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If the state motto were up to me, it’d be Rhode Island: You Do You. Officially, of course, it’s the Ocean State, a nod to 400 miles of coastline tucking in the land. It’s a laid back and quirky place, this smallest state in the union, whatever the sub-title!

Let’s begin the trip with golden hour at Moonstone Beach in the Trustom Pond Reserve in South Kingstown. Smooth glowing rocks are strewn in the sand as the scent of beach roses lining the trails wafts to the smashing waves. Big sigh! Bird watching is rewarding here, with a section of oceanfront restricted to protect nesting plovers from April-September.

By the pond I admire the egrets and herons, and watch crabbers (humans) throwing hand lines. A walk and then a meditative rest watching the waves slows me down to the right speed. Can a knitter sit still? Nope. I give in to the urge to stack stones—an act that focuses and joins me in spirit to artists who’ve left cairns and sculptures earlier.  

Wickford will I wander.

The next morning a fresh day begins in the historic seaside village of  Wickford, in North Kingstown. It’s charming. So charming! There’s really no other word for Wickford, with the largest collection of owner occupied Colonial and Federal period homes in the nation. Casual yet perfectly messy cottage gardens line curving lanes. The village center hugs a harbor, with locally owned shops, eateries and galleries.  Wandering is delightful in any weather. Style-wise, this is ground zero for Coastal Grandmother (colorful handmade accessory variant). It’s not a new trend for Wickford—wrinkly linen, a sunhat, plus a colorful wrap are a way of life.   

If your maker mojo has been laying low, this town will kick it out of the hammock! Stepping into The Sew-Op inspires a fabric purchase for a One Yard Minimalist Top. The spacious shop is the owner’s vision of a sewing maker space, with classes and knowledge gladly shared. Down the street at Flatfish Cottage I fall for a wall of capacious tote bags in  natural materials—and at the Wickford Gourmet Kitchen Outlet, I seriously consider acquiring a block printed ocean coral tablecloth to sew into a  tunic. Such is the spell I’m under. 

Would it be a Knitter’s Weekend without a yarn shop? The Mermaid’s Purl calls, with yarns from far and near, including skeins under the shop label hand dyed by owner Lizzie Shriner. I love that she’s displayed Ravelry-popular samples all through the space. And I’m delighted to see Mermaids Purl Sea Dragon fingering weight especially dyed in skein pairs for assigned pooling projects. My Calico shawl will be locally dyed and locally cast on this weekend!

Next up:  a bite to eat overlooking the harbor and a kayak or stand up paddle rental if the sun is shining. If not, I’ll head to two nearby museums. The Gilbert Stuart Museum in Saunderstown is the Colonial era birthplace/home of the artist famous for painting the first six presidents. You’ve no doubt seen his work on the one dollar bill.

For more art and a better understanding of the area and of Native American place names, visit the Tomaquag Museum, in Exeter. Exhibits share the history of Rhode Island’s first people from an indigenous point of view. 

Any trip to South County is enhanced by a visit Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charlestown. This multi acre farmstead has been around for a few centuries. It’s a mix of shopping bazaar, gardens and art studios, leaning toward handmade with a 1970’s hippy vibe. You’ll find blown glass art, a henna tattoo studio, jewelry, shell windchimes, block printed shirts, flower filled greenhouses, and a bamboo forest so dense it blocks the sun along its paths.

Native American art and jewelry fills the The Purple Shell at The Umbrella Factory. Narragansett artist  and owner Allen Hazard’s pieces give the gallery its name. He features the polished inner shell of the local quahog (clam) which was made into the bead currency known as wampum. Once you’re through exploring with the emus and chickens, plunk down in a welcoming garden chair and knit.

Menu notes

Try Johnny Cakes, preferably made with locally ground corn meal from a grist mill. Coffee milk is the official state drink of Rhode Island, made with Autocrat Coffee Syrup. And that surprised me because I thought the official state drink was the ubiquitous Del’s Frozen Lemonade, which is the ideal beverage for washing down your quahog fritters, found at every clam shack in the county. (Unless of course you’d prefer to go full Rhody with a coffee cabinet—the local word for milkshake—on the side.)

Choose a beach!

The beaches of South County are many, with varied personalities. This helpful guide is worth consulting in any season.

The good news is all the beaches are glorious.

Scarborough offers the longest uninterrupted strip of beach with a boardwalk of amenities. There’s a a muscle beach vibe in the center section and a quieter (or as a friendly lifeguard said, sizing us up … older ) crowd on the north end, and good, reliable waves. A couple of miles south, at Roger Wheeler State Beach, breakwater waves are  softer and smaller—perfect for those less steady in the ocean or with littles. Matunuck has a year round surfing scene.

Blue Shutters is a sweet small beach while Watch Hill offers a long sweep of ocean shoreline with mansions on the cliffs above. Fun fact: one belongs to Taylor Swift and this is her song about it. Watch Hill itself is stroll-worthy, anchored by the oldest carousel in America with real brass rings. 

