Summertime and the living is easy in this seaside town where everything revolves around the scenery. From sunrise to sundown, you’ll want to be outside in Narragansett, either on one of its many beaches or sipping something cold on a rooftop patio. On a recent weekend, we ambled along Ocean Road, the main drag of hotels, houses, and oceanside serenity, and marveled that this town has somehow retained its local flavor without becoming a tourist trap.
If you can book one of the nine rooms inside the main Victorian, as opposed to the ones in the motel annex out back, Ocean Rose Inn (113 Ocean Road, 401-783-4704, www.oceanroseinn.com, from $129) is a reliable home base. Our king-size room was airy and spacious, not to mention in dire need of contemporary decor and fixtures. The private deck, with a couple of chaise lounge chairs, gave us a clear view of the reason you stay here: the mighty Atlantic. The Break(1208 Ocean Road, 401-363-9800, www.thebreakhotel.com), which boasts that it will be Narragansett’s first boutique hotel, is expected to open in August. Its website suggests it will be an artsy flip side to its traditional competitors.
The locals are likely to tell you the same thing: Head to Aunt Carrie’s(1240 Ocean Road, 401-783-7930, www.auntcarriesri.com) for the clamcakes, where they come to your table as hefty orbs of fried goodness. They’re perfect for dunking into a bowl of clam chowder, and they’re a specialty at this no-frills gem that’s been around since 1920. Skip dessert and get a scoop (or three) at its adjacent ice cream shop. The little restaurant that could, the Coast Guard House (40 Ocean Road, 401-789-0700, www.thecoastguardhouse.com), is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy’s wrath two years ago, which means the main dining room is closed, but the alfresco deck is buzzing. For good reason: Its solid seafood (go with the fried whole belly clams or the fish tacos) pairs well with the unfettered ocean vista. Trio (15 Kingstown Road, 401-792-4333, www.trio-ri.com) is a trendy spot popular for its surf and turf, pizzas, and pastas. Across the street is Basil’s (22 Kingstown Road, 401-789-3743, www.basilsri.com), a beloved French-inspired restaurant where the old-world elegance (hello, floral wallpaper) is a more formal and intimate alternative. For breakfast, it’s hard to beat Crazy Burger (144 Boon St., 401-783-1810, www.crazyburger.com), especially if you can snag a seat in the shade on the lovely outdoor patio. A lot of heart and soul go into this diner-like place, from the friendly service to the fresh juices and smoothies to the quirky menu. (The Mexi-eggs, featuring a scramble of eggs, black beans, avocado, cheese, and sour cream served inside a fried tortilla shell, go down real fast.)
DURING THE DAY
Before a full day of beach-hopping, fuel up at Cool Beans Cafe (18 Kingstown Road, 401-789-9500, www.coolbeanscaferi.com), a homey coffee shop so quaint that you half-expect to see Phoebe from “Friends” reclining on one of the sofas. Pastries and delightful little egg-white frittatas go well with the long list of caffeinated drinks. You’ll need the energy to visit the handful of sun-and-sand attractions, where three state beaches (Roger W. Wheeler, Scarborough, and Salty Brine) get crowded early in the morning. Narragansett Town Beach was our favorite, a winding stretch of slight waves and low-key beachgoers taking refuge under candy-colored umbrellas. OneWay Gallery (140 Boon St., www.onewaygallery.com) hosts exhibits and work by an array of contemporary artists in a handsome industrial space. For shopping, the Narragansett Pier Marketplace is a compact, curious collection of businesses, from jewelry and clothing boutiques to a dog-grooming place and a candy store. A short drive to the Port of Galilee on Point Judith, where throngs of day-trippers take the ferry to Block Island, is a window into a working fishing village, with rustic lobster markets, fishing vessels, and ramshackle stores leading up to Salty Brine Beach. George’s of Galilee (250 Sand Hill Cove Road, 401-783-2306, www.georgesofgalilee.com), a seafood institution, is a lively place to recharge with grub and drinks.
“You mean, besides the beach?” A local resident arched her eyebrows and had to think for a minute when we asked her about Narragansett’s night life. The truth is, the after-hours scene here is suited to relaxation. The nocturnal view of the ocean alone is haunting, slightly illuminated along the edges by street lights. Many of the restaurants and hotels, including Coast Guard House and the Village Inn, become social centers, filling up with college students who throw back some drinks over conversation. Turtle Soup Restaurant(113 Ocean Road, 401-792-8683, www.turtlesouprestaurant.com), which occupies the first floor of the Ocean Rose Inn, is a prime spot for people-watching. Order a cocktail or a can of Narragansett beer, take a seat on one of the wooden Adirondack chairs on the front lawn, and you’ll get a leisurely glimpse of local life. The Towers of Narragansett (35 Ocean Road, 401-782-2597, www.thetowersri.com), an enduring stone remnant of the Narragansett Pier Casino that arches over Ocean Road, is a multipurpose arts space with an eclectic entertainment schedule ranging from dance lessons to live music to private parties where revelers hang out on the balconies overlooking the water. Its summer music series, held Thursday nights at 7, is underway with everything from the blues and folk to zydeco and swing bands. The Narragansett Theater at the Pier (3 Beach St., 401-284-2256, www.theateratthepier.com) casts a similarly broad net, with comedy, films, theater, live music, and the occasional burlesque troupe.James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.