Beyond Wellesley: How to avoid the crowds at Narragansett Beach

Narragansett Beach in Rhode Island is one of the more enjoyable beaches near Wellesley. It’s a bit of a drive, taking around an hour and a half to get there, but the water is warm, the waves are notable, and the beach itself isn’t rocky like many in New England. The downside of all this is that everyone else knows just how good a beach it is, too. When the Swellesley Report made a trip down to Narragansett a few summers ago, we found ourselves among throngs of beachgoers, leaving little space on either side of our beach blanket. A 20-minute walk down to the narrow, less visited end of the beach revealed some interesting intel. Savvy beach goers were arriving at the least populated part of the beach in kayaks. How could we get in on this beach hack?

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A quick conversation with one of these in-the-know visitors revealed the existence of Narrow River Kayaks, a rental agency that launches on its namesake river, which empties through the “Narrows” and into the Atlantic Ocean at the far end of Narragansett Beach. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes, with the option of renting for 2 hours, 4 hours, or full day.

Some also plop their own kayaks or canoes into the river near bridges along the route.

We decided to check out Narrow River’s service this year and rented two tandem kayaks for four hours, which cost $60 per kayak ($85 for a full day). Customer parking is free at the launch, and there is room on the kayaks for a large cooler filled with lunch, snacks, and drinks. The distance from the launch to the beach was about a mile, which took 30 or 40 minutes of casual paddling (tides can shorten or lengthen the trip). Once at the beach we pulled our boats up and enjoyed what we were looking for—a bit of separation from the packed section of beach that serves the car-driving crowd. Despite our more remote location, we were within a 15-20 minute walk to the bathrooms. No lifeguards at this narrow end of the beach, but if we had so chosen, we could have walked to the nearest guarded area of the beach within ten minutes. 

Normally, entrance to the beach is $12 per person, and parking in the non-resident lot is $15/day on the weekends. Those spots don’t stick around for long. If you don’t mind walking, there is free parking on the seawall. Paying for food, parking passes, and admission can quickly add up with a big group, and if you’re protective of your personal space you’ll have to do a lot of walking before you get to the wide open beach. 

kayak narragansett
Uncrowded section of Narragansett Beach.

The river itself is nice to paddle down. We had the company of motorboats, but the drivers were respectful of smaller vessels.

The water is clear and shallow, and banks are covered in reeds, making for a picturesque trip to the beach. Ospreys nest along the river, and we got to see a nest on our way down, as well as a few of the large birds of prey in flight. White egrets dot the marshy areas below.

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On our way to the beach via kayak.

If you want a scenic paddle, along with some extra seclusion on a nice beach, we recommend following our lead on this beach trip.

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