Misquamicut Beach: Fun for the Whole Family

In late October 2012, I was doing communications and volunteer management for Serve Rhode Island (SRI). Much of the work involved providing nonprofits with resources to help recruit volunteers, particularly through weekly articles I wrote for The Providence Journal. But in times of crisis, SRI meets the community’s needs.

For many Rhode Islanders, Hurricane Sandy was, at most, an exciting inconvenience when it struck on October 22. Power outages for days. Spoiled food. Candles and flashlights galore. Other areas of New England were hit much harder, with Westerly’s Misquamicut Beach being one of them.

Full structures were swept away with the tide. The entire beach was pushed inland. Sand and saltwater damage wrecked businesses and homes. It took months and years to rebuild. Maria’s Seaside Cafe, which was destroyed by the storm, remains under construction and the Town Beach Pavilion is in the final stages of its relocation, resuming full operations in a few short weeks.

Many who hear the term “Misquamicut Beach” think of what’s formally dubbed as “Misquamicut State Beach” — the half-mile length of beach established as a park (ironically after a 1954 hurricane devastated the community) smack dab in the middle of something greater. “Misquamicut Beach” is the informal name given to an area technically part of Westerly, but in many ways its own distinct community.

“There’s a lot of choices at Misquamicut in addition to the state beach,” explained Caswell Cooke, Executive Director of the Misquamicut Business Association (MBA). “Over those three miles of sand, there are at least 10 beaches and more than 50 businesses.”

Cooke helped found the MBA almost 15 years ago when it was just a coalition of local businesses. Now, it’s a driving force in the community and was chiefly responsible for breathing life back into Misquamicut after Sandy. These days, a golf cart can be regularly seen driving around, sweeping the sidewalk and picking up litter, keeping everything in tip-top shape.

The MBA works in conjunction with the Westerly Chamber of Commerce on some of the events throughout the season, with each organization managing their own programming. It’s all in the spirit of preserving and enhancing Misquamicut Beach. Cooke referred to it as a village, with its own “insulated, open-hearted culture.”

That culture, to put it dramatically, has risen like a phoenix from the ashes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Misquamicut Beach Facebook page boasts 38,955 “Likes”, which is about 15,000 more than Newport and more than three times that of Rhode Island. Though many of the license plates you see visiting read Mass or Conn, there’s been a recent push to bring in more from RI.

Misquamicut’s community was once renowned for its nightlife and revelry in the ‘70s and ‘80s. According to Cooke, Misquamicut Beach has rebranded itself and is now a family-friendly beach getaway with great restaurants to boot. Classic restaurant/bars like Paddy’s, Sandy’s Lighthouse, Windjammer Surf Bar and Andrea all host open deck parties on the weekends for adults, but there so much more for families besides some beach time.

Whether it’s a day trip or a longer stay in one of the over 400 hotel rooms and 400 rental cottages, Misquamicut is a great summertime getaway for the whole family, with something to do just about every day of the week.

Here are a few of the signature events going on:

Drive-in Movie Nights

Entering its fifth season, Drive-ins at Wuskenau Town Beach use a giant projector screen to show classic beachy films from now through October. Over the 26-week run, you can drive up and catch Dirty Dancing, E.T. or even the pre-Fourth of July tradition of Jaws, (which just so happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary). Screenings are on Fri in the off-season and Thurs in July and Aug, starting at 9pm.

Classic Car Cruise Nights

On Thurs thru Sept, from 5:30pm til dusk, all specialty cars are welcome for a public car show with 102.3 FM The Wolf. Cars gather in the Windjammer East lot at 321 Atlantic Ave.

Tunes on the Dunes

Monday Night Jams brings out the rock ‘n’ roll with John Ford Coley, known for his collaboration with England Dan active in the 1970s. Among his top 10 hits were “Nights Are Forever Without You” and “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.” 6pm, Westerly Town Beach, 337 Atlantic Ave.

Wednesday Night Blues on the Beach features just that: Roomful of Blues, a Westerly originated band that’s found national success. Local guitarist Duke Robillard and pianist Al Copley bring the rhythm, and so does Commander Cotey on a weekly basis. 6pm, Westerly Town Beach, 337 Atlantic Ave.

Movies on the Beach

Located at Windjammer Beach Resort at 321 Atlantic Ave, near the rides and other amusements, Movies on the Beach shows kids movies in July and Aug, put on by the Westerly Chamber of Commerce. Call or visit their website for more specifics:

Hermit Crab Races

Yup. It’s just like it says. The Purple Ape hosts “hermit crab races” on Wed in July and Aug. Hundreds turn out for the 7pm race time, after registering their crabs or maybe even bringing their own.

Magic by the Sea with Larry and David

No, not Larry David. On Thurs in July and Aug, this two-man magical act presents flourishing prestiges that will astound families. 7pm, Windjammer, 321 Atlantic Ave.

Tom McCoy Family Fun Run Series

Rounding the corner every Wed at 6pm in July and Aug, this fun run for families starts at Pleasant View, 65 Atlantic Ave. Various course lengths go throughout Misquamicut, ranging from one-third mile all the way up to a 5K.

Bayview Fun Park

Located at 330 Atlantic Ave, this multifaceted and aquatic-focused family entertainment center  features an award winning 18-hole mini-golf course, Slick Track Go-Karts, Splashing Bumper Boats, two batting cages and four-place Bungy Jump. They also offer daily beach parking with access to their own Bayside Beach, which includes kayak and stand up board rentals and local fishing charters.

Misquamicut Beach Salt Pond Challenge

Date TBD, this 1-mile swim of Winnapaug Pond sometime in Aug benefits other family events at the beach.

For a full list of events online, visit or the Misquamicut Beach Facebook page.