Chamber of Commerce
328 Main Street
Wakefield 401-789-3120

Visitor’s Bureau
4808 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield 401-789-4422
Toll Free 800-548-4662

Known as “South County,” the region that encompasses scenic Washington County has been designated as one of the twelve best places to visit in North American by Money Magazine. Most of the cities in this beautiful region claim less than 8,000 residents. Even South and North Kingstown and Westerly—the three largest communities—are home to less than 30,000 permanent residents. During the summer months, many of the South County towns and resort destinations welcome throngs of visitors and seasonal residents.

In spite of the relaxed atmosphere and picturesque seaside beauty that prevails in Washington County, residents are able to enjoy first-rate services, amusements, dining opportunities, and local shopping. Because this area is so popular with visitors, many amenities have sprung up in response to the tourism industry. At the same time, the world-class cultural and educational advantages of metropolitan Providence and Kent County are just minutes from home.

Although a selection of major hospitals and specialty centers are located in nearby metropolitan Providence, residents also have easy access to major facilities in neighboring Kent County. The South County Hospital Healthcare System provides the region with state-of-the-art healthcare services that encompass virtually every type of advanced medical and surgical care. The system also operates outreach programs through a network of ambulatory services that include primary and urgent-care medical centers, home health care, and an occupational health program. Skilled professionals on staff at the hospital have private practices throughout Washington County.
Education remains a high priority and a life-long pursuit in Washington County, where public schools combine with options for private education and a wide selection of opportunities for higher education. The main campus for the University of Rhode Island is located in Kingston, offering everything from non-credit coursework to advanced degrees. The Community College of Rhode Island maintains a campus in nearby Warwick, and the city is also home to a campus for New England Institute of Technology. Nearby in metropolitan Providence, public and private universities and colleges offer a wide variety of degree programs. Narragansett, located in Washington County, is home to the Graduate School of Oceanography for the University of Rhode Island.

The harmony of coastal towns, panoramic open space, quaint neighborhoods, and busy commercial districts is the essence of this region’s undeniable attraction. The balance of nearby urban advantages, panoramic  countryside, and outstanding recreational amenities have made the southern quadrant of Rhode Island the state’s fastest-growing region. The sparsely populated town of Charlestown claims premier resources like Burlingame State Park, Ninigret Wildlife Refuge, and East Beach.

Scenic Burlingame State Park with its management area, campground, and vast wildlife refuge covers 3,100 acres. Rocky and broken hills clad with hemlock, spruce, and black oak are interspersed with ancient stone walls. Covering 1,000 acres, Watchaug Pond borders the park and provides a ideal  site for canoeing, kayaking, and freshwater fishing. Newcomers will find golf courses, tennis courts, sports fields, marinas, and beaches throughout Washington County for an abundance of outdoor adventure. The secluded Block Island off Block Island Sound presents a true “island paradise” for visitors and residents alike.

Residents enjoy shopping in charming shops and boutiques, although contemporary malls are minutes away in Rhode Island’s bustling urban areas. Musical concerts, dance performances, mystery and dinner theater, and outstanding visual art centers are available within a short drive or just around the corner. The warmer months are an especially active season for the arts in Washington County. Colonial Theatre in Westerly presents Shakespeare in the Park, while the historic Theatre-By-The-Sea in South Kingstown is well known for  professional Broadway-style performances. This attraction includes the amenities of the surrounding gardens, a restaurant, and post-theater cabaret. From the performing arts to pristine natural beauty, South County invites you to discover a superb quality of life.

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Situated along the southern shoreline of Rhode Island, Charlestown enjoys a location nearly equidistant from New London in Connecticut and Providence. Neighboring towns include Westerly, Hopkinton, and South Kingstown. To the north, Charlestown shares the villages of Carolina and Shannock with adjacent Richmond. A ridge of steeply rolling hills divides the town and runs north of Route 1 parallel to the shore. The town’s flat, coastal area stretches from Route 1 to Block Island Sound. To the north is more gentle terrain with wetlands such as Cedar Swamp and several sparkling ponds, while the Pawcatuck River borders to the north.