Whether you’re swimming or walking and kite flying or just knitting and letting the sound of waves wash over you, a few hours will rejuvenate. Local tip: the very best beach days are in September. The humidity magically disappears with the summer people, the water is sparkly turquoise and still warm. Parking restrictions are relaxed. Top out the weekend with a fried fish or clam dinner, it will never taste as good as it does served in a paper boat on a picnic bench while you’re still coated in sand and salt water. 

A Note About A Knitter’s Weekend: Each piece in our series A Knitter’s Weekend is written by a knitter with local knowledge and a personal point of view. If you have additional places or information you’d like to share, please leave a comment. And here’s how to save this article in your MDK account

About The Author

With a degree in photojournalism from the University of Minnesota, Gale Zucker has made a career of capturing the humanity and humor in the people and places that are her subjects.


  • I grew up in Narragansett RI and it really is beautiful.

  • That’s my childhood (grew up in Weekapaug) spot on! ❤️ Thanks for the sweet memories.

  • This dyed in the wool Rhode Islander thanks you for your lovely post!

  • I grew up in NJ, then spent the past 54 years in Maine, visiting all the other New England states but one many times. I’ve never been to Rhode Island. Must go!

  • Another addition to my travel list! I love your yarn for Calico;I recently finished mine in gray with pink and can’t wait to wear it.

  • Born and raised there and your lovely detailed
    essay makes me long for a visit back ‘home!’

  • Beautiful writing for a vicarious visit to this magical spot…thank you!

  • What a lovely write up! But if you’re eating them in Rhode Island, those are clam cakes, not fritters or johnnycakes

    • Thank you for correcting — meant to say something! They are clam cakes, not fritters. But johnnycakes are a different thing and they do exist. And on another note, when in RI never, ever ask for a straw with your Del’s!

    • Sounds like a wonderful weekend in my home state! The Mermaid’s Purl is my favorite yarn shop in all of New England, in the sweet village of Wickford. The ocean air is calling…

  • Now, I need to get out of the Midwest for a coastal vacation. It has been way too many years. You make me want to wander! BTW my husband grew up with your friend, let’s call her, Aunt Cookie.

    • Well ! I grew up with Aunt Cookie too so we need to know who your hubby is!

  • The best part of this is that there is NO SUCH PLACE as South County! Our oldest was born in South county Hospital in the early “70’s, my doctors were South County OB group, his were South County Pediatrics. But we lost his birth certificate and years later when I tried to get a duplicate copy I realized that South County does not exist….. it was actually Washington County.

    But any Rhode Islander will know it as South County, and it was and it was a lovely place. Definitely time for a road trip!

  • Lucky me, I live in Wickford!

  • Thank you for this post. Reading it was as close to a vacation as I’ve had since the pandemic began. I must go to RI!

    • Thx very much, Gale Zucker, for your wonderful, peaceful story on Rhode Island. I had no idea how beautiful it is, all those gorgeous beaches! Thank you for the mini-vacation. A girl can dream, right?

      Can’t wait to see your Calico!!

    • I agree; this goes on my must go to list!!

  • I enjoyed this thoroughly! Your photos and stories captivated my attention. If I could leave today, I would drive to see all of this for myself, but your stroll around and sharing it with us is the next best thing. Thank you! Loved every word and picture!

  • I LOVED this post- I grew up in Peace Dale (of course in South County) and though I now live in Australia (!) there’s something about those photos, the lingo, that FOOD- it’ll always be a bit of home. Thank you.

  • Bookmarking for future knitting/birding trip!

  • Fried fish . . . mmmmm . . . .

  • I love your knitter’s weekend articles! Just read South County Rhode Island and will definitely make a trip there. BTW, we are taking a trip to Taos New Mexico in September thanks to the article about a weekend in Taos!

  • Lovely words about a lovely area! I’ve lived here since 2000! And I’m lucky enough to have The Mermaid’s Purl as my local yarn shop!

  • Love all of this, Gale. Thank you.

  • I grew up in RI and still consider myself a Rhode Islander even though I have not lived there for the last 48 years! By the way, they are called clam cakes not clam fritters, something I always have when I go back for a visit. Thanks for the great memories of this great little state.

  • You have captured South County and all my fav spots beautifully! I live in Narragansett just across from Scarborough Beach. So happy to see many of my neighbors are followers of MDK. Would love to connect with other knitters in the area.

    • Lucky you! Pawtucket here.

  • I am a RI native. Everything here is absolutely right. RI is a beautiful state!

  • Le sigh! I’ve only been to Providence!

  • Oh, you captured my heart by starting off with Moonstone Beach! It was my favorite growing up in Wakefield. Walking, skipping stones, crabbing with my mom… and then the years in the 70s when it was a nude beach….thanks, Gail, for capturing all my favorite places!

    • Sorry—Gale not Gail!

  • Such a great article – and the colours in the pictures and the food just call to me. As others have said, I must go visit. Thanks for the glimpses.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your article! Now I want to visit Rhode Island!

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