Known for: rural charm, history, open spaces, water views
Good for: families, nature-lovers, biking, fishing
Jamestown occupies Conanicut Island, the second largest island in Narragansett Bay after Aquidneck Island, which is occupied by Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth. Of course, this is Rhode Island, so don’t let the term “second biggest” mislead you: Conanicut Island is nine miles long by one mile wide.
The island is connected to the mainland at Saunderstown by the Jamestown-Verrazzano Bridge (named for the Italian explorer who visited Narragansett Bay in 1524), and to Aquidneck Island by the iconic Newport Bridge (officially the Claiborne Pell Bridge), which is depicted on the Rhode Island commemorative quarter. Route 138 runs across both bridges, easily connecting South County with Jamestown, Newport and on to the east side of Narragansett Bay. It makes for both a quick jaunt and a scenic drive.
Jamestown retains much of its rural character and quiet charm. There is lots of open space, very little in the way of suburban development, a town center that is more traditional village than commercial sprawl, and plenty of historic sites that dot the island. Several of these sites reflect its history as a military outpost during the Revolutionary War, the Spanish-American War, and both World Wars. Fort Dumpling, Fort Wetherill and Conanicut Battery are all examples of this.
Those who like to explore on foot or by bicycle will find Jamestown a perfect place to spend a quiet day outdoors. Car traffic on the island is light. There are great parks, plenty of unspoiled beauty, lots of historic sights to see, and lovely water views just about everywhere.
Much like neighboring Newport, Jamestown was a booming resort town in the Gilded Age, but like many of that era’s vacation playgrounds, the boom was short-lived. Most of the island’s grand old hotels are long since gone, but there are still a handful of hotels and bed and breakfasts that can provide a quiet retreat from the crowds in more popular tourist scenes like Narragansett and Newport.