Looking across the water from Newport, we couldn’t help but wonder what was waiting for us just over the Claiborne Pell Bridge! We had heard Jamestown would be a great day trip in Rhode Island, but we didn’t realize how many fun things to do there actually were. Join us as we take you on the Newport ferry to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, the Jamestown Rhode Island beaches, and much more!
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History of Jamestown Rhode Island
Situated on Conanicut Island, Jamestown was first settled by the Dutch in 1636 and used by fur traders. In 1638, the English would make agreements to use the island for grazing sheep.
However, years before the arrival of Europeans it was inhabited by the Native American Narragansett Tribe. Therefore, the island was named after Chief Canonicus, and Jamestown for King James II. Over the next century, it would become both an essential military stronghold and stop for travelers entering Narragansett Bay.
This included the British Army who invaded Jamestown at the start of the Revolutionary War. Forts were constructed in the late 19th century of which ruins can still be seen today. From the early 1900’s up until the present day it has become a vacation and tourist destination.
Getting to Jamestown Rhode Island
So how do you get to historic Jamestown Rhode Island from Newport? There are two fun ways that we cover below! You can take the Newport to Jamestown Ferry or drive over the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.
Newport to Jamestown Ferry
The Newport to Jamestown Ferry is a great way to get in between these famous Rhode Island destinations. Not only does it transport you between the two towns, but also stops off at many attractions along the way.
The hop-on-hop-off ferry goes to the Rose Island Lighthouse, Fort Adams, the Ann Street Pier, and Perotti Park. So you’ll be able to see these other attractions before all the great things to do in Jamestown!
Know that if you take the ferry you will only be able to explore downtown Jamestown Rhode Island. The other locations we mention in this post you need to drive to get to.
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge
The other way to get to Jamestown is by the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. Constructed in 1969, this unmistakable feature of Rhode Island has long been a landmark of the area. Although it will take you just a few minutes to drive over, the experience of going up and down this architectural wonder is worth it in itself!
Keep an eye out for the Jamestown Rhode Island beaches, and some of the famous lighthouses along the way. Also, make sure to have cash available to pay the $4 toll. If you continue on, the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge will take you from Jamestown to North Kingston Rhode Island.
→ 18 Fun Things to Do in Newport Rhode Island
7 Best Things to do in Jamestown Rhode Island
1. Beavertail Lighthouse Museum
Now that you know how to get there, let’s dive into the best things to do in Jamestown Rhode Island! One of your first stops should be the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum. You might be wondering why a lighthouse has an entire museum dedicated to it… Well, it’s actually the 3rd oldest lighthouse in the United States!
First constructed in 1749, Beavertail was the third lighthouse of the colonies. Unfortunately, the wooden structure burned down several times including at the hands of the British during the Revolutionary War.
The current one was built in 1856, and also is home to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum. After learning the history of the lighthouse you can also explore nature inside Beavertail State Park.
2. Visit the State Parks
We just mentioned Beavertail, but you should know there are numerous state parks to explore in Jamestown! Beavertail has a 2.3-mile trail that loops around the coast and is an easy walk for all ages. Fort Getty is a great place to go camping, see the old fortifications, and enjoy one of the rocky Jamestown Rhode Island beaches.
Nevertheless, a visit to Fort Wetherhill State Park might beat them all! Not only do the great granite walls and cannons have a deep historical significance, but there are numerous hiking trails with epic views of Narragansett Bay. Fort Wetherhill also plays host to many popular water activities and is known as one of the best scuba diving spots in New England.
3. Conanicut Island Lighthouse
Beavertail Lighthouse museum might get all the shine, but there’s another one that deserves a mention! The Conanicut Island Lighthouse opened in 1886, and the beacon is not its only special feature.
It’s actually attached to an eight-room wooden house that must be a museum in itself. Unfortunately, the grounds are now a private residence and not open to the public. The only way to see this lighthouse is by boat!
4. Jamestown Rhode Island Beaches
After you’ve taken in some of the historical sites, one of the best things to do in Jamestown Rhode Island is hit the beach! Also known as Jamestown Town Beach, Mackerel Cove is the spot to enjoy for locals and tourists alike.
The soft sands and calm currents of Mackerel Cove Beach make for the perfect place to swim and catch some rays on your afternoon in Jamestown. However, there is one caveat to this summer retreat! From early June to September it’s only open to residents of Jamestown.
If you’re not able to visit this exclusive beach, also check out nearby Jamestown Rhode Island beaches such as East Ferry and Sunset beach.
5. Jamestown Restaurants
While it’s easy to salivate over the seafood eateries in Newport, there’s a ton of amazing restaurants to try across the bay! As soon as you pull into the harbor you’ll see some colorful cafes right on the water.
If your looking for a fancy dinner or just drinks after all the best things to do in Jamestown Rhode Island, Simpatico is a fun spot to wind down! In the mood for something more casual? Head to East Ferry Market & Deli.
→ Best Food in Rhode Island: 11 Famous Eats from the Ocean State
6. New England Watson Farm
In 1789, Job Watson purchased some land on Conanicut Island. We’re sure at the time he couldn’t have imagined it would have lasted five generations and almost 200 years in his family!
In 1980 it was handed over to Historic New England and is maintained as a fully operational farm. On your visit to Jamestown you can take a tour of the grounds and see firsthand how they produce their grass-fed meat and wool.
7. Jamestown Windmill
Ready for one last piece of history? The Jamestown Windmill was built in 1787 and stayed in use until 1896. It’s located in the center of the island on famous Windmill Hill and surrounded by fertile farming lands and rolling hills.
Have any questions on the Newport to Jamestown ferry, or want to share your own favorite things to do in Jamestown Rhode Island? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Newport Rhode Island
Ultra Luxury – The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection – This former Vinderbilt mansion has been restored into one of the most exclusive hotels in Newport! Enjoy the rooftop bar for drinks in the summer while being just steps from the waterfront.
Fun Vacation– Attwater Hotel – Beautiful boutique hotel close to all the great attractions of Newport. Bed and breakfast feel, with a unique touch of class and stylish decor.
Bed & Breakfast – Bellevue House – Opening in 1828, Bellevue is known as the first and oldest hotel in Newport. Comfy accommodations and convenient location to the center of town.
For more places to stay in Newport RI you can explore the latest prices here!
USA Travel Planning
Flights: We always find great flights using Skyscanner and Kayak. This way you can plan your trip around the cheapest and most direct routes.
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld can be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic road trip!
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a tour of Fenway Park in Boston, skip the line at the Empire State Building in NYC, or go on a Sea Cave Kayak Tour in La Jolla California!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!