Best spots to go Surfing in Rhode Island
While you can drive through it in a heartbeat, Rhode Island boasts over 400 miles of beautiful New England coastline. “The Ocean State” builds its regal reputation from its charming seaside towns, exciting regatta, and grandiose mansions. But it holds another secret with its picturesque coastal location. Rhode Island is one of America’s best surfing gems that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
When surfing started going mainstream in the 60s and 70s, Rhode Island took a back seat thanks to its dreadfully cold winters. Wetsuit technology wasn’t up to par back then, and more surfers flocked to the Pacific coast. But the latest innovations continue to bring more surfers back to Rhode Island to ride its swells. And the growing buzz is making Rhode Island one of the desirable surf spots on the Atlantic coast.
If you’re planning a New England road trip vacation, I highly recommend adding a surf trip to Rhode Island. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or need first-time lessons, Rhode Island holds some of the best surf on the East Coast. To help plan your trip, here are my top surf spots in Rhode Island.
Best places to go Surfing in Rhode Island
Rhode Island Surfing Info | Rhode Island Surfing Tips | Best Rhode Island Surf Spots | Point Judith | Narragansett Town Beach | Scarborough State Beach | Easton’s Beach | Second Beach | South Shore Beach | East Matunuck State Beach
Rhode Island Surfing Info
Despite being the smallest state in America, Rhode Island is the crown jewel of New England surfing. Rhode Island surfers usually flock to Narragansett or Newport in search of consistent swells. Although you’ll find a few small pockets outside of Narragansett and Newport, the two popular areas produce the best surf.
Unlike the warmer waters of California or Hawaii, Rhode Island surfers face more frigid temperatures. The balmy summer months are relatively flat, and storms tend to veer inland to leave surfers hanging. And when you throw in the hordes of summer tourists, swimmers clog up space on the rare chances of rideable swells.
But once the tourist crowds disperse by fall, this is where the fortitude of Rhode Island surfers is really tested. In September and October, Hurricane season is in full force, and swells begin to pick up along the Atlantic coast. And during these early fall months, water temperatures are still bearable for most surfers.
When winter arrives, this is the time for the hardiest surfers who don’t mind braving the extreme conditions. From winter to spring, Rhode Island waters can be dangerously cold, and experienced surfers are usually the only ones out there. Swells tend to be rougher than the fall, and many of the best breaks are along rocky outcrops.
Rhode Island Surfing Tips
When you’re surfing in Rhode Island, there are several dangers to watch out for on the water. Before you venture into the waters of this New England coast, read these crucial tips to prepare yourself:
- Wetsuits Required – Unless you plan on twiddling your thumbs during the flat, crowded summer surf, throw on a wetsuit in Rhode Island. The waters here can get dangerously cold and a wetsuit is a requirement when searching for the biggest swells. If you’re an intrepid surfer braving the Rhode Island winter, the water often gets to around freezing. Not wearing a wetsuit in these conditions is a recipe for hypothermia.
- Watch Out for Rocks – Rhode Island has a rare coast that was carved glaciers millions of years ago and rocks present a major hazard for surfers. Part of the challenge is navigating around rocks and the other is avoiding rocky bottoms. If you’re unaware of your surroundings, it’s easy to break your board or your face. Narragansett is a particular area to be cautious of its rock bottom breaks. –
Crowded Surf Breaks – Given its small size, Rhode Island doesn’t produce an overwhelming amount of surf breaks. Narragansett and Newport are the favorite surf zones amongst locals and things can get congested when many out-of-town surfers drop in. When things get hectic, proper etiquette is expected to avoid a nasty collision with another surfer.
Best Rhode Island Surf Spots
To find the best Rhode Island surf spots, you don’t have to venture far. It’s well-known that Narragansett and Newport are the two biggest surfing hotspots in Rhode Island. Many local surfers frequent these surf spots, and they attract others across New England. But you can also find some less-crowded spots that still provide solid swells.
1. Point Judith
The reigning king of Rhode Island surfing is the rocky Point Judith near Narragansett Bay. A lighthouse near the rugged cliffs signals the primary break at this revered surf spot.
Many surfers rave about its rough swells and long rides beside the rocky point. In fact, Point Judith is widely regarded to be the single best New England surf location. Given its lack of sandy shores, surfers will find minimal tourists regardless of the season.
While the lighthouse offers breaks in either direction, there are four other distinct surf spots to scope out waves. Surfers can veer east or south of the lighthouse for big swells or head to The Aves when there are onshore winds. And for the most dangerous surf conditions, the Quays produce rides only for the bravest of surfers.
*The waters around Point Judith are often busy with boat traffic, extremely cold, and have dangerous swells. I wouldn’t recommend this area unless you’re a surfer with TONS of experience.
2. Narragansett Town Beach
Narragansett Town Beach is a classic New England-style beach with some of the best surf breaks in Rhode Island. The sandy shores just outside of Narragansett can get crowded, but the swells are a playground for surfers. Its long shoreline stretches from the historic Towers landmark to The Narrows, where the Pettaquamscutt River empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The waters of Narragansett are some of the cleanest in New England, and the beautiful beachfront can accommodate thousands of daily visitors. Surfers can head to the southern end of the beach to find the area reserved for surfing. But if you’re a hardy surfer, prepare to bring your wetsuit since the biggest swells typically arrive in November. There are plenty of rideable waves throughout the winter but make sure you dress for the chilly weather. Since it can get mighty crowded at Narragansett, I’d advise showing up around sunrise to get a decent spot.
