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The Beaches of South County

“Summer weekends you can’t see sand,” boasts a young lifeguard, pushing back his orange cap. That makes Scarborough the place to see and be seen, plus a good spot to bring the kids, who’ll find plenty of playmates skittering along the water’s edge like sandpipers.

Beach glass from Scarborough goes into a paper cup with all the other bits of debris I’ve collected, memories mingling together in a jumble of sea glass, broken shells, and flecks of dried pink seaweed. Tonight they sit on the mantel in my room at The Richards B&B, which is within walking distance of the main town beach in Narragansett.

Technically this place is called “Druidsdream,” and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1884 by Joseph Peace Hazard, the local Bill Gates of that time and place. “I named the lot ‘Druidsdream,'” he once wrote, “and intend to have that name inscribed upon the stone caps of the front door of this house.”

Inscribed it is, in granite, but the dream carries through in Nancy Richards’ gardens and the property’s hidden paths. Arborvitae and ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood, and surely the elementals, gather here for midsummer nights’ dreams. Enchantment lingers with an evening stroll down one of the Richardses’ garden paths, through a wet tunnel of green, across Ocean Road to a world of boulders on the water, some flat, some sculpted, dotted with fishermen and boys, casting into a rough sea.

This crazy mix of beaches and sand and stone is enough to lull the most overwrought 21st-century sensibility. There’s nothing left to do now but stroll to Crazy Burger, where giant umbrellas, twinkling lights, latticework, and a heavy, humid breeze convince me that I’m somewhere in the tropics (albeit somewhere the waitress says The Food Network has recently discovered).

Just a bit farther along Boon Street and back over to Ocean Road is Narragansett Town Beach, where surfers bob in waves now tipped with specks of pink as the sun begins to set. I’ll walk down later to hear a bit of surf, curl my toes in the sand, feel the spray, and smell the salt.

Tomorrow, heading north toward home along Narragansett Bay, I’ll go through Wickford (a village of North Kingstown), with its elegant harbor, colorful kayakers, and lively shops. Maybe stop for a bite at Tavern by the Sea, overlooking the cove. Even the towns that aren’t directly on the south coast’s open ocean celebrate their access to the sea.

I’m tired and refreshed—good tired. The sea has renewed me; I’ve made some memories and found my own secret spots, folded into the sand dunes of South County. It’s a beginning. One day the nostalgia will begin to stir.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Since most waterfront property in Rhode Island is privately owned those seeking to reach the shore without trespassing must rely on the many public access paths that dot the coast. A fine review of the many beaches and public access paths can be found in the publication “Public Access to the Rhode Island Coast.” The online version can be found at http://www.crc.uri.edu/download/GB_AccessGuide.pdf.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Monday, June 20th, 2011
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