the best walking spots anywhere on the East Coast, the Cliff Walk in Newport is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys relaxed strolls alongside the ocean.
With many grand mansions lining the walk, strollers get to view some of the most impressive homes in the country despite many failed attempts by their owners to block the path to the public.
Hence its location and the fact that there’s no charge to enter it remains one of the most popular spots in Newport.
The Cliff Walk starts well before The Breakers, former home of Cornelius Vanderbilt and the first home the walk passes by, ending at Rough Point 3.5 miles (5.6 km) later.
The Cliff Walk is at 117 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840.
5- Fort Adams State Park
Rhode Island is known for its beautiful and leafy outdoor parks and attractions, and no visit to the Ocean State is complete without visiting Fort Adams State Park.
This decommissioned military fort is a very cool place to visit, even if you’re not a history buff.
A fabulous place to catch the sun setting over the walls of the fort, it gives off an aura of serenity and provides visitors with a place to slow down and relax.
There are many tours for visitors to choose from who wish to explore the entire park, and self-guided tours of the 6.5-acre (2.6 ha) parade field are readily available.
You can also see an authentic US Navy cannon that is being exhibited in the park.
Fort Adams State Park is at 80 Fort Adams Dr, Newport, RI 02840.
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6- Roger Williams Park Zoo
Visitors to this zoo will be surprised to learn that the contemporarily-designed Roger Williams Park Zoo is one of the USA’s oldest.
The zoo is known for its ethical approach to running a zoo, with most of its animals are not caged and live in environments that almost exactly match their natural habitats.
You can view the animals with very few visual obstructions visual barriers are kept to a minimum.
With snow leopards, zebras, alligators and many more exciting animal species on display, the zoo is a great drawcard for families.
It’s no surprise that the zoo is one of Rhode Island’s most-visited sites.
Apart from the zoo, a Botanical Centre featuring New England’s biggest public indoor display garden. A planetarium, a carousel and a Museum of Natural History are part of the 435-acre (176 ha) park.
Roger Williams Park Zoo is at 1000 Elmwood Ave, Providence, RI 02907.
7- Narragansett Bay Beaches
Pristine white sandy beaches call out to visiting beachgoers in Rhode Island like a siren, and nowhere are there better beaches in the Ocean State than in the quaint towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown.
Situated just south of the city of Providence, the beaches offer a great escape from the lively streets of the state’s largest city.
Lighthouses, piers and a historic carousel are all attractions and activities visitors get to marvel at and enjoy at the beaches.
With many resort towns with excellent accommodation options within walking distance from the beaches, it is an excellent area to stay during your visit to Rhode Island.
Narragansett Bay Beaches is at 77 and 81 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett, RI 02882.
8- Biomes Marine Biology Center
A great destination to visit in Rhode Island, the Biomes Marine Biology Center is home to the most extensive collection of marine life in the New England region.
Commonly called the BMBC, no place in Rhode Island is as exciting to children and grownups alike, with many different marine species from all over the world on display.
Partake in live pufferfish demonstrations and feedings sessions of tortoises, sharks, rays and skates.
BMBC hosts many educational programs that offer interactive, hands-on displays that entertain the entire family.
Biomes Marine Biology Center is at 6640 Post Rd, North Kingstown, RI 02852.
9- Newport Vineyards
The Newport Vineyards are a Rhode Island institution with some of the finest wines, beers and spreads on offer, not to mention the world-class culinary options.
Situated on over 100 acres (40 ha) of perfectly preserved countryside, the vineyards offer many different packages and activities, ranging in prices, to accommodate all sorts of visitors.
With many unique events available throughout the year, such as bakeshop weekends and brunches, visitors should check beforehand to see which events are scheduled when they plan their trip.
Newport Vineyards is at 909 E Main Rd, Middletown, RI 02842.
10- Blackstone River Bikeway
With over 18 miles (29 km) of bike-able riverside paths, the Blackstone River Bikeway offers plenty of outdoor fun for all ages.
With bike rental shops at the bikeway, even visitors who don’t have a bicycle can enjoy the many trails available.
Beginning in Cumberland and travelling through Woonsocket, the bikeway goes as far as the Massachusetts border, providing cyclists with a unique way of seeing the Ocean State’s lush interior.
With paths varying in difficulty and terrain, you don’t need to be very experienced to enjoy this great attraction.
Blackstone River Bikeway is at 110 John St., Lincoln, RI 02865.
For landmarks in Latin America, see:
Historic Landmarks In Rhode Island
11- H.P. Lovecraft House
The last-known home of famous author and Rhode Island native H.P. Lovecraft, this modest house was used as the setting of many of his mysteriously dark novels.
Interestingly enough, the plague outside the house reads “Samuel B. Mumford House”, making no mention about Lovecraft’s time as a resident here.
Fans of Lovecraft’s literature can enjoy a walking tour guiding visitors to many of Lovecraft’s favourite spots around Providence, including his former residence.