The vast recreation and conservation land in this area defines much of its character, including Burlingame State Park, Ninigret Wildlife Refuge, Ninigret Park, and East Beach. Taken together, these resources make up approximately 20 percent of the town and protect valuable habitats and pristine environments. The coastal points fronted by barrier beaches are especially popular with residents and visitors as natural playgrounds. Newcomers to Charlestown will discover a delightful blend of open space and small-town friendliness in a seashore haven that offers close proximity to outstanding urban amenities and advantages.

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The former milling community of Exeter experienced a transformation throughout the 20th century when factories closed and shops were converted for other uses. Today’s community is characterized as a rural haven with a distinctly charming and panoramic countryside. Wooded hills, clear streams, sparkling lakes, and an abundance of wildlife create a scenic backdrop for residential development and outdoor recreation. Several of the vintage homes and quaint farms that once dotted the landscape still add to the picturesque quality of the town, providing a pleasing blend of yesterday’s quaint charm and more contemporary construction.

Important attractions in the Exeter region include the natural beauty of the Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge, a 70-acre preserve managed by the Rhode Island Audubon Society. Students of history will want to explore the displays at the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, where the collection of Native American artifacts emphasizes local tribes.

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Situated on the southwestern side of the state with Connecticut to the west, the rural community of Hopkinton is the first locality on the south end of the Interstate 95 corridor. Newcomers will find a pleasing balance of residential, commercial, and manufacturing development. Complementing vast acres of protected land, this area offers championship golf courses, multi-purpose trails, hunting areas, and scenic campgrounds. Visitors and residents enjoy the Wood River and many surrounding ponds for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The Enchanted Forest on Route 3 is a popular destination for families.

Historic sites range from Native American artifacts to more recent historical remnants include the first meeting house in southern Rhode Island built in 1680. Each one of the Hopkinton villages claims a distinctive history and flavor of its own.

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The narrow strip of land that runs along the eastern bank of the Pettaquamscutt River to the shore of the Bay is known as the community of Narragansett. Originally a farming center, Narragansett evolved rapidly into a summer resort and fishing community. Residential development was dominated by single-family homes but the majority of homes were vacation or seasonal residences. Parallel stone arches spanning Ocean Road and anchored by curved towers provide a glimpse of days gone by. These landmarks are the only remnant
of the casino built in the golden Victorian resort era.

Today, the permanent population continues to increase as newcomers discover all the charm and appeal of this coastal retreat. The commercial development is largely defined by businesses and services that cater to the tourism industry. However, these amenities are also appreciated by the expanding number of year-round residents. One of the stellar family attractions in Narragansett is Adventureland, where the miniature golf course is graced by waterfalls, caves, and its own island. The bustling waterfront has emerged as a focal point for quality growth and development. Another feather in the cap of Narragansett is the advanced research carried at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus.

North Kingstown
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Chamber of Commerce

Most well known as Rhode Island’s sea town, North Kingstown enjoys an idyllic location that includes a natural harbor and lovely beaches. Famous as a summer resort and a haven for pleasure boating, this area is especially attractive to those who appreciate saltwater breezes and water sports.

Many historic sites throughout the town are preserved for exploration, including Smith’s Castle. This structure built in 1640 as a trading post was used as a rendezvous point for troops who fought in the Great Swamp fight of 1675. North Kingstown is also the birthplace of America’s foremost portrait painter, Gilbert Stuart. Rolling Rock and Queens Fort, two of North Kingstown’s landmarks, remind us of the strong presence and tradition of Narragansett Indians.

With its enchanting historic churches and quaint colonial shops and homes, North Kingstown offers an outstanding example of traditional New England life. Wickford Village boasts an impressive collection of houses dating back to the classic styling and distinctive architecture that marked the 18th and 19th centuries. Modern North Kingstown is the vanguard of a trend that many of the state’s communities share: economic stability and industrial growth. The former Naval installation provided 750 prime acres for expansive industrial park.

