Located at the southwest corner of Rhode Island is the town of Westerly. This beachfront community of 22,700 people is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Pawcatuck River to the west, separating it from Connecticut.
The town covers 74.8 square miles, however nearly 60% of this area is water. Separating the town from the ocean are three salt ponds: Maschaug Pond, Winnapaug Pond, and Quonochotaug Pond. The white sand beaches between these ponds and the Atlantic make Westerly a popular tourist destination in the summer months.
Westerly was formed in 1669, and given its westernmost location in Rhode Island. It was briefly called Haversham from 1686-1689, but reverted to its original name. One of the first settlers was Elder John, who played a prominent role in the town’s history.
The town found fame with its unique type of granite, which came to be known as Westerly Granite. In 1846, a stone mason by the name of Orlando Smith discovered this granite on top of Rhode’s Hill. Granite from this section of Rhode Island is especially suited to carving statues and for buildings. Coming in pink, red, and blue colors, it was one of the most sought after varieties of granite in the world for over 100 years.
Westerly granite can be seen a variety of buildings and statues across Rhode Island, New England, and the nation. Some of the most famous and prominent examples of stonework done using granite from this area include:
Today the tradition of Westerly granite is continued. You can still purchase veneer product made from this granite, in both the pink and blue tones. This ensures that the name Westerly will continue to be associated with this fine stone product for generations to come.
While granite was once the primary industry in Westerly, today much of the local economy is dependent on tourism. In the summer season, the population of the town nearly doubles as people come to the famous white sand beaches in town. Many believe that the beaches here are the most beautiful on the east cost of the United States.
Two popular summer communities in the town include Misquamicut and Watch Hill. Here you will find cottages for rent, hotels, beaches, and nightlife suitable for all ages. Misquamicut State Beach is the largest beach in Rhode Island, with water slides, mini golf, movies, and other attractions. Napatree Point beach in Watch Hill provides a quieter experience, with a bird sanctuary and the oldest Flying Horse carousel in the country.
Tourists also enjoy the Victorian architecture of downtown Westerly. Here you can find restaurants, shops, a theater and more. Mystic, Connecticut is an easy drive with its popular tourist attractions, and Foxwoods Casino is only 15 minutes away.
Westerly, Rhode Island is a popular tourist destination with a long history of architecture, building, and community. As the southwestern most point in the state, residents and tourists alike enjoy scenic beaches, river views, and everything else this unique town has to offer.