For many New Jersey residents, the summer months mean weekend trips to the Jersey Shore, where they can soak up the sun and enjoy the quaint small shore towns that line the Jersey coast. However, when looking to avoid the crowded beaches and Turnpike traffic, there’s another option for Jersey beachgoers: Rhode Island — and there’s nothing better than a trip up north in September, when the weather is cooling and the crowds are truly dwindling. The smallest state is home to some of the northeast’s best beaches and the crowd tends to be a fraction of the size. While Newport and Providence are the Rhode Island towns that typically come to mind, there is a small beach town right on the border of Connecticut called Westerly, which is about a 3-hour drive from Hoboken. The town has beautiful beaches, a historic downtown district for shopping, bars and restaurants right on the water, and family-friendly activities for all ages. If you are looking for a new spot for your next weekend getaway before the weather gets too cold, check out Westerly and all the fun things it has to offer. Read on for all the must-do activities in Westerly, Rhode Island.
The drive up to Rhode Island is about 3 to 4 hours from Hoboken and Jersey City, depending on traffic (oh, Tri-state area life). There are also direct trains that leave from Penn Station, NYC, and take somewhere between 3 and 4 hours as well.
Read More: Why Lake Placid is Worth a Visit in the Warmer Months
The state beach in Westerly is free to anyone, even non-residents. There are parking lots nearby if driving is necessary, but there are numerous hotels and Airbnbs that are within walking distance to the beach as well. Even on a beautiful weekend in the summer, the beach is rarely very crowded — so September weekends are especially peaceful and chill. There are also private beaches that hotels and Airbnbs may offer access to that will be even less crowded.
There are beach bars and restaurants along the Westerly beaches that allow for gorgeous ocean views while you sip on cocktails. Here are two must-try spots along the beach:
Paddy’s Beach Club | 159 Atlantic Avenue
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Paddy’s Beach Club serves up American food, has a 21+ tiki bar, and even has an all-day beach party on Sundays in the summer. It’s open throughout September, depending on the weather, from 12PM to 5PM every day through September 25th.
The Andrea Seaside Restaurant + Beach Bar | 89 Atlantic Avenue
The Andrea Seaside Restaurant and Beach Bar is a great option for those looking for a quieter dining experience and a more family-friendly atmosphere. This spot is known for its seafood + yummy cocktails. Pro tip: Make sure to try the s’mores dessert tray; it comes with a live flame to roast your own marshmallows!
Historic Downtown Westerly
Spend an afternoon strolling down High Street in historic downtown Westerly, a short drive from the beaches, where great boutiques and restaurants line the street. Grab an afternoon martini and a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from Perks & Corks and enjoy some vintage video games on the Nintendo 64 in the lounge. Then, hop across the street to ReReads Bookshop, a used bookstore where the walls are filled with seemingly endless options to look through. Check out the Living Sharks Museum right next door, the country’s first shark history and conservation museum, and learn all about different sharks and watch underwater footage by local filmmakers.
^ Perks & Corks
If you’re looking to grab a good drink, The Malted Barley serves up local brews and soft pretzels. Tapped Apple Cidery & Winery is across the street and serves its own ciders and apple wines. All the wines are vegan and made with local Rhode Island apples. The tasting flight is a must-try, offering 6 samples of either ciders, wines, or a cocktail mix of the two. All the ciders are unique and full of flavor, including the Apple Ginger, Blueberry Vanilla, and Brown Sugar Peach. Enjoy a customizable charcuterie board while you sip. Down the street, right next to the Pawcatuck River, which draws out the state line between Rhode Island and Connecticut, is Bridge Restaurant and Raw Bar. This riverside restaurant has a beautiful outdoor patio and a delicious new American menu, often accompanied by live music.
^ Tapped Apple Cidery
Whether traveling with kids, or just looking for a fun activity to try out after a day at the beach, water sports are fun at any age. Purple Ape is right down the street from the Westerly beaches and offers water sport rentals including hydrobikes, kayaks, paddle boats, and paddleboards. The shop is located right on Winnapaug Bay, which offers 3 miles of calm water to enjoy a relaxing kayak or paddleboat ride and watch the sunset over the beach, see some local wildlife, or even check out the popular clamming spots. Jet skis are also available to rent for the bay or to bring in the ocean.
See More: Your Guide to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Ice Cream + Gelato
It’s not a beach vacation without a trip to get some local ice cream or gelato. Pompelmo Gelateria has delicious gelato flavors and even offers vegan gelato options. Mel’s Downtown Creamery is technically across the small river in Connecticut, but it’s easily walkable from downtown Westerly. The vintage 1950s diner aesthetic will transport customers to a different era while enjoying homemade milkshakes and giant ice cream sundaes.
Whether booking your next girls’ beach trip or planning a family vacation, Westerly can be a great option for groups of all ages. This area can also be a great fall destination, with a gorgeous drive down I-95 allowing for optimal changing-leaf views. There are plenty of local wineries to enjoy and farms to pick your own sunflowers — all guaranteeing a fun, relaxing getaway in any season.