Top 10 Scenic Drives in Rhode Island

Although Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state, there is far more to explore than the uninitiated may suspect. About 14% of its area abuts saltwater, earning its nickname of the “Ocean State,” and those meetings of land and sea are certainly worth seeing. In addition to its seascapes, the state is full of quaint little towns, lakes, rivers, and woodlands that are ripe with recreational opportunities. In order to begin your own exploration of this diverse little corner of the country, try one of our favorite Rhode Island scenic drives:

No. 10 – Lincoln to Cranston

Lincoln to Cranston Rhode Island
Flickr user: Mike Boening Photography

Starting Location: Lincoln, RI
Ending Location: Cranston, RI
Length: 12 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

This north-to-south tour of the capital city of Providence’s suburbs affords a more cultured view of the state than the rural or seaside scenes that dominate most of the region’s landscape. The cityscape is quite picturesque with many of the businesses housed in preserved remnants from the 19th century. There is also a thriving arts community to ignite visitors’ creativity with plenty of galleries and venues to take in a theatrical performance.

No. 9 – Snake Den

Snake Den Rhode Island
Flickr user: susteph

Starting Location: Branch Village, RI
Ending Location: Johnston, RI
Length: 14 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer
See this drive on google Maps

Beginning by the Branch River in Branch Village, known for its cotton mill industry and friendly residents, this drive passes through wooded flatlands and small lakes until reaching Snake Den State Park. There, visitors can explore the hiking trails while gaining a closer look at the native flora and fauna. On the grounds also lies the working Dame Farm that still operates as if it were in the 18th century.

No. 8 – Jerimoth Hill Loop

Jerimoth Hill Loop Rhode Island
Flickr user: Jimmy Emerson

Starting Location: Foster, RI
Ending Location: Foster, RI
Length: 27 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

Jerimoth Hill is one of 50 state highpoints many travelers aim to see and has an elevation of 812 feet. Until recently, the owners of the property only allowed visitors on certain dates of the year, but one trail leading to the top is now open to the public during daylight hours. This drive goes by this highpoint and keeps it in view as it winds through quaint rural farmlands.

No. 7 – Western Rhode Island Scenic Drive

Western Rhode Island Scenic Drive
Flickr user: Rafael Medina

Starting Location: Chepachet, RI
Ending Location: West Greenwich, RI
Length: 23 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

Although this route passes through western Rhode Island, the region is known as the Eastern New England Upland by many. Much of the land is populated with rolling hills and the occasional sleepy town, and this contributes greatly to this drive’s natural beauty. Boating and fishing opportunities are available on the Scituate Reservoir, and the Tomaquag Museum of the American Indian is a nice stop to learn about the people who lived in the area long ago.

No. 6 – Conanicut Island

Conanicut Island Rhode Island
Flickr user: Mark

Starting Location: Jamestown, RI
Ending Location: Beavertail Park, RI
Length: 6 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

This driving tour of Conanicut Island provides visitors looks at salt marshes, rural lands, and stunning scenes of the bay and mainland that are worthy of postcard covers. Climb to the top of Conanicut Island Lighthouse to scan the region for miles and miles, or visit the Quaker Meeting House in the Windmill Historic District of Jamestown. Nature lovers may enjoy watching wildlife or the trails in Beavertail Park.

No. 5 – Blackstone River Valley

Blackstone River Valley Rhode Island
Flickr user: Downtownstreets

Starting Location: Pawtucket, RI
Ending Location: Woonsocket, RI
Length: 14 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

Twisting and turning with the Blackstone River, this bendy drive has plenty of opportunities for water recreation like fishing and kayaking. For those more interested in history, however, the region is full of sites hearkening to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, such as the Slater Mill in Pawtucket and the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket. For picnicking or hiking trails, check out Lincoln Woods State Park on the way.

No. 4 – Route 1A

Route 1A Rhode Island
Flickr user: Matt

Starting Location: Westerly, RI
Ending Location: North Kingstown, RI
Length: 43 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

Twisting and turning with the outline of the state’s coves and inlets, travelers this way have no shortage of seaside views and salt air to fill the lungs. Often, on one side of the road, the light dances on an expanse of water while, on the other, a rural farm quietly sits. Once thirst hits, consider stopping to tour Narragansett Brewing Company and sampling a hops-filled beverage.

No. 3 – Shannock Village

Shannock Village Rhode Island
Flickr user: Rick Payette

Starting Location: Richmond, RI
Ending Location: Charlestown, RI
Length: 10 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on google Maps

Traveling along Routes 112 and 2, this meandering drive through picturesque farmlands is ideal for a leisurely morning or afternoon. At the heart of the trip is Shannock Village, an entire community that made the National Register of Historic Places. There, be sure to visit the preserved 1850 textile mill that was once the area’s hub of operations.

No. 2 – Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive Rhode Island
Flickr user: Alistair Nicol

Starting Location: Newport, RI
Ending Location: Newport, RI
Length: 9 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer
See this drive on google Maps

This loop around the island’s coast is full of seaside views, charm, and historic homes to excite the imagination. Along Harrison and Ocean Avenues, a plethora of 1865-1914 mansions from the Gilded Age come into view that were once summer homes and getaways for the financially and socially elite, but now many of the Newport Mansions are open to public tours. For outdoor fun, stop at Brenton Point State Park to enjoy the water or a nice picnic spread.

No. 1  – Rhode Island 77

Rhode Island 77
Flickr user: Jennifer Macaulay

Starting Location: Tiverton, RI
Ending Location: Sakonnet Point, RI
Length: 13 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on google Maps

In a relatively short time, a wide variety of scenes delights the eyes of travelers along this scenic coastal drive on Highway 77. At one moment, pristine beaches are in view while, at another, pastures or patches of woods dance across the landscape. The area around Nanaquaket Pond is particularly pastoral, and, at various times of the year, fresh produce are available for tasting from roadside vendors you can’t find at the average grocery store.

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