The smallest state in the USA, tiny Rhode Island has only 1,545 square miles (4,001 km2) to show. With such limited space — even some national parks are bigger — you need to do the most with what you have, and this New England state certainly does that. But where to stay in Rhode Island for the best experience?
Home to some of the Northeast’s best attractions, Newport is a place to stay in Rhode Island that has something for every visitor. Yet the relaxed seaside vibe alone makes a stay here worth it.
Providence, Bristol and Block Island are other appealing options for where to stay when visiting Rhode Island. Yes, for its small size, Rhode Island is loaded with beauty.
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Newport – Where to stay for seaside charm
Calling Aquidneck Island home, Newport offers everything that you associate with Rhode Island. Come to experience healthy outdoor scenery, fascinating history and quintessential New England nightlife.
On the island’s western side, sheltered from the open ocean, Newport Harbor makes up the heart of town. Eateries, bars, shops, yachts — there are many reason to make Newport Harbor your base.
Across the island, but just a mile (1.6 km) away from the action, the Atlantic Ocean brilliantly laps the shore. To best take it in, stroll the mandatory Newport Cliff Walk brilliantly tracing the coastline.
Picture crashing waves on one side and historic mansions on the other.
For history buffs, touring one of those sprawling mansions is the icing on a day in Newport. The jaw-dropping The Breakers was erected by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in the 1800s, and one thing is certain: No expenses were spared.
Newport hotels (for obvious reasons) can get steep, especially during the Memorial Day-to-Labor Day high season. But don’t let that put you off if you travel on a budget; the neighboring Middletown lets your dollars last longer.
Middletown also boasts the aptly named beaches of Second Beach and Third Beach (Easton Beach connecting Newport and Middletown is the first) and the always peaceful Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, which on its own is a must-visit spot.
Best hotels in Newport
- Hammetts Hotel – For access to the activity-full Newport Harbor, it doesn’t get better than the Hammetts Hotel. Add to that modern and comfy rooms, some offering water view, where you happily recharge your batteries.
- Cliffside Inn – The Cliffside Inn is the ultimate base for the iconic Newport Cliff Walk beginning just steps away. This Victorian hotel is set away from restaurants and shops but makes that up with its own unique Atlantic perspectives.
- The Sea Breeze Inn – Middletown’s The Sea Breeze Inn proves that you don’t have to break the bank to stay in the Newport area. Guests love the stylish decor, nicely prepared breakfast and views of the Easton Pond, all with the beach within a 0.5-mile (0.8 km) walk.
Providence – Where to stay for a city getaway
Providence is an option for where to stay in Rhode Island with a unique year-round appeal. This is the state’s vibrating capital and biggest city where students replace tourists come Labor Day.
A renowned institution, Brown University is in the finest school club there is — the Ivy League. Enter the gates to Brown’s main campus area, sitting on College Hill, to experience the elite environment for yourself.
Here, you’re surrounded by both ambitious students and historic red-brick buildings. A shining example of the latter, the 1770 University Hall is one of only seven college buildings built before the American revolution still standing.
Nearby, Benefit Street showcases more historic College Hill structures. Especially keep your eye out for The Providence Athenaeum, an iconic Greek Revival-style library founded in 1836.
Art lovers flock to College Hill’s Rhode Island School of Design Museum, or just the RISD Museum, presenting fascinating art of diverse cultures and different times. It holds a collection of over 100,000 pieces, many of which are created by school alumni.
The College Hill neighborhood and Downtown Providence are separated only by Providence River, making sightseeing effortless and allowing the up-and-coming student vibe to spread freely through the city.
Downtown Providence is Rhode Island’s number one hub. Enjoy a fine selection of trendy restaurants, friendly watering holes and maybe a Broadway show at Providence Performing Arts Center.
Although there’s no Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan-like jungle, numerous bridges across Providence, Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket Rivers offer magnificent photo opportunities against the backdrop of the downtown area’s rising cityscape.
What’s that illumination? On select nights, Waterfire braziers light up Providence’s rivers, a popular event for visitors of all ages.
Best hotels in Providence
- Christopher Dodge House – Providing 14 rooms in a red-brick Italianate mansion from 1858, the Christopher Dodge House is one of the best bed and breakfasts in Rhode Island. Start the day with yummy homemade breakfast and take full advantage of the cozy common area, complete with a wood stove, a neat spot for reading or checking your email.