This makes for a great outdoor excursion into the streets of Providence in a much more relaxed and entertaining way.
H.P. Lovecraft House is at 65 Prospect Street, Providence, RI 02906.
12- Rhode Island State House
Visitors should not miss out on seeing the Rhode Island State House, a rather large statehouse for the smallest state in the country.
Built over a 10-year span from 1891 to 1901, this marble-clad marvel is a real feat of American Renaissance architecture.
You can enjoy tours of the 38-member Senate chamber, the historic vestibules (which include a copy of the Liberty Bell), the Gettysburg Gun, memorabilia from the Battle of Bull Run, and Revolutionary War flags.
Rhode Island State House is at 82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903.
13- Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
One of the best places to do some sightseeing in the entire state, the Beavertail lighthouse Museum is situated at the southernmost tip of the Ocean State.
The 3rd oldest lighthouse in the country has many exhibits and artefacts on display for visitors to peek at, including a gift shop with incredible vistas of the New England coastline.
There are also plenty of hiking trails and fishing spots for visitors to indulge in, making the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum a must-visit place for nature lovers and history buffs alike.
Beavertail Lighthouse Museum is at Beavertail Rd, Jamestown, RI 02835.
14- The Breakers House
The flashiest and most popular of Rhode Island’s many grandiose mansions truly reflects the unimaginable wealth of the family who once lived here.
Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895, this 70 room Italian Renaissance-style manor is a National Historic Landmark and a place that visitors need to see to believe.
Tours of the house are available and take visitors past the estate’s carriage house and the gardens and views that encompass the 13-acre (5 ha) estate.
The Breakers stands out among the many ostentatious mansions in Newport, making it an excellent place to start your Newport manor tour.
The Breakers House is at 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840.
15- Bowen’s Wharf
A great waterfront shopping, entertainment and culinary spot, Bowen’s Wharf is one of the most popular destinations in Newport. Bowen’s Wharf, located in the heart of Rhode Island’s Newport Marina, is home to various tourist attractions, including fishing trips, museums, motorized scooter rides, boat rides, train exploration, and more.
There are different activities, from fashionable boutiques to delicious restaurants and lively bars.
The Wharf also has plenty of accommodation available for those preferring to stay here during their trip to the state.
Bowen’s Wharf is at 13 Bowens Wharf, Newport, RI 02840.
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16- International Tennis Hall of Fame
Founded in 1986, this former run-down casino pays homage to the many great tennis stars throughout the sport’s history.
Tennis-inspired art and interactive displays honouring the history of tennis are just some of the cool and unique things to see at the museum that is now a National Historic Landmark.
Even those who aren’t sports or history fans will enjoy a trip here as it is also a premier sightseeing point and on the itinerary of many a visitor to the state.
International Tennis Hall of Fame is at 194 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.
17- La Gondola
A La Gondola trip will transport you to the canals of ancient Venetian times.
There’s no place like it anywhere in the state, and it’s one of the Ocean State’s most popular experiences and a can’t-miss activity.
The tour takes visitors on authentic Venetian gondolas for a 40-minute journey up and down the Providence River.
Due to the popularity of La Gondola, reservations are highly recommended to those not wanting to stand in pretty long lines during the warmer months.
You are provided with souvenirs to remember the experience and the gondola company offers a wide range of different packages for guests to choose from.
La Gondola is at 1 Citizens Plaza, Providence, RI 02903.
Located in downtown Providence on the Providence River, Waterfire is an incredible art display right on the river itself.
This free, nightly display bedazzles large crowds with flames glittering on the surface of the water and is complemented by a variety of music that brings this urban art instalment to life.
It provides a great ambience to the city’s shops, restaurants and bars which line the river, and visitors are encouraged to enjoy the event while strolling through the streets of the city.
Waterfire is at 4 N Main St, Providence, RI 02903.
19- Blithewold Mansion
This flawlessly built mansion, located in Bristol, sprawls over 33 acres (13 ha) and offers visitors the chance to stroll around its majestic gardens, stone bridges and intricate pathways.
Many guided and self-help tours are available to those wanting to learn more about the house’s fascinating history.
The home also has a unique collection of period-related antiques such as clothes, jewellery, sporting equipment, toys, books, paintings, and more, all of which have been meticulously conserved.
Blithewold Mansion is at 101 Ferry Rd, Bristol, RI 02809.
20- Federal Hill
Spread across a couple of city blocks in Providence, Federal Hill sits smack-bang in the heart of the city, enriching travellers with its distinct culture.
Italian immigrants lived in the area before it was transformed into a shopping and dining mecca, with a lot of that old charm still existing.
There are loads of fun activities to experience here, like cooking schools, live shows and concerts, making Federal Hill the place to be in Providence.
Coming to life at night, Federal Hill is a great place to stroll around and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Federal Hill is at Providence, RI 02903.