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Of Sunburned Shoulders & Sandy Feet

Do you have a favorite beach?


Rhode Island is known as "the Ocean State." Big ocean, the Atlantic. Small(est) state, Rhode Island. Lots of coastline. In fact, we're only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, but our shoreline runs for 400 miles along Narragansett Bay and that Atlantic Ocean. The "Visit Rhode Island" website lists 57 beaches, but they include landlocked sites as well as "real" beaches with sand and surf.

With the Memorial Day weekend behind us, and its "official" start to summer (ha! we had a temperature of 72 this past March 12th), I'm thinking back to some memorable days at the beach.

As a kid, there was only one beach: Sand Hill Cove. It had a giant parking lot, cracked and grassy, and you didn't have to pay to park. My dad drove a Ford with vinyl seats that were so hot at the end of the day, you had to lay down your damp towel to sit. Rubbing my feet together, sand fell to the floor. I rolled down the window and let the salty air blow my hair dry.

As a teenager, Scarborough Beach was the place to be seen. Sherry and I would lay on big towels and talk about boys, and drink Fresca. I hadn't yet grasped the necessity of sunscreen. As a young woman, I'd spend my days at Narragansett Beach, one of thousands packing the shore. Still thinking I'd tan as well as my olive-skinned friends, I'd blister and peel the summer away, smelling like Noxzema from June to September.

Before I was married, I'd drive to the Charlestown Breachway early in the morning.  With a large hot coffee, a blueberry muffin, the newspaper, a book and sometimes a sweatshirt, I'd sit alone, in the lifting fog, reading and sipping and reveling in the solitude. The fishermen on the breachway were quiet, too – all of us respectful of this time of day.

Or, Geri and I would spend the day at East Matunuck Beach on Succotash Road, talking about men. I was getting better about sunscreen and a hat.

The summer after we were married, Jim and I took the ferry from Galilee to Block Island. At Old Harbor, we made the short walk to Ballard's, and rented white chaise lounges for a few bucks. They were ours for the day. Jim would go to the bar at Ballard's and bring back frozen drinks – it was like being at a resort. Later, we ate fresh bluefish before taking the ferry back to the mainland.

Now, we prefer to drive down Route 1 south in the afternoon, when Route 1 north is a parking lot. The beach is emptied of all but a few, there's no parking fee (an outrage to any native Rhode Islander), and we can walk, swim, picnic at the best time of day. And at five in the afternoon, no worries about sunburn.

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Randy Yorston June 04, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Sand Hill Cove, but because some mutual friends loved to hang there. Scarboro was too "jersey Shore" for me, and I was never cool enough to hang at Narragansett!. Matunuck in later years, maybe because the close proximity of adult beverage emporiums and the beach! Bottom line is that there is a beach for every Rhode Islander's taste or desire. Shame they closed Moonstone though! Darn birds.
John Walsh June 04, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Great post, Martha. You and I probably walked past one another on the boardwalk at Scarborough!
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) June 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I LOVE the beach and have since moving to RI tried to figure out the perfect one. Naturally, that takes lots of exploring! I really liked Scarborough when the kids were small ... we'd arrive mid afternoon and usually find a parking spot right by the dunes! Narragansett's a beautiful spot, but a hassle. I like it late in the day. East Matunuck's got great waves. Matunuck Town Beach has friends (but is disappearing!). My (impractical) fav? Fred Benson State Beach on the Block. Thanks for the post, Martha. Now, can you do something about this week's weather?
Martha Reynolds June 05, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Love Fred Benson's beach, too! Check out the Charlestown Breachway if you like quiet. Misquamicut's got good waves, because of its location. I'm predicting excellent beach weather for July and August!

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