- Residence Inn – Prefer a modern place to stay at the heart of Rhode Island’s capital? Residence Inn by Marriott provides the hassle-free comfort that you expect from a major hotel chain, within walking distance of Providence attractions and universities.
Bristol – Where to stay off the beaten path
Newport and Providence are well-established players within the tourist industry. To try something more off the beaten path, consider the idyllic Bristol for where to stay when visiting Rhode Island.
Beautifully situated between Mount Hope and Narragansett Bays, Bristol was one of Rhode Island’s five rotating capitals (Providence, Newport, East Greenwich and Kingston were the other) until 1854.
You can feel that history on Bristol’s main drag, Hope Street, framed by imposing mansions with carefully manicured gardens and swaying American flags; picture that quintessential New England town.
Want to enter one of those grand homes? Tour the 1810 Linden Place erected by one of the time’s most powerful Rhode Island families, the DeWolfs.
Then succumb to all the other Hope Street offerings: Have a coffee to go, get that trinket for the memory shelf back home or why not sit down for a meal — this is friendly small-town America at its best.
What if you need more stimulation than the blissful Bristol? Knowing all about convenience, Bristol is located within 30 minutes of both Providence and Newport.
Block Island – Where to stay to escape it all
To get away from it all, no place to stay in Rhode Island beats Block Island. This destination, a 1-hour ferry ride (or 30 minutes’ trip with the seasonal high-speed catamaran) from the mainland, seems to have stopped in time.
Make acquaintance with Block Island’s only town: New Shoreham.
Its Old Harbor District comprises 42 historic buildings, most built in the 1800s. Independent shops, fresh-seafood serving restaurants and iconic hotels, such as the National Hotel, form a time capsule with all the distractions you need for a good time — not less, not more.
As distinctive as the history-filled downtown area is Block Island’s coastline, featuring 17 untouched miles (27 km) perfect for hiking, cycling, picnicking or just lounging.
But even on such a scenic island, there can only be one winner.
A sight like no other, the Mohegan Bluffs rise 150 feet (46 m) from the beach on Block Island’s southern shore. The rugged beach, crashing Atlantic Ocean and legendary 141-step wooden staircase — make sure not to miss it.
Best hotels on Block Island
- National Hotel – Majestically shining in white, the 46-room National hotel greets ferries docking in the Old Harbor (which is most of them). On top of the best location in town, this hotel boasts a popular restaurant, Tap & Grille.
- Rose Farm Inn – A home away from home, the Rose Farm Inn invites you to relax on its verdant 20-acre property. Bed down here to enjoy well-needed calm, just a 0.6-mile (1 km) walk from the ferry landing and activity of Old Harbor.
- Old Town Inn – Search beyond Old Harbor District to find budget-friendly places to stay on Block Island. Hidden inland, Old Town Inn rewards guests, who don’t mind trying the road less traveled, with passionately curated grounds and breakfasts.
Where to stay in Rhode Island FAQ
For its smallest-in-the-USA size, the array of opportunities in Rhode Island is nothing but impressive. Newport boasting a gorgeous cliff walk and extravagant The Breakers mansion is on top of many bucket lists, but Bristol, Providence and Block Island are other appealing options for where to stay in Rhode Island.
Although both Newport and Providence are great options for where to stay in Rhode Island, they are so for very different reasons. While Newport is a classy seaside town offering a relaxed vacation vibe, Providence is Rhode Island’s dynamic hub boosted by a never-ending influx of high-spirited students.
Keep in mind that as it’s only a 45-minute drive between the two, you can easily visit both during the same Rhode Island visit.
Summer means beach time in Rhode Island. Newport offers its own Easton Beach and effortless access to the neighboring Middletown’s Second Beach and Third Beach. Block Island provides 17 miles (27 km) of pristine shoreline, meaning a nice beach is never far away.
There are many cool and unique places to stay in Rhode Island. The Cliffside Inn stands out both for its elegant details and location right by the legendary Newport Cliff Walk, the Christopher Dodge House is a heartwarming bed and breakfast set in an Italian-style Providence mansion and the Rose Farm Inn on Block Island boasts everything you love about New England — take your pick!
The perfect length of a Rhode Island trip depends on your ambitions. If you’re planning an ultimate Rhode Island itinerary — covering the trio of Newport, Providence and Block Island — allow a week or more to fully capture the state’s charm.