Narragansett is the Indian word for “little spit of land.” Its center, Narragansett Pier, enjoyed its heyday during the Victorian era. People from all over the east coast flocked to the posh resort by steamship and train, lured by the beautiful beaches, ocean breeze and Narragansett Casino Resort.
Newport and Narragansett vied for the title as favorite vacation spot of the wealthy. Fashionable periodicals commented regularly on the social goings-on at “The Pier” (Narragansett).
One of the finest beaches in the Northeast lured the aristocrats then, and vacationers today, who continue to return each summer. The simple charm and lack of pretension distinguishes Narragansett from affluent resorts.
Incorporated as a town in 1901, Narragansett was – prior to that time – part of South Kingstown, with local history dating back to 1675 when Roland Robinson settled in South County and purchased land from the Narragansett Indians in Pettaquamscutt and Point Judith. Shipbuilding was an early industry with sailing vessels built on the Narrow River at Middlebridge. South Ferry, or Franklin Ferry, was a thriving community, offering ferry service to Jamestown and Newport for more than a hundred years in the early 1700s. South Ferry Church was a landmark on every sea captain’s chart of Narragansett Bay.
Between 1888 and 1920 Narragansett was well-known as an elegant summer resort with a dozen more grand hotels and many large estates and “cottages”. Probably the most prominent landmark was the Narragansett Casino, covering nearly one square block from Ocean Road to Mathewson Street. The famous oceanfront casino was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. Its towers on Ocean Road served as the main entrance and covered promenade. Sadly, the casino was destroyed by fire in 1900. Now the Towers are all that remain of the elegant resort. They house a photography exhibit of Narragansett’s Victorian era, as well as a Chamber of Commerce/Visitors’ Center. The old oceanfront lifesaving station (adjacent to the Towers), later a Coast Guard station, is now a fine restaurant aptly named the Coast Guard House.
Narragansett’s Point Judith Lighthouse has been warning ships off the rocky coast since the early 1800s. The present lighthouse dates to 1857 and has been rebuilt twice. Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds and enjoy the panoramic view, though the lighthouse is closed to the public.
The sun shimmers on the waves at Narragansett Pier and there’s a salty tang in the breeze. A walk along the seawall hugging Ocean Road allows unlimited view of sea and crashing surf. Brisk offshore winds furl sails and fishing boats head into nearby ports with their catches.
Come experience for yourself the many pleasures and treasures of Narragansett and Lighthouse Inn of Galilee, one of several hotels near Newport RI.