Middletown, between Newport and Portsmouth, got its name from being in the middle of the island of Rhode Island (Aquidneck), which was one of the earliest colonial settlement sites in Rhode Island. Middletown was originally an agrarian community. Because of this, there are few native trees now growing in the township, the original forests having been cleared for farms. As a result of a petition to the General Assembly requesting political independence from Newport, Middletown was set off as a separate town and incorporated in 1743. Today the town hosts a wealth of commercial and retail activity.
M1. Atlantic Beach
Located on Aquidneck Avenue just west of the junction with Purgatory Road, this site provides access to the eastern end of Atlantic Beach with short-term parking for Middletown residents. This site has a sandy beach fronting Easton Bay (Atlantic Ocean) with good surf and a nice view of the Cliff Walk and the mansions across the bay. There is a small grassy field, Dunlap-Wheeler Park, with a few benches near the parking area. Large public parking lots and concessions are a quarter-mile to the west at Easton’s (First) Beach in Newport. Board sailing and surfboard rentals are located nearby.
M2. Northwest End of Esplanade Shore Drive
This public right-of-way, located just at the bend in the road, offers a short path down a concrete stairway onto Easton’s Beach.
M3. Tuckerman Avenue (opposite Wolcott Avenue)
This right-of-way is a very tricky dirt path, but well worth the effort. This rocky shoreline offers a great place to sit and take in a beautiful ocean view.
M4. Purgatory Chasm
Located on Tuckerman Avenue just south of the junction with Purgatory Road, it is a short walk to a rocky cliff that overlooks Sachuest Bay and a bridge over a deep natural chasm in the bedrock. From the cliff, there is a beautiful view of the ocean, Second Beach, Sachuest Point, and the Norman Bird Sanctuary. This area is also accessible from the Hanging Rock Road parking area via a short walk along the rocks.
M5. Hanging Rock Road Parking Area
Located at the western end of Hanging Rock Road, at the junction of Paradise