Since America’s Gilded Age, visitors have flocked to the special seaside enchantment of Narragansett, Rhode Island. The community’s signature stone Towers from that era, which call to mind a castle’s turrets, span Ocean Road and symbolize this welcoming town’s enduring appeal. (In fact, the Town’s Welcome Center is tucked inside one of the turrets.)
As you drive along Ocean Road, the west passage of Narragansett Bay is your constant companion, a continuous Instagram-worth vista that flows into the Atlantic. Along the way are restaurants beloved by locals, the majority family-owned, that serve up not only good food but the flavor of the town’s neighborhoods. Visitors quickly discover that Narragansett is a resort town with a hometown charm.
In the picturesque fishing village of Galilee, George’s and Champlin’s serve up clam cakes, chowder (say“chowdah” and order the Rhode Island clear broth version) and the world-famous Point Judith calamari, all within the sound of the foghorn at Point Judith Light. Farther north is Monahan’s Clam Shack, where the line for fried clams (get the whole bellies) and lobster rolls often trails down to the adjacent fishing pier. It’s al fresco dining only, and there’s no extra charge for the million-dollar view of the bay with the Newport Bridge in the distance. In the north end of Narragansett is Twin Willows, the kind of friendly burger-and-bar destination that would make Sam Malone of Cheers envious. You can eat inside, but order those generous Bill Burgers and Mert Burgers out on the patio for another swoon-worthy view of the sea.
These are just some of the spots where budget-friendly meets family-friendly, in seaside settings like the ones that the Gilded Age bunch paid a fortune to enjoy. In Narragansett, everyone can partake of it.
More upscale dining along Ocean Road is found at Spain Restaurant also family-owned, and Chair 5, the restaurant within The Break, Narragansett’s only boutique hotel. Head upstairs to The Rooftop for an enviable bird’s-eye view. Go a few blocks in from the beach to sample Italian fare, another Rhode Island staple, at Arturo Joe’s and, in Narragansett’s historic and increasingly artsy Boon Street district, PJ’s Pub.
Right next to the Towers is the Coast Guard House Restaurant, perched literally at the edge of the rocky shore. Go for lunch and a glass of wine, which their knowledgeable sommelier will be happy to help you select. Stay for a moonlight dinner and a late-night specialty cocktail. You’ll swear you can hear the heartbeat of the town, in harmony with the sound of the waves that call to surfers almost daily.
This is the center of Narragansett: the Pier, as locals call it. On one side is Narragansett’s signature seawall for all, a year-round promenade for every age that beckons both sunrise joggers and evening saunterers. On the other is the Town Beach, a kind of sandy town square that hosts summer movie nights for kids, plus fireworks punctuated with the sound of the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s annual surfside concert in July. Just beyond it is access to the Narrow River, which, despite its name, can handle boating, paddleboard and kayak enthusiasts.
Cross the street and straight ahead are specialty shops, including Nana’s Ice Cream and Gelato Café. Like Brickley’s in the north end, it’s one of several spots in Narragansett proudly serving homemade ice cream that, as Rhode Islanders might say, is wicked good.
A few steps away is a village green, complete with gazebo that hosts local bands and sing-alongs in the summer. Grab a lawn chair and you’re set. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself joining the other kids of all ages on the grassy dance floor, the rhythm of the waves just steps away.