South County Heritage Trail
The South County area of Rhode Island stretches from scenic coastal communities along Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to pastoral villages and inland forests and farmlands. Its strong Native American heritage can be seen everywhere in the names of towns, villages, streets, ponds and rivers. Its Colonial heritage is reflected in a landscape filled with historic homes, churches, farms and seemingly endless stone walls. Its history as a seaside resort destination dates back to the 19th century and continues today.
Follow the South County Heritage Trail to see sites like America's oldest carousel, America's oldest plantation house, an Indian Museum, working historic farms, an 18th-century snuff mill, a towering lighthouse and much more.
Point Judith Lighthouse
An octagonal brick building erected in 1816. A Coast Guard and tower beacon were maintained at the point during the American Revolution. Original wooden lighthouse, built in 1806, was blown down in the great gale of September 1815. The last German U-Boat sunk in World War II was two miles off the light. Visitors welcome to the grounds; lighthouse and Coast Guard station restricted. 1460 Ocean Road, Narragansett; 401-789-0444
Quonset Aviation Museum
Located in the only brick hangar on the East Coast, this working museum hosts a growing collection of aircraft and Rhode Island Aviation memorabilia. Aircraft such as a Russian MIG-17, an F-14 Tomcat Jet Fighter, TBM Avenger, A-4 Skyhawk, A6 Intruder and SH3 Seaking are on display and under restoration. Rhode Island aviation exhibits focus on both commercial and military history, with a total of 30 aircraft. Visiting aircraft parking is available at the museum ramp. October-April, Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; May-September, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. 488 Ecclecston Avenue, North Kingstown; 401-294-9540; www.quonsetairmuseum.com/
Last remaining section of the famous Narragansett Pier Casino designed by Stanford White, which in its heyday was the center of the summer social season in this famous seaside resort. The restoration process is continuing with the ground floor housing the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, first-floor gallery and exhibit space. Summer tours are available. By appointment. 35 Ocean Road, Narragansett; 401-782-2597; www.thetowersri.com
Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum
Collection of Indian artifacts specializing in local tribes. Gift shop with native handmade items. Guided group tours by appointment. Indoor and outdoor exhibits. Noweetooun School, K-8, grade school focusing on native history and culture with environmental education. Art classes, summer camps, storytelling, traditional Thanksgivings, group presentations and teacher institutes. By appointment, Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 390 Summit Road, Exeter; 401-539-7213, 491-9063; www.tomaquagmuseum.com
General Nathaniel Greene Homestead
Spell Hall, home of George Washington's second-in-command. Wednesday & Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m., and by appointment. 50 Taft Street, Coventry; 401-821-8630;
South County Museum
Unique museum with seven interactive exhibit buildings where visitors can experience 19th-century life as it was in the towns, on the farms and on the sea. Costumed interpreters and traditional artisans bring the Victorian era alive. June-August, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. May, September-October, Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Strathmore Street, Narragansett; 401-783-5400; www.southcountymuseum.org
The 300-acre working farm, overlooking Narragansett Bay, is a rare example of one of the original plantation farms of the Colonial era. The farmhouse, (c. 1750), surrounded by fields, barns, high stone walls and a family cemetery, was a site of Revolutionary activity. In cultivation since the time of the Narragansett Indians, today the farm is managed as a community-supported farm and is RI Certified Organic. House museum, hiking trails, organic seedlings and produce. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 2325 Boston Neck Road, Saunderstown, North Kingstown; 401-295-1030; www.historicnewengland.org
Early Georgian-style home of Dr. Joshua Babcock, Westerly's first physician, postmaster and friend of Benjamin Franklin, who was a frequent visitor. Later owned by Orlando Smith, who in 1846 discovered granite on the property, which later became one of the country's leading granite centers. May-June, Sunday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.; July-August, Wednesday & Sunday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.; September-October, Sunday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m., and by appointment. 124 Granite Street, Westerly; 401-596-5704; www.babcock-smithhouse.com
Gilbert Stuart Birthplace
Stuart, born here in 1755, was the foremost Colonial portraitist in America and is best known for his portrait of George Washington. Operating 18th-century snuff mill, the first in America, with water wheel. Colonial furniture and tools. Herring Run during April and May. Restored Grist Mill built in 1662. Picnic area. Wildlife refuge with 90 species of birds. Charming wooded property available for wedding photos and small parties. Boats available for rental. April-October, Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 815 Gilbert Stuart Road, North Kingstown; 401-294-3001; www.gilbertstuartmuseum.com
Site of c. 1638 trading posts established by Rhode Island founder Roger Williams and trader Richard Smith. Center of 17th-century land disputes between Narragansett Tribe, RI, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Destroyed in King Philip's War. Rebuilt c. 1678. Renovated c. 1740, as one of the largest 18th-century RI slave-holding plantations. Award-winning 20th-century restoration. May, Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.; June-August, Thursday-Monday; September and October, Friday-Sunday; and by appointment. 55 Richard Smith Drive, off Route 1, one mile north of Wickford, North Kingstown; 401-294-3521; www.smithscastle.org
General James Mitchell Varnum House Museum
A fine Federal mansion furnished with period furniture and magnificent paneling, built by James Mitchell Varnum, one of George Washington's generals. Colonial garden. Memorial Day-Labor Day, Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday in September, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and by appointment. 57 Pierce Street, East Greenwich; 401-884-1776; www.varnumcontinentals.org
South County Tourism Council - 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield
Great spots for snapshots.
- Narragansett Sea Wall - Great view of the rocky coastline and the open Atlantic Ocean
- Watch Hill - Historic landmark community with a picturesque lighthouse and incredible sunsets
Tasty tips along the trail.
- Local favorites: Clam chowder, clam cakes, fish & chips and stuffies (scrumptious baked stuffed clam shell)
- Jonny cakes - Don't miss these griddle-cooked cakes made from local corn meal made since colonial times
- Famous for: Fresh-from-the-ocean lobster and seafood delicacies.
Did you know.
- George Washington portrait painter Gilbert Stuart was born in North Kingstown
- Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuck once drew performers such as Mae West and Marlon Brando