Coastal Nature Trail

coastRhode Island’s Coastal Nature Trail will take you through some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful environments, while providing an enriching educational experience.   Along miles of coastal landscape you’ll see diverse ecosystems that form barrier beaches, coastal ponds and freshwater wetlands, which sustain habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife.  You’ll be awed by majestic bluffs that rise hundreds of feet above the sparkling Atlantic.

The Coastal Nature Trail also includes some examples of manmade structures that have played a key role in Rhode Island’s maritime heritage - coastal fortifications and lighthouses.  They provide a unique vantage point for observing the magnificent natural surroundings on land and sea.

You’ll find that our Nature Trails series includes lots of interesting options to choose from. We encourage you to customize your own nature trail that fits your specific interests and time frame.  Remember, if you can fit everything into one trip, that’s a great reason to plan another.

South County

A visit to this coastal region is a nostalgic trip back to the days before family pilgrimages to mega theme parks became a way of life. Vacationers delight in the simplicity they find here, with miles of sandy beaches and open space for all to enjoy.

map key Napatree Point Conservation Area
Located at the southwestern tip of Rhode Island, a long sandy spit separates Little Narragansett Bay from the ocean. Napatree Point offers a mile-long walk along the sandy spit either on the beach face or on the nature trails. This area is one of the most important migratory shorebird stopover points on the East Coast and provides a foraging area for wading birds and year-round habitat for a variety of species. There are spectacular hawk, songbird and monarch butterfly flights in autumn. The area also offers excellent fishing from the rocky shore near the ruined fort at the far end of the point. Napatree Point is accessible from two paved parking lots on Bay Street. Westerly.

map key Kettle Pond Visitor Center
The National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island is devoted to the conservation and development of needed healthy habitat for flora and fauna at the NWRRI, and the provision of a safe, accessible ecological experience for visitors. The association promotes the benefits of the refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge System to the community through public education and interpretation, and supports the refuge staff through projects designed to accomplish the goals of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for all the refuges in Rhode Island. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kettle Pond Visitor Center, 50 Bend Rd., Charlestown,

map key Trustom Pond Refuge
Trustom Pond Refuge includes more than 640 acres of varied wildlife habitat including fields, shrub lands, woodlands and freshwater ponds and swamps and the160-acre Trustom Pond, Rhode Island's only coastal pond free from shoreline development.

Approximately 250 bird species seasonally inhabit the refuge along with more than 40 resident species of mammals and more than 20 reptiles and amphibians. Observation platforms along refuge trails enhance your viewing opportunities.

A barrier beach forms the refuge's southern boundary along Block Island Sound. This area remains one of the few East Coast nesting sites for two bird species of special concern: the least tern and the endangered piping plover. In order to reduce human disturbance to the birds the beach is closed during the nesting season (April–August).

Osprey, woodcock, piping plover, prairie warbler, bobolink and other songbirds return in the spring. Shadbush and beach plum flower in May. Southbound shorebird migration peaks in August. Monarch butterfly migration peaks in late September. Hawk migration is best mid-September through early October. 3679 D Old Post Rd., Charlestown, 401-364-9124,

Block Island

A short, enjoyable ferry ride takes you to a nature lover’s paradise, Block Island. The Nature Conservancy calls it one of the “Last 12 Great Places on Earth.”

map keyRodman's Hollow
Rodman’s Hollow is a 230-acre glacial outwash basin located in the southwest part of the Block Island.This preserve has the largest population of the state’s endangered bushy rockrose. The hollow's maritime shrubland ecosystem supports bayberry, shadbush and arrow wood.  The state-threatened northern harrier feeds and nests here, and the only natural population of  federally endangered American burying beetle east of the Mississippi lives here. The area is preserved through a 30-year partnership between the Block Island Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the Town of New Shoreham and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

map keySoutheast Lighthouse
The Mohegan Bluffs rise abruptly to a height of about 200 feet above the sea and stretch for nearly three miles along the southern shore, offering spectacular scenery. The lighthouse, visited by President Grant, has one of the most powerful electric beacons on the U.S East Coast. The lighthouse was moved from the edge of the bluffs in 1993. Open July and August. 122 Mohegan Trl., 401-466-5009.

map key North Light
The fourth lighthouse to attempt the shifting sands on Block Island's Sandy Point. The building was opened in 1993 as an interpretive center. National Wildlife Sanctuary trails lead to the lighthouse. No tower access. Corn Neck Rd., 401-466-3200.

map key Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge encompasses the northern tip of Block Island (Sandy Point) and includes the historic North Lighthouse. The shoreline of the refuge consists of a cobble beach that extends from the Settler's Rock parking area to Sandy Point and a sandy/cobble beach that extends several miles along the west side from Sandy Point to Great Salt Pond. The uplands of vegetated dunes provide a rookery for seagulls, and Sachem Pond is a feeding area for a wide variety of waterfowl. An ideal area for walking, bird watching and enjoying the view in all directions. Open sunrise–sunset. 401-364-9124,

map key Settler's Rock
Near a cobble beach on Rhode Island Sound, a rock with a plaque marks the landing site of the European settlers of Block Island in 1661. Located on the shore of Cow Cove. Corn Neck Rd., 401-466-3200.

map key Ferry Service
Ferries to Block Island departing from Galilee take approximately one hour, while the high-speed ferry, also departing from Galilee, takes 3 0minutes. Visitors can also take a ferry to Block Island from New London, Conn. and Montauk, New York.

