Just a stone’s throw from the bustle of Newport, this nine-square-mile island packs all the maritime excitement of its neighbor in a cozy, quiet package.
By Marisa Spyker
1 of 6Photograph: Morgan + Owens
The drive along north Main road in Jamestown is flanked by symbols of rural America—a windmill, greenery, and barns still untouched by development. And once you reach the pinnacle of the road, you’ll really catch a glimpse of the town’s visual magic: rolling pastures with grazing cows descend onto surreal views of Narragansett Bay, peppered with sailboats anchored out on its tranquil waters, all against the backdrop of the Newport Bridge.
Jamestown’s off-the-beaten-path vibe is precisely what attracts people to this community of around 5,500. “It has the appeal of a small town from the ’50s or ’60s,” says resident Lisa Sallee. That’s all thanks to quiet streets that snake through the one-stoplight town, where family-owned businesses take the place of chain stores, and grocery shopping often means hitting one of the island’s nine working farms on the weekends.
Left: Conanicut Marina on Narragansett Bay
2 of 6Photograph: Courtesy of listing agent
Though Jamestown remains deeply rooted in its agricultural beginnings, the biggest draw to the island is its prime waterfront property—nestled between Newport and mainland Rhode Island on Narragansett Bay. Two yacht clubs, two marinas, and a certified sailing school draw coast lovers every summer—and convince many of them to stay.
“It has everything—water, history, great restaurants, no crowds or traffic, and close proximity to whatever you need,” says Carol Hopkins, a real estate agent and fourth-generation Jamestown resident. And housing options abound; prices start at $200,000 for a cottage and $10 million for a waterfront mansion. It’s easy to see why locals like Linda Supron, who settled here 20 years ago, never leave. “I’ve thought about moving to a bigger city,” she says. “But then I’ll look out at the egrets grazing in the water and think, ‘I’m so lucky to live here.’”
3 of 6Photograph: Morgan + Owens
Your Beach Sandy shores are a commodity on the island’s mostly rocky coast, but the town beach at Mackerel Cove has gentle surf and tranquil views. It’s a popular spot for swimming or lounging with a cup of Rhode Island–made Del’s frozen lemonade.
Your Restaurants Seafood isn’t hard to come by here, but the friendly atmosphere and great dinner deals (wine included!) at Chopmist Charlie’s make it a local hot spot. Down the road, Village Hearth Bakery serves savory Caprese sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas.
Your Free Time The island’s narrow, quiet streets and trails are friendly to those on foot or bicycle, but the real draw here is watersports—from kayaking and sunset paddleboarding to sailing across the bay and weekly yacht racing at the local yacht clubs.
Left: Friendly staff (and pup!) at Windmist Farm
4 of 6Photograph: Morgan + Owens
The Fresh Food
The markets at Watson and Windmist Farms offer grass-fed meats, homemade sausages, and more. For seafood, Zeek’s Creek—a weathered wooden shack that sits alone on a picturesque marsh—lures with lobster, cod, and more of the day’s fresh catch.
Left: Locals’ photos of fish stories at Zeek’s Creek, where owner Greg Zeek runs the show
Left: A yellow truck from Jamestown’s volunteer-run fire department
6 of 6Photograph: Morgan + Owens
The Sense of Fun
Locals flock to the Sunday concert series on the harborfront in summer, but the real can’t-miss celebration is the annual Fool’s Rules Regatta, where contestants build boats from non-marine materials (like kiddie pools and beach umbrellas) and sail— or sink!—on Narragansett Bay.
The Art Scene With a slew of artists—from regatta photographers to fine-art painters—among Jamestown’s locals, finding great work to decorate your home is easy, particularly at the community arts center or the rustic barn-turned-studio of glass blowers David and Jennifer Clancy.
Left: Old-fashioned mailboxes honoring the island’s history