Rhode Island

Scenic Summer Drive in Rhode Island’s Farm Coast

A scenic drive along the Farmcoast, a visit-worthy Rhode Island gem in Newport’s shadow.

By Aimee Tucker

May 28 2023

Scenic Drive in Rhode Island

Sunflowers in Little Compton, Rhode Island

Photo Credit : Maaike Bernstrom

With its dreamy combination of rolling fields and salty air, the Rhode Island Farm Coast is the perfect place to explore in summer. Starting in Newport and ending in Little Compton, this 28-mile jaunt is a welcome reminder of how special it is when the fruits of land and sea converge.

You’ll start from Newport, but if early caffeine is required, fuel up at Coffee Grinder, a beloved downtown spot for java and pastries. Then head north on Route 138 to Route 114 in Middletown, where Prescott Farm pays tribute to the region’s agricultural past. Stroll the gardens and admire the historic architecture, but mostly gaze up at the delightful 1812 Robert Sherman Windmill.

The Rhode Island Farm Coast
The Rhode Island Farm Coast
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

If you find “rides” as interesting as routes, a few minutes north is the Newport Car Museum in Portsmouth, home to nearly 100 autos in colorful galleries such as “American Muscle” and “Fin Cars.” After taking a little spin through history, follow Route 24 across the Sakonnet River Bridge, then take Route 77 into Tiverton. If you got a later start, it might be time for lunch, so pull over when you get to seafood favorite Evelyn’s Drive-In. Order the combo (four fluffy clam cakes and a bowl of clear-broth clam chowder), then grab an open picnic table and enjoy a classic Rhode Island pairing.

Peter's Attic in Tiverton, Rhode Island
Peter’s Attic in Tiverton, Rhode Island
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Continuing south, you’ll arrive at the Tiverton Four Corners Historic District, a stroll-worthy cluster of 18th- and 19th-century buildings housing more than two dozen shops, studios, and eateries. Browse for new indoor and outdoor treasures at Groundswell Garden + Home (they also operate the Parisian-inspired bakery-café on the opposite corner), or hunt for one-of-a-kind finds at Peter’s Attic or Carmen & Ginger Vintage Goods. Just make sure to end your visit at Gray’s Ice Cream, celebrating its centennial this year.

Leaving Tiverton, travel south to Little Compton, birthplace of the Rhode Island Red, a breed of chicken so popular it briefly led to Little Compton’s status as the “poultry capital of the world.” It’s also where you’ll find Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, where 30 of its 150 beautiful acres are cultivated for wine production. Stop to sample a flight in the tasting room, or settle in at a table on the lawn for al fresco sipping.

Dipping your toes in the ocean is the obvious way to end the day. Fifteen minutes of back roads brings you to Little Compton’s South Shore Beach, and if the initial stretch of sand doesn’t satisfy, a short trip across a shallow stream leads to the Goosewing Beach Preserve. Here, under the protection of the Nature Conservancy, nesting local birds thrive—and sparse crowds mean you can always find the perfect quiet spot to soak up the last golden rays of an ideal Farm Coast day.

Scenic Drive in Rhode Island's Farm Coast Map
Scenic Drive in Rhode Island’s Farm Coast Map
Photo Credit : Nate Padavick

Yankee‘s Favorite Places to Stop Along the Way

Coffee Grinder,Newport: Housed in the historic downtown Perry Mill, Coffee Grinder’s small-batch-roasted beans, authentic Italian espresso, and fresh-made pastries are a great way to start any day.

Prescott Farm, Middletown: Stretch your legs at this 40-acre tribute to Aquidneck Island’s rural past, operated by the Newport Restoration Foundation. The kitchen and herb gardens are lovely, but it’s the 1812 smock-style, four-vaned windmill that steals the show.

Newport Car Museum, Portsmouth: Opened in 2017 and filled with automotive wonders going back to the 1950s, the Newport Car Museum is a colorful celebration of style and speed.

Evelyn’s Drive-In,Tiverton: Overlooking Nanaquaket Pond, Evelyn’s has been satisfying seafood cravings since 1969. Don’t skip an order of clam cakes and Rhode Island’s signature clear-broth clam chowder.

Groundswell Garden + Home, Tiverton: The rooms in this former 18th-century home overflow with a dizzying array of curated wares, from pottery, soaps, and kitchen linens to terrariums and birdhouses.

Gray's Ice Cream in Tiverton, Rhode Island
Gray’s Ice Cream in Tiverton, Rhode Island
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Gray’s Ice Cream, Tiverton: Choose from homemade ice cream in more than 30 flavors at this venerable scoop shop. For the local experience, order a coffee ice cream cone or “cabinet,” Rhode Island–speak for frappe (which is New England–speak for milkshake).

Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, Little Compton: The many delicious white, red, rosé, and dessert wines that are produced at New England’s oldest vineyard go perfectly with basking in the warm summer sun. Hours are limited (noon–4 p.m. Friday through Monday), so plan accordingly.

South Shore Beach, Little Compton: This popular public beach boasts ample parking, sandy shores for sunbathing, and surfer-friendly waves.

Goosewing Beach Preserve, Little Compton: Part of the Nature Conservancy, this pristine 75-acre preserve is accessible only by foot through South Shore Beach, but it’s worth the extra effort. Stay on marked trails to protect the fragile nesting spots of local piping plovers and least terns.