Rhode Island – America’s Smallest State

Despite the misleading name, Rhode Island is not an island. But because the smallest US state has so many pretty bays and great beaches, it was nicknamed the “Ocean State” even though technically half of the country’s land area is forest.

The piece of land in southern New England is closely linked to the ocean: While merchant ships used to navigate the difficult waters of Rhode Island Sound, today it is mainly sailing yachts that decorate the bays and small harbors as white splashes of color. Some even claim that the exclusive town of Newport has the highest concentration of sailing boats in the world. What is certain is that idyllic Narangansett Bay is the sailing area where the famous America’s Cup race took place for the first time in 1930. Almost everything here revolves around luxury, prosperity and reputation. The opulent status symbols of high society bob in the dozens in the Newport docks.

Spectacular Coastline
According to usaers, “Ocean State” is the nickname of Rhode Island, the smallest and perhaps finest of all 50 US states. This spot is just 80 kilometers long and 60 kilometers wide. The fact that the Atlantic still wrests more than 640 kilometers of coastline from it borders on a mathematical miracle and is due to the more than irregular course of the shore. The coastal landscape is wildly furrowed, promontories, becoming narrower and narrower, protrude far out into the sea, in between popular beaches alternate with rugged rocky shores. There is no question that the maritime character of the state is also reflected in the cuisine: Seafood fans will experience an impressive variety of fish and seafood in Rhode Island’s restaurants.

A little gem off the coast is Block Island, a seven-mile-long island that attracts many visitors with its historic architecture, including two lighthouses worth seeing. Much of Block Island is also a conservation area.

As early as the 19th century, the wealthiest people in the USA built summer palaces along the spectacular coast of Rhode Island, which eclipsed many European castles. Due to its scenic beauty, its protected location and its early importance as a trading center, the state was predestined to be “America’s first summer resort” for the first super-rich of the entire country.

Here are the most magnificent mansions in New England, colossal ensembles, often of ancient column architecture, packed with imitation Greek and Roman sculptures, highly polished marble and stucco ornaments in gold leaf. Much of what defines New England’s charm is condensed into Rhode Island’s glorious testimonies of days gone by.

Tolerant city
Quite a few of the luxury properties dubbed “cottages” in an ironically understated manner are now museums and, as such, are open to the public. Rhode Island has long lived to a large extent from tourism and lets its visitors participate extensively in its historical splendor. Some of the houses are furnished with antique furniture, display art or porcelain collections, or display expensive glass or silver cutlery. The Marble House of the Vanderbilts, the Elms Mansion of coal magnate Edward J. Berwind or the John Browne House Museum are unique properties. Newport also has a pretty, well-preserved Old Town.

Similarly attractive, albeit for different reasons, is Providence, the capital of Rhode Island. A pleasant and tolerant intellectual climate prevails here, to which the renowned universities in particular contribute. Providence has always been a haven for freethinkers. The cultural climate of the small state is therefore exemplary cosmopolitan. Nowhere is Rhode Island really provincial, even the remotest village is half an hour from the nearest town. As one might imagine from its social glamor, Rhode Island’s political clout is far greater than its tiny territory would suggest.

Location and Size
Rhode Island borders the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Connecticut to the west, and Massachusetts to the north and east. With a size of 4,002 km², Rhode Island is the smallest US state. The water surface occupies 1,295 km², which corresponds to about a third of the state area.

1.05 million people live in Rhode Island, 178,000 of them in the capital Providence.

Getting there
The capital, Providence, is 180 miles northeast of New York City and 50 miles southwest of Boston.

Rhode Island has a humid continental climate with prevailing westerly winds. There are climatic differences between coastal areas and the interior of the country. The monthly average temperature is 22°C in July and -2°C in January. The average annual rainfall is about 1,170 mm. Weather fluctuations are very common and extreme weather conditions can occur quickly.

Indian Summer
In the Indian Summer it is important to be in the right place at the right time. To find out where that is, the Foliage Network, for example, offers information for all states. Maps regularly provide an up-to-date overview of the degree of discoloration. By the way: The term “Indian Summer” in English describes the warmer period in autumn, but the phenomenon of leaf discoloration is called “foliage” or “fall foliage”..

Average temperatures in Newport, Rhode Island in °C
Month Jan Feb March Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max 4 4 8th 12 18 22 25 25 22 17 11 6
Min -5 -5 -1 4 9 14 18 18 15 9 3 -2
Average temperatures in Providence, Rhode Island in °C
Month Jan Feb March Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max 3 4 9 15 20 25 28 27 23 17 11 6
Min -7 -5 -1 4 9 14 18 17 13 6 2 -4

VUSA Tips for Rhode Island Visitors

Rhode Island packs a lot of life into a tiny slice of paradise. It may be the smallest state in the United States, but ‘Little Rhody’ lives up to the saying “small is beautiful”.
As tiny as this state is, its beaches are amazing. There are plenty of options for dining overlooking the sea and surfers pounding Narragansett Bay – not to mention the many elegant guest houses!

What the royals were to the old world, the big industrialists were and are to the new world – and in the 19th century Newport was their playground. The Astors and Vanderbilts of their day outdid each other in adorning their lavish homes with sparkling crystal, gleaming gold, and real Italian marble. A tour of these “manor houses,” now maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County, brings the Golden Age back to life. No less impressive is Newport’s Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile walk across the cliffs of the Atlantic Seaboard that combines the awe-inspiring beauty of nature with the captivating sight of these castle-like structures.

Rhode Island’s compact capital Providence is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It was built on seven hills. Its wealth of yesteryear is revealed as you stroll historic Benefit Street past perfectly restored stylish Federation-era homes. The WaterFire Festival, which lasts from early summer to autumn, is always magical. WaterFire is unique: nowhere else in the world can you find anything like this mix of music and fire: 100 beacons float on the three rivers through downtown Providence. The fragrant smell of wood smoke; the flickering light of fire on the arched bridges and the torch-lit ships navigating the waterways. By the way, this festival is free to attend.

Excursion to Block Island
Located 20 kilometers off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island gives travelers the feeling of stepping back in time. There are far more bikes than cars here – plus miles of public beaches, refreshingly clear water and spectacular cliffs. The pace is leisurely, life seems so uncomplicated – relaxation is guaranteed here. Access the island by ferry from Point Judith, RI, New London, CT or Montauk, NY. It’s no wonder the Nature Conservancy named the island one of “The Last 12 Most Beautiful Places in the Western Hemisphere”.

Rhode Island - America's Smallest State