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South County Like a Tourist: Visit the Historic Sites

From museums to castles to lighthouses, tiny Rhode Island boasts a profusion of historic landmarks


Visit the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum

See the childhood home of famous American portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, who was born in December of 1755. This 23-acre property comprises Stuart’s restored and furnished colonial era house, a museum and art gallery, a 250-year-old gristmill, herb gardens, wooded trails, waterways and more. If you like it so much that you decide to become a member, rent a rowboat and fish on Carr Pond, or see the old wooden gears that once played a part in grinding tobacco. 815 Gilbert Stuart Road, Saunderstown. 294-3001,

Explore the South County Museum

Consisting of several buildings – including a one-room schoolhouse, a carriage barn and a blacksmith shop – the South County Museum allows visitors to explore the area’s rural and coastal heritage. Wander the heirloom flower and herb gardens, stop to admire the farm animals and Rhode Island Reds, and amble along the walking trails that lead through wooded areas, meadows and salt marshes. It’s the perfect way to spend a day. 115 Strathmore Street, Narragansett. 783-5400,

Take a Guided Tour of Smith’s Castle

Built by settler Richard Smith around 1637, then burned to the ground in 1676 following a bloody battle between colonial troops and Native Americans, this grand house – or “castle” – was rebuilt in 1678 by Richard Smith Jr. and now serves as a window to our past via guided tours, historic reenactments and educational programming for people of all ages. 55 Richard Smith Drive, North Kingstown. 294-3521,

Get a Marine Education at Beavertail Lighthouse Museum

Located inside Beavertail State Park on Conanicut Island, this structure, which dates back to the mid-1800s, is Jamestown’s most visited landmark. After a portion of it was destroyed by a 1938 hurricane, renovations unearthed the foundation of the first lighthouse sited at Beavertail circa 1749. Come for the history lesson and stay for the park’s tide pools, bike paths, walking trails, rocky beaches and stunning ocean views. Beavertail Road, Jamestown. 423-3270,


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