From Beaches to Museums: Top Things to Do in Westerly, RI
Westerly, Rhode Island, is a charming coastal town in the southern part of the state. Known for its beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, and quaint downtown area, Westerly offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.
One of the most popular attractions in Westerly is Misquamicut State Beach, which boasts miles of pristine sandy shoreline and crystal clear waters.
Visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy a variety of water sports, such as surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The beach also offers a boardwalk with restaurants, shops, and entertainment, making it an excellent spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
Another must-see attraction in Westerly is the Watch Hill Lighthouse, which has guided ships into the harbor since 1745.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the lighthouse, learn about its rich history, and enjoy stunning coastline views from the top of the tower. The nearby Watch Hill Village is also worth a visit, with its charming shops, restaurants, and historic buildings.
For those interested in history, the Babcock-Smith House Museum offers a glimpse into life in colonial Rhode Island. Built in 1734, this beautifully preserved house is filled with period furnishings, artwork, and artifacts, providing a fascinating look at daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The museum also hosts various events and programs throughout the year, including lectures, concerts, and exhibits.
Westerly, Rhode Island, offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From its beautiful beaches and historical landmarks to its charming downtown area and cultural events, there’s something for everyone in this idyllic New England town.
Misquamicut State Beach
The beachfront spans half a mile and boasts a contemporary beach facility with various amenities, such as a playground, shaded gazebos, outdoor showers, and concessions.
Known as the most famous beach in the state, it is often packed during sunny summer days, and visitors are advised to plan and purchase parking passes in advance.
During the beach season, Misquamicut State Beach is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday and 8:30 am to 6:00 pm on weekends and holidays, with the gates closing at sunset.
This beach is a day-use-only facility, and several restrictions apply, including no alcohol, glass, dogs or pets, smoking, RV camping, or tent camping allowed.
Visitors can enjoy swimming, picnicking, the playground, and saltwater fishing (during off-hours). The beach also offers electric vehicle charging stations. Besides the beach, you can also enjoy activities at the nearby Atlantic Beach Park.
Although Misquamicut State Beach has only been established as a state beach for approximately sixty years, the area’s recreational scene dates back another fifty years to the early 1900s.
Private homeowners and small business owners from Westerly constructed cottages and a few hotels, creating what was initially known as Pleasant View. It was situated between Watch Hill to the west and Weekapaug to the east and featured a bridge over the breach way at Weekapaug.
Westerly Downtown Historic District
The Westerly Downtown Historic District is located along the Pawcatuck River, a body of water that surrounds the town. Downtown Westerly is a thriving, bustling area in the summer. It offers shops and restaurants for visitors. You can also stroll around the streets and take in the historic architecture.
Downtown Westerly is full of historic buildings with Roaring Twenties architecture. A popular local attraction is the Babcock-Smith Mansion. This red-brick tower is located on Railroad Avenue. The building is filled with community and military memorabilia.
Westerly’s town hall and the courthouse are part of the Wilcox Park Historic District. They are built in Academic Revival style and granite.
There are several shops and restaurants on High Street. Various stores line the street, including jewelry and a surf shop. Also, you can enjoy a variety of flavors of gelato at Pompelmo.
Other shops include Mel’s Downtown Creamery, which offers a 1950s diner aesthetic. They make all prints in-house. And they provide giant ice cream sundaes.
There are a variety of ladies’ boutiques, such as Zoe & Company. Also, there are two salons. One is Serenity, and the other is Bella Vita. Finally, Melissa Ashley is an excellent choice if you are looking for bridal gowns or bridesmaid dresses.
Wilcox Park is a beautiful local destination in Westerly. The park is free to visit and offers many fun things to do.
The park is a popular location for events and festivals in the summer. Wilcox Park also hosts Shakespeare in the Park performances by Colonial Theatre.
One of the attractions at Wilcox Park is the Wilcox Memorial Fountain. This fountain was built in 1898 to honor the widow of Stephen Wilcox and his daughter, Harriet. A well-paved trail surrounds this fountain.
Wilcox Park is open from dawn to 9 pm. There are several picnic spots and a duck pond with a water jet.
Napatree Point Conservation Area
Napatree Point is a conservation area located on the westernmost point of mainland Rhode Island. It is part of a peninsula that separates Little Narragansett Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The region also has a lagoon and an important horseshoe crab nursery.
Napatree Point is a popular destination for swimmers and nature lovers. Visitors can hike the trail to the sandy beaches and explore the marsh. These areas are home to many birds and animals, including egrets, ospreys, minks, deer, and gray seals.
In the spring, American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers return to the beaches. Other bird species that visit include Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Terns, and Black-bellied Plovers.
The beaches are also home to hundreds of sea ducks. On occasion, a Snowy Owl can be seen along the coast.
The Stonington Lighthouse Museum
The Stonington Lighthouse Museum in Westerly, Rhode Island, is a beautiful place to visit. It is the only lighthouse on the Connecticut mainland that is regularly open to the public.
The lighthouse has been in use since the early nineteenth century. The Stonington Historical Society owns the lighthouse and has been interpreting and preserving the area’s history for more than a century. In 1925, the U.S. government sold the lighthouse to the society for $3,650.
The lighthouse is now a museum showcasing the region’s maritime history. Visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse tower or walk through the seven exhibit rooms that are on display.
During the 19th century, Stonington was the center of the whaling industry. The town boasted several vessels engaged in the business during that time. In addition, Niles reported several coastal trade vessels in Stonington, including ten to fifteen fishing vessels.