If South County is synonymous with anything, it is the great outdoors. With acres of untouched and untapped terrain, it’s almost impossible to take to the open road without seeing a preserve, refuge, state park or picturesque coastline.
Spanning over four towns, the Arcadia Management Area has over 14,000 acres of beautiful forests with hiking trails, fireplaces, picnic tables canoe rentals and more. Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton and West Greenwich are home to this expansive area with more than a dozen hiking trails and possibly one of the only places in Rhode Island where it is possible to see a Pileated Woodpecker. You can expect in late spring and early summer an exceptional variety of warblers and songbirds. Another area gracing the western hemisphere of the state is Big River Management Area and Carr Pond. With an approximate 8,600 acres extending through portions of West Greenwich, East Greenwich, Coventry and Exeter, this multi-use space includes hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and bicycling (allowed on surface roads). Ell/Long Pond Preserve also presents itself as a renowned piece of Hopkinton property; it is Rhode Island’s First National Natural Landmark! Managed by the State, Audubon Society of RI and The Nature Conservancy, it takes a village to man almost 300 acres of rugged bedrock cliffs and hollows. Notorious for steep and slippery terrain, Ell Pond and Long Pond are nestled on the property with spectacular vistas and views.
Burlingame State Park, located on the shores of the Watchaug Pond, is a 3,100 acre facility with picnic facilities, restrooms, a swimming beach, 73 fireplaces and bathhouses, making it one of the most popular state recreation areas in Charlestown. The park also has extensive camp groups with 755 campsites utilized on the property.
Boasting a seaside village atmosphere with facilities to camp, enjoy a campfire or park an R.V., Fisherman’s Memorial State Park offers a multitude of activities including tennis, basketball, and horseshoes with three state beaches in very close proximity to the State Park. Conveniently located and maintained regularly, Fisherman’s Memorial has built up a name for itself due to the locale as well as the property. It is also home to seasonal farmer’s market from spring to fall every Sunday.
Located off Plain Meeting House Road, Wickaboxet Management Area is well worth the trek. With 678 acres of mostly forested land, hiking trails and panoramic views are aplenty in this area nestled in West Greenwich.
And we must not forget about the rolling green! Wilcox Park in Westerly may be some of the most inviting landscape to sit, chat and relax the day away on its 14 acres of open meadow with trees, a fish pond, memorials and perennial gardens. Ryan Park and Wilson Park, both in North Kingstown, also beckon a soccer ball or pick up Frisbee game on a nice day.
As you head further south, Charlestown, RI has plenty to offer in the park and preserve category. Ninigret Park is a 227-acre park featuring picnic grounds, ball fields, a ten-speed bike course, and tennis/basketball courts. There is a 3-acre spring-fed swimming pond as well as numerous special events and festivals held throughout the warmer months. The Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve, also located in Charlestown, has 841 acres of conservancy land which is home to pine/scrub oak barrens, vernal pools and 35 acre grassland. Some of the best bird watching in the state can be found at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Spanning 800 acres on the southern coast of Rhode Island, the refuge protects the state’s only undeveloped salt pond.
John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in Narragansett, RI is a refuge for shore birds and variety of fish. With over 300 acres of salt marsh and surrounding forest habitat, any visitor could become lost in its entire splendor. A sister site, Black Point, also in Narragansett, offers an easy hiking loop of under 2 miles with some light rock climbing right along Narragansett Bay. Beautiful sweeping views of Jamestown Bridge and the Plum Island Lighthouse, Rome Point has quickly become a destination for those seeking nice easy trails with water views and wildlife. With binoculars, one can often see seals off shore in the winter time.