9 Remarkable Spots for Stargazing in Rhode Island
As you likely know, certain places are just better for stargazing than others. Less urban density is good; undeveloped public lands are better. So when I say there are spots for stargazing in Rhode Island, you might raise an eyebrow. After all, The Ocean State is right in the heart of the most densely populated part of the United States, and is a geographically small state further limiting the options (much like neighboring Connecticut).
I have to be fully transparent, of course: there’s nowhere in Rhode Island darker than a Bortle Scale score of 4 (out of 9). You’re not going to find the pristine darkness of the American West in the heart of New England. However there are some places in Rhode Island that are better for stargazing than others, and those are the places I’m highlighting in this post.
Whether you call Rhode Island home or are visiting and hope to partake in a bit of leisurely stargazing one night, let this post be your guide. Here are 9 decent spots for stargazing in Rhode Island, from the coast to the Massachusetts border.
Beavertail State Park
Beavertail State Park in Jamestown is by far one of the most picturesque places to go stargazing in Rhode Island. Surrounded by cliffs and crashing waves, the park enjoys sweeping views of Narragansett bay stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean.
It is also home to the third lighthouse to be established on the Atlantic coast back in 1749 – it’s actually the foundation as the original lighthouse was burnt down by the British during the Revolutionary period.
As soon as it gets dark, the sky is invaded by thousands of stars that shine against the water. If you enjoy astrophotography, the lighthouse against the night sky is the perfect element to make your shot more dramatic.
A quaint little island off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island makes an amazing destination if you have a stargazing trip in your mind. Block Island is about twelve miles away from mainland Rhode Island and you can get there by a small airplane or ferry, meaning you’ll need to plan an overnight.
This tiny island is less than 10 square miles and is home to around 1,000 people. This, plus the low amount of street lights, allows the island to keep light pollution at bay; it’s one of the most popular places recommended by locals, too.
Besides stargazing, there’s plenty to see and do on Block Island. You can sunbathe at the beach, marvel at the ocean vistas, get some exercise in its 32 miles of hiking trails, or check out the nightlife and town restaurants.
Brenton Point State Park
Brenton State Park is the southernmost point of Aquidneck Island. It offers sweeping views of Narragansett Bay at its juncture with the Atlantic Ocean. Occupying the former grounds of one of Newport’s grandest estates, the park’s 89-acre site is ideal for picnicking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, or enjoying the majestic views of the ocean.
This is also one of the best Rhode Island stargazing places if you’re looking for solitude. It has all the feel of being in the ocean with some quieter and more seclusion compared to other parks.
Last but not least, this is the best park to fly kites! So arrive early, bring a picnic, and enjoy the view of the ocean while flying kites before your stargazing session.
Frosty Drew Observatory & Science Center
Observatories are always a great alternative when you’re taking your first steps in stargazing or if you just want to be sure the spot is suitable for your viewing session. When it comes to visiting an observatory for stargazing in Rhode Island, there’s one spot everyone recommends.
Located in Charleston, Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center offers a stargazing night every Friday and different events throughout the year. You’ll walk out of the observatory with a ton of knowledge. Those who volunteer at the observatory really know their stuff, and have a passion for stargazing. Operating hours vary depending on the season. Check their website for more info.
Operated by Brown University, Ladd Observatory is another cool observatory to go stargazing in Rhode Island. This observatory was opened in 1891 and looks like a relic of a seemingly bygone era.
There are a few rooms on the first level with solar system and star charts and old artifacts for viewing, and upstairs houses a refractor telescope which makes it great for observing the planets and other dark-sky objects.
They have weekly (Tuesday evenings) free space viewings, with telescopes set up to show various interesting things and staff to explain what you’re seeing and answer questions. Be sure to check their site before you go, as their hours are weather-dependent.
The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory
The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory located on the Warwick Knight campus is one of the top Rhode Island stargazing spots to go with your family.
The observatory hosts public open nights every Wednesday. As soon as you arrive, Astronomy professor Brendan Britton will delight you with a marvelous lecture on the cosmos before properly diving into the night sky. You’ll be able to spot star clusters and nebulae, the full moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn’s rings through their telescope. Wednesday’s open nights are held from 5 pm to 7:30 pm.
As a heads up, the observatory does not open under rainy skies or if the temperature is below 32 degrees as reported at 6 pm.
Pulaski State Park
A quiet, tucked-away state park that straddles the border with Connecticut, Pulaski State Park is one of the darkest places to go stargazing in Rhode Island.
This is probably the most rustic state park in RI; that’s not to say it doesn’t offer a lot, though. There’s a beach, a fishing pond, and plenty of camping spaces. It also has a great trail system with clear markings, and during the winter several of them are accessible with snowmobiles.
Closer to the parking lots, there’s a large grassy area perfect for stargazing. Because of its relatively isolated location, there are usually not a ton of people around here which can be nice.
Seagrave Memorial Observatory
Owned by Skyscrapers, Inc., Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is yet another observatory open for viewing nights.
The observatory features four telescopes, a 12-inch Patton Reflector, a 12-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain, a 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain, and the observatories’ pride, an 8¼-inch Alvan Clark refracting telescope that was given to Frank Evens Seagrave for his 16th birthday in 1876.
Seagrave Memorial Observatory is open every Saturday night, weather permitting. Everyone is welcome to come to observe the wonders of the night sky free of charge.
If you’re looking for a truly unique stargazing experience, The Ocean State is happy to oblige!
Meteor Cruise offers stargazing boat cruises on weekend evenings from May through September. The cruise sails at 9 pm, slowly drifting away from the pesky lights. You’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable astronomer who’ll use the intercom system and light pointer to guide you through the constellations, planets, giant red stars, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.
Their 2022 season has ended, but check their website to know what they’re preparing for 2023.
Did I miss any other great spots for stargazing in Rhode Island? Let me know in the comments – and any other questions you have as well.