Although the Narragansett surf is among the best along the east coast, it comes at a price for visitors. The town charges a $15 fee to access the beach, a $10 parking fee on weekdays, and a $15 parking fee on weekends. These fees only apply to non-residents to make the beach more local-friendly. But if you have the change to spare, it’s among my personal favorite Rhode Island surf spots.
3. Scarborough State Beach
Just south of Narragansett Town Beach, Scarborough is another clean shoreline with rideable waves. The state beach has loads of amenities such as showers, restrooms, and a snack bar. Surfers typically migrate to the northern end of the shoreline since days can get quite crowded. Although some areas are off-limits to surfers during summer, the best swells at Scarborough arrive in winter. The most consistent waves usually occur in January, and the frigid winter waters draw out most of the crowds.
Waves are better around low tide, but this beach has lots of rocks that should keep you alert. Although swells get rough on occasion, there are plenty of waves rideable for less-experienced surfers. Since Scarborough directly faces the ocean, there’s a decent chance of lots of seaweed in the water. It can be annoying but a minor nuisance for a fun day of surfing.
Similar to other Rhode Island state beaches, Scarborough charges a day-use fee for visitors. From April to November, non-residents pay a fee of $8 or $9. But the fees are waived by winter when the swells are typically cleaner.
4. Easton’s Beach
Easton’s Beach is one of Newport’s gorgeous beaches and offers some of Rhode Island’s most reliable breaks. Groundswells tend to be stronger in winter like other places in Rhode Island, but Easton’s summers are among the best in New England. Surfers from across the northeast flock to Newport to get a taste of the action. And there are lots of smaller waves at Easton’s that make it a fantastic spot for beginning surfers. Newport actually has a storied history that dates back to the 1960s when it hosted some of the earliest Eastern Surfing Association championships.
Easton’s Beach also earns rave reviews in my books for the spectacular views from the shoreline. The nearby Cliff Walk presents stunning oceanfront vistas of Newport and its pristine shores. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a lobster roll at the snack shack to refuel. If you drive to Easton’s Beach, there is a $15 parking fee on weekdays and $25 on weekends. That eats into your pocket, but Easton’s is a beautiful spot in Newport to catch swells.
5. Second (Sachuest) Beach
Just a five-minute drive from Easton’s Beach, Second Beach is your alternative for consistent swells in Newport. Its wide, sandy shores give surfers plenty of space to search for rideable waves amongst other beachgoers. Wave conditions at Second are similar to Easton’s, and summers can be great here for newbies. But for veteran surfers, winter is still the best time to hit the swells. Strong rip currents can still be a hazard, so you should always be on your toes and watch surf reports.
Second Beach may be Rhode Island’s cleanest beach in my books, and it has all the amenities for a fun surf day. There’s a concession stand, restrooms, and shower stations to rinse off after catching surf breaks. And no rocks or shells in the water is a bonus for your feet. You may find giant clumps of seaweed on occasion, but it’s generally better than other beaches in Newport. But the real downer is that Second Beach has the highest parking fees anywhere in Rhode Island.
6. South Shore Beach
South Shore Beach doesn’t boast the swells as other Rhode Island shores, but I love its scenic location. Near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts state line, the rocky South Shore Beach entices visitors with surreal sunsets and a pristine nature reserve. The shoreline offers access to the adjacent Goosewing Beach Preserve, one of Rhode Island’s most picturesque spots. Before you hit the swells, wander the area to marvel at sandy dunes, coastal ponds, and rich birdlife.
The waves at South Shore Beach are a little harder to predict, but the frequent seclusion gives you space to navigate the swells. Similar to other Rhode Island beaches, winter brings the most consistent surf. March provides the best conditions, and waves usually come from groundswells. But the rip currents at South Shore can be dangerous, so less experienced surfers should consult lifeguards before entering the water.
If you plan to visit South Shore Beach during the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, prepare to pay for fees upon arrival. Beach passes cost $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends. But for hardy surfers, the winter swells help you avoid the summer beach fees.
7. East Matunuck State Beach
With 144 acres of frontage on Block Island Sound, East Matunuck State Beach is another beautiful surf spot. Waves tend to be calm but pick up in intensity during the fall and winter. November is a great month for surfers at East Matunuck where many swells produce rideable waves. Groundswells produce much of the surf, and the clean waters make for gorgeous breaks.
Although beautiful, East Matunuck does produce some hazards to remain on high alert. Rip currents can be strong and don’t underestimate the danger of the undertow during rough surf. There are also lots of rocks around the beach to be cautious of while scoping out swells. The beach also has quality amenities to refresh yourself after a busy surf day. You’ll find a concession stand with plenty of food options, bathrooms, and showers to rinse off.
Did I miss any Great spots for Surfing in Rhode Island? Let me know in the comments below.
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