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Originally part of Charlestown, the rural Town of Richmond is home to a modest number of residents who are primarily employed in manufacturing operations. A significant portion of Richmond—nearly 60 percent—has remained as undeveloped woodland. This abundance of greenery adds considerable natural beauty to the countryside. Richmond is dotted with small villages such as Kenyon, Hope Valley and Hillsdale, in spite of the fact that the mills that drove their development have long since disappeared. One major exception is the old grist mill in Usquepaugh, still producing a high volume of “Johnny cake meal” from locally grown flint corn. Arcadia is a quaint village popular for Arcadia State Park as well as a restaurant that is still operated by descendants of the original Narragansett Native American tribe. Arcadia is also home to a state-operated fish cultural station that has introduced species like Northern Pike and Atlantic Shad to New England waters.

South Kingstown
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The former farming community of South Kingstown experienced the same industrial revolution as many Rhode Island towns. One unique milestone was the founding of the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1892, eventually evolving into the University of Rhode Island. Over the centuries, this institution has played a vital role in the economic and cultural life of South Kingstown. In recent years, diversified small industry has strengthened the local economy and replaced the waning textile activity. The village of Wakefield now serves as the primary hub for the town including the town offices.

Capitalizing on its exceptional shoreline and beach areas, the town has encouraged and welcomed significant residential growth and expansion. The development of summer resort and tourist facilities has enhanced the quality of life for visitors and residents alike. Attractions in South Kingstown include Kingston Village, which offers all the charm of an 18th century hamlet and provides a picturesque gateway to the expansive 1,200-acre campus for the University of Rhode Island. Known nationally for its teaching excellence, research, and service to the state, URI remains a valuable resource for individuals, businesses, organizations, and municipalities in Rhode Island.

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Located in the southwestern corner of the state, the town of Westerly offers all the picturesque charm of a vintage New England village. From its roots as a frontier town of the colony, the area welcomed a diversity of industries. However, Westerly is probably most well known for the granite that was once taken from its quarries. This quality rock was used for construction in neighboring towns and cities as well as for monuments across the nation.

Enjoying a reputation as a highly desirable vacation destination, Westerly features the Watch Hill area, nearly surrounded by the ocean and bay with beautiful formation of rocks and sandy beaches. Natural beauty abounds, graced by cool bracing sea air and a summer temperature that is rarely oppressive. Rowing, swimming, ocean sailing, fishing, biking, and hiking are just a few of the outdoor sports and activities that fill the leisure hours of visitors and residents. Westerly also claims the Flying Horse Carousel, where hand-carved horses swing out or “fly” in motion.

New Shoreham (Block Island)

New Shoreham
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Block Island

Chamber of Commerce

Located at the mouth of Long Island Sound just 14 miles east of Montauk Point, Block Island is close enough to the mainland of Rhode Island to offer views of Fisher’s Island, Watch Hill, Point Judith, Narragansett Pier, and Newport. Block Island offers no natural harbor, although two were built in the 19th century. This secluded landmass has developed into a popular destination for day trips, getaways, and vacations. During the summer months, the population of Block Island swells with seasonal visitors from around the world. Ferry service and scheduled and charter flights are the only way to reach this island.

The small town of New Shoreham serves as the hub of commercial amenities for this cozy retreat, providing a mecca of shops, restaurants, rental stores, accommodations, and attractions. Because this land claims unique forces of nature in its development, no other location shares its unusual geography, balance of species, stunning vistas, or fragile ecosystem. The relaxed pace and sense of identity of the islanders is another rarity in today’s busy world. They speak of going “off island” as if Block Island is a world unto itself. This very sense of seclusion and serenity is the magnet that draws visitors back to Block Island, season after season, year after year. More than 350 freshwater ponds combine with miles of sandy beach and 250-foot cliffs for scenic vistas, adding to the enchantment of the island.

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