Newport County

As a unique destination that offers an unparalleled look at American history along with an unmatched maritime and nature presence, Newport County will keep you coming back for more.

map keyBeavertail Lighthouse and Museum
Sitting at the tip of a peninsula, this lighthouse offers one of the most dramatic and beautiful ocean views of the Atlantic coastline that you will ever see. The present granite tower, just north of the original light, was erected in 1856. The assistant keeper’s quarters houses a museum featuring a fourth-order fresnel lens, models of many Rhode Island lighthouses and a pictorial history of the state’s lighthouses. Jamestown, 401-423-3270,

map keyThe Newport Exploration Center at Easton’s Beach/First Beach
Part of Boston’s famed New England Aquarium, featuring exhibits that showcase the diversity, importance and beauty of aquatic life and habitats and highlight critical aquatic conservation issues. Aquarium and programs emphasize species, habitats and issues critical to the Narragansett Bay region. Easton's Beach Rotunda, Memorial Blvd, Newport, 401-849-8430,

map keySachuest Point
Sachuest Point serves as an important stopover and wintering area for migratory birds. The refuge consists of approximately 250 acres of various habitats from salt and freshwater marshes, to grasslands to sandy beaches and dunes. Three miles of trails wind their way through upland areas and along the rocky shore. The observation platforms offer visitors panoramic views of refuge lands and abundant wildlife. The refuge is a great place to watch wildlife with more than 200 bird species present seasonally include harlequin ducks, scoters and eiders. Sachuest Point Dr., Middletown, 401-364-9124,

Fort Adams
As the largest coastal fortification in the United States, Fort Adams is an engineering and architectural masterpiece. See where the soldiers lived, enter the casemates, explore the tunnel system and climb the bastions for breathtaking views. Upcoming special events include military reenactments, music festivals and classic vehicle shows. Newport, 401-841-0707,

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, 401-222-6800,

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority offers a stress-free and environmentally friendly way to get to the beaches this summer — the RIPTA Beach Bus South County Express. Call 401-781-9400 or visit for ticket information.

  • Starting in late June or early July and running through the first week in August, RIPTA will provide roundtrip service to Salty Brine State Beach, Roger Wheeler State Beach and Scarborough State Beach, all located in Narragansett.
  • The service runs seven days a week, including holidays, from Cranston City Hall, Woonsocket River Island Park, North Providence City Hall, Central Falls (400 Dexter St.), Pawtucket City Hall and Providence (Exchange Terrace).
  • Tickets are round trip, must be purchased in advance and cost $3.50

Great spots for snapshots.

  • Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island These majestic bluffs rise up nearly 200 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and have been compared to parts of the Ireland coastline.

  • Cliff Walk, Newport This 3.5-mile scenic trail is perched over the ocean and affords spectacular views of Newport’s mansions and Narragansett Bay.

Tasty tips along the trail.

  • After a day exploring the Ocean State’s magnificent coast, stop at one of the state’s many clam shacks. Try classic clam cakes and chowder, or littlenecks, lobster and oysters. 

  • The ice cream, lemonade and smoothie shops in Rhode Island synonymous with the carefree days of spring and summer are also the perfect complement to an invigorating activity on Rhode Island’s coast.

Great side trips for outdoor fun:

  • Bristol’s Herreshoff Marine Museum features a collection of 60 original Herreshoff boats, steam engines, artifacts and brilliant photographs depicting America's greatest designer and builder. 1 Burnside St., Bristol, 401-253-5000,

  • Dedicated to preserving the culture of yachting, the Museum of Yachting, formerly located in Fort Adams State Park in Newport, now sits in a handsomely restored space inside the 1831 Aquidneck Mill on the IYRS campus in Newport and offers educational programs, exhibits featuring the America’s Cup gallery and the classic yacht collection, regattas and more. Museum of Yachting at IYRS, 4th Floor, Aquidneck Mill Building, 449 Thames Street, Newport,

Here are some tips on shopping along the trail.

  • Many boutiques along Thames Street and Bellevue Avenue in Newport offer stylist resort wear. Quaint shops line areas in Westerly and Narragansett and offer family-friendly beachwear and gear.

Did you know?

  • Newport is known as the sailing capital of the world and was home to the America’s Cup for 53 years.

  • Watch Hill Resort in Westerly operates the nation’s oldest carousel, established in 1850.

  • The word “quahog” (pronounced kaw-hog) comes from the Narragansett Indian word “poqauhock.”

  • During Demo Days at the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island, you can spend the day test paddling dozens of sea and whitewater kayaks, sit on tops and canoes. Mini-seminars are also held throughout the day. Contact the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island for a list of Demo Days this season. 888-SEA-KAYAK,

  • Take a chartered fishing excursion from one of Rhode Island’s coastal towns for a hands-on fishing experience.