15 Best Things to Do in Westerly, RI

Westerly, RI
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On the westernmost edge of Rhode Island lies a town whose name matches its geographical location: Westerly.

This beachside community is teeming with colonial and Native American history, natural attractions, and modern destinations fit for the whole family.

It was once had a flourishing granite and stone-cutting industry, with traces of the trade still visible in various parts of the town.

But today, it has turned into a favorite summer destination, with the population doubling during the peak season.

However, it still has other events and attractions to see during winter—if you know where to look.

This list will help you find the top spots to add to your itinerary.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Westerly, RI:

Cruise the Gentle Currents of Pawcatuck River

View of Pawcatuck River
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The meandering Pawcatuck River borders most of Westerly, making this body of water an important resource for the whole community.

It’s also the site of many local events, such as the famous Pawcatuck River Duck Race and the ethereal River Glow festival.

But if large and crowded community events aren’t your thing, you can head to the northeastern portions.

These segments are more isolated, surrounded by thick forests and swamps on every bank.

View of Pawcatuck River
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You can join a river tour on a kayak or a canoe and explore these scenic sights, including Grills Preserve, Riverwood Preserve, and several bridges traversing the river.

It’s a great way to spot some local wildlife like birds, small mammals, and colorful insects.

If you want to test your angling skills, species like chain pickerel, rainbow trout, and striped bass are swimming underneath the surface.

Stay Awhile at Wilcox Park

View of Wilcox Park
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At the heart of Westerly lies a favorite local destination, beautiful and scenic Wilcox Park.

Spanning 50 acres, this outdoor facility serves as a gathering place for residents and workers living in Westerly’s downtown.

It is named after Stephen Wilcox, Jr., a brilliant industrial-era inventor born and raised in the town.

Upon arrival, you’d see the gorgeous grounds surrounded by many historic buildings.

View of Wilcox Park
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There’s also a fishing pond usually filled with freshwater game and friendly waterfowl who approach visitors for food.

You’re also welcome to explore the historical statues and structures of the park, which include the serene Wilcox Memorial Fountain.

Other activities include jogging the well-paved trails, having picnics on the numerous benches, and joining the many events held in the park.

These include Shakespeare plays, live music concerts, and fireworks displays.

View of Wilcox Park
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Join the Virtu Art Festival

The Virtu Art Festival is a time-honored celebration that brings out the creative and festive spirit of the Westerly Community.

If you’re an art aficionado, then this is something you shouldn’t miss while in town.

On a weekend in May, thousands of people from all over gather to see various artworks, live performances, and interactive exhibits.

More than 150 artists and craftsmen from the town and the state erect stalls to showcase their masterpieces.

You’d find stunning paintings, artisanal furniture, handmade jewelry, pottery, home decor, and other exquisite products made by masterful hands.

While you’re browsing, you’d be serenaded with live music by talented local bands.

And, of course, there will be lots of food stalls offering American staples as well as the unique seafood cuisine of Rhode Island.

Play Under the Sun at Misquamicut State Beach

View of Misquamicut State Beach
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Thanks to Westerly’s location, it’s blessed with beautiful beaches that other cities and towns in Rhode Island can only dream of.

Misquamicut State Beach is arguably the most popular, a half-mile stretch of ivory white sand facing the Atlantic.

One of the most prominent structures here is the large pavilion, which can serve as a gathering area and shower access to rinse off after swimming.

View of Misquamicut State Beach
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On the beach itself, there is plenty of space for activities like sunbathing, strolling, and quick dips in the deep blue waters.

There’s even a playground for kids.

If weather permits, you can try body surfing, parasailing, or boogie-boarding on the deeper parts of the sea.

Make sure to stay within the lifeguarded areas to ensure your safety.

Sample Tasty Drinks at Grey Sail Brewing

Grey Sail Brewing is the perfect stopover if you need a cold drink after touring some of the attractions here in Westerly.

It’s set in a historic building facing Pawcatuck River, over time becoming a favorite gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

Within the repurposed interiors, the owners installed a brewing facility to manufacture a wide range of premium beverages using quality ingredients.

Check out their selection of tasty ales, coffee stouts, India pale ales, and other craft beers.

They also hold various events on their spacious grounds, ranging from live music concerts to Halloween nights.

It’s a fun spot to mingle with locals and drink your worries away—just don’t bring the kids.

Don’t forget to bring home a pack or two to open during lazy days or special weekends.

Pick Your Own Produce at Manfredi Farms

Located away from the population centers, Manfredi Farms is a peaceful little retreat that’s perfect for the whole family.

The owners are farmers dedicated to growing various vegetables and fruits that they sell or use as decoration on the farm.

In fact, you’d see their greenhouses, fences, and walls decorated with their large pumpkins every Halloween.

You’re welcome to harvest your own produce during your visit, with berries, tomatoes, and even flowers available for picking.

Plants are not the only attraction here, as the destination has a petting zoo filled with friendly and cuddly farm animals.

So go ahead and pet, play, and feed donkeys, sheep, chickens, and other creatures.

On occasion, the farm will hold events like Halloween shows and storybook parties featuring well-known princesses.

Watch Birds at Napatree Point Conservation Area

View of Napatree Point Conservation Area
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Napatree Point Conservation Area is the westernmost point of Westerly, and by extension, Rhode Island.

It’s a long sand bar that juts left towards the coastline of Connecticut, isolated from the rest of the state by the affluent Watch Hill neighborhood.

Because of its pristine state, this land feature has become the home of many coastal and aquatic species, including the endangered piping plover.

View of Napatree Point Conservation Area
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Visitors are still welcome in the protected area, especially those looking for a peaceful and less-crowded destination.

The fine sand beaches, marshes, and marvelous sceneries make Napatree Point Conservation Area a favorite attraction for nature lovers.

And if you’re a birdwatcher, you’d have a great time spotting the numerous migratory birds who come to nest and frolic on the sandbar.

View of Napatree Point Conservation Area
Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Sunbathing at East Beach

If you want a less-crowded option other than Misquamicut State Beach but don’t want to head away from the city, East Beach is a great alternative.

It’s the westernmost public beach in Westerly, spanning two miles long in front of the Watch Hill village.

And it offers the same beautiful views as Misquamicut State Beach, albeit with the addition of Watch Hill lighthouse on the farthest end.

You can go ahead and sunbathe on the fine sand, splash at the edge of the sea, or go parasailing with a local outfitter.

Strolling is also a great activity, especially during sunset when everything is starting to settle down.

And if you reach the end of the beach, you’d see a majestic and fabled colonial house, one that you might have heard from Taylor Swift’s song The Last Great American Dynasty.

Trek the Trails of Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park

For nature lovers and budding geologists, Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park offers unique experiences that you will surely enjoy.

This 134-acre attraction is the premier example of a recessional moraine glacial landscape, with various features that formed during the past ice ages.

So during your visit, you’d see small glacial canyons, boulders in unusual places, as well as moraine ridges overlooking the landscape.

In fact, many geologists have considered this mix of features as globally unique, so you won’t find any other place like this anywhere else.

And even though you might not be familiar with all these concepts, the scenic park is still a worthwhile visit.

Explore the trails that follow valleys, ridges, and steep passages that bring you to panoramic lookouts and tranquil ponds.

Catch a Show at Granite Theatre

Front View of Granite Theatre
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If you’re a fan of performance art, then head over to the Granite Theatre, a spot for all the amazing shows produced by Westerly’s talented groups.

Upon arrival, you’ll immediately see the immaculate facade and Greek Revival architecture of an old church.

It was built in 1849 but has since been repurposed into the beautiful theater that it is today.

Since the turnover in 2000, the venue has hosted more than 160 productions, with around 8 full shows every year.

In the comfort of the modern interiors, you’d get to watch stunning performances and intriguing stories told by imaginative playwrights.

So if you’re planning on catching one of their shows, be sure to check out their calendar and buy a ticket!

See the Exhibits at Living Sharks Museum

Sharks have made their mark in popular culture as fearsome creatures that hunt unwary swimmers.

Living Sharks Museum wants to overcome this bad reputation and showcase the creatures as they really are: majestic predators who play an important role in the marine ecosystem.

The attraction is, in fact, the first museum of its kind in the US.

Here, shark fossils, carcasses, and other artifacts are displayed to raise awareness about their history, exploitation, and present condition.

You’d be surprised at how many new insights you’d gain about them during your visit.

Plus, you’d get to stand up close to massive specimens of hammerheads, great whites, and other well-known species.

What’s cooler than that?

Go Sportfishing in the Atlantic

If you want to see real-life sea creatures and not museum pieces, then a trip to the Atlantic is what you need.

Since Westerly sits next to the ocean, the town has a long-standing maritime heritage that lives on until today.

There are many fishermen and local businesses that offer half-day or full-day charters, and they are some of the best in the region.

These people know the sea like the back of their hands: the tides, currents, and weather during certain seasons.

So you can trust them to lead you to the best sports fishing spots near the coast or in deeper waters.

Try catching freshwater game fish like Atlantic salmon, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, mahi-mahi, and other large species.

If you’re lucky or skilled enough, you might bring home a catch that you’d be proud of.

Check Out Old Buildings at Westerly Downtown Historic District

View of Westerly Downtown Historic District
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The streets around Wilcox Park are where you’d find more of the age-old structures that have been around since the 1900s and even earlier.

The Downtown Historic District is a marker of an era that saw rapid industrialization, with buildings designed with architecture typical of those built during the Roaring Twenties.

One of the most prominent of these is the Westerly Library, with its light yellow walls and brick red roofs.

It still functions as a library up to this day, but most tourists visit it to marvel at the regal facade.

View of Westerly Downtown Historic District
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The building of the Industrial Trust Company has a more intricate exterior, with columned entrances exhibiting Greek Revival designs.

Similar architectural motifs are used on the Westerly Municipal Court, which stands in front of Wilcox Park.

It has a more intimidating allure, with the columns standing much taller compared to the Industrial Trust Company building.

Try Local Cuisine at Favorite Restaurants

Because of the community's nautical heritage, Westerly is a hotspot for delicious and savory seafood dishes.

What’s best is that the ingredients are freshly harvested, so you’re guaranteed tasty gastronomic delights in every restaurant you visit.

Two Little Fish is near Misquamicut State Beach, and it’s a well-known beachfront destination for lobster rolls, fish ‘n’ chips, and a selection of alcoholic beverages.

At Paddy’s Beach Club, you can get more kid-friendly options, but there are still lots of seafood dishes available like clam chowders, grilled salmon, and shrimp.

Plus, they have seats right on the beach itself for a unique dining experience.

And if you want Japanese cuisine that uses the bounty from Westerly’s seas, head over to Koi Japanese Cuisine for sushi and other finger food.

To the eastern edge of Misquamicut State Beach, an exciting destination awaits the whole family: Atlantic Beach Park.

This amusement park is an institution in Westerly, having been around since 1921 and owned by the same family.

The most prominent attraction here is the Herschell-Spillman Carousel, a fun ride for kids and the kids at heart.

In addition, there’s an arcade section offering old classics as well as revamped versions, giving you plenty of choices for whatever kind of game you’re in the mood to play.

At Windjammer Surf Bar, you can get a selection of snacks and drinks that’s perfect for your stay on the beach.

What’s great is that the bar has an ocean-front patio that leads directly into the ivory sands and the Atlantic.

And if you’re craving something sweet and cool, Dusty’s Original Dairy Bar is another great spot for some yummy soft-serve ice cream.

Final Thoughts

Westerly has an excellent blend of history, nature, culture, and recreation to cater to all ages and preferences.

From historic districts to panoramic sandbars, from engaging theater shows to art festivals, there’s a lot of wonders waiting for curious travelers.

To ensure that you won’t miss any of these, reference this list when making your itinerary!