This Rhode Island scenic drive is delightful any season of the year, but with fall foliage the added splash of color deepens the experience and appreciation of the Rhode Island coastline and surrounding villages.
This is a one-way 61-mile scenic drive on Route 1A along Block Island Sound until turning North to follow the western shore of Narragansett Bay. The drive eventually hooks up with Route 138 east over to historic Newport and the scenic 10-mile Ocean Drive.
Along the way are plenty of detours for lighthouses, wildlife refuge trails, beach walking, and quiet village rambles in autumn splendor.
Let’s get going…
Start the drive by heading south on U.S. Highway 1A from Westerly. Look for the sign to Watch Hill Road, which takes you out to Watch Hill, a marvelously preserved Victorian seaside town.
Attractions in Watch Hill include The Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest continuously operating merry-go-round carousel in the U.S., and the Watch Hill Lighthouse, a granite and brick-lined 19th Century masterpiece. The Lighthouse has no parking so you’ll park in town and stroll out the 15-minutes it takes to get there.
Continue the scenic drive by retracing the road back to US 1A and then heading east. Route 1A merges with Route 1 as you drive towards Charlestown and the Point Judith Area. This part of the drive has numerous beaches, and turnoffs for salt ponds and wildlife refuges protected by the natural beach barriers on Block Island Sound.
Follow Route 1 until it intersects with Route 108 south and head down to Point Judith and the Junction of Route 1A. Drive the short distance to Point Judith Lighthouse, which was built in 1857. Here you’ll also get another great view of Block Island and its cliffs on the horizon.
Take Route 1A North to Narragansett Pier and on to farms and countryside surrounding the Pettaquamscutt River. This area of stonewalls and forests once housed many Rhode Island plantations that gave the state its formal name of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
In the fall foliage season the forests are ablaze with autumn and add a satisfying splash of color to this coastline tour.
Continue the scenic drive north until it meets Route 138 and then head east on Route 138 over Jamestown Bridge to Conanicut Island, and then over the magnificent Newport Bridge into the city of Newport.
Newport is on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island, and the final leg of this fall foliage scenic drive. It is one of my favorite cities in New England – anytime of the year – but especially during autumn.
After the Newport Bridge follow the signs to the Transportation Center. Stay on the main road as it winds through the harbor area, and eventually becomes Memorial Boulevard until it meets Bellevue Avenue on the right.
Ocean Drive is a 10-mile route that starts on Bellevue Avenue and follows Ocean Avenue around a rocky peninsular with fishing coves, swimming beaches, and public parks.
The Ocean Avenue part of the drive is probably the most scenic with magnificent houses on rocky necks amidst the backdrop of full-force Atlantic Ocean. Brenton State Park is a halfway point on Ocean Drive, and is popular for picnics and flying kites.
As you head out of the park you’re heading back to Newport Harbor, and pass the Castle Hill Lighthouse, Hammersmith Farm, and Fort Adams Park.
The Fort Adams State Park is on Harrison Avenue, and you’ll turn left at the next intersection, and left again onto Halidon Avenue. Continue right onto Wellington Avenue and you’ll pass by King Park on your left, which is at the southern end of Newport Harbor, and leads you back into the city center where the tour ends.
Look for other articles in this series of fall foliage scenic drives. Or if you can’t wait you can pick up the complete scenic drive free report containing these and other New England scenic drives, along with detailed route coverage and attractions, at his New England vacations Guide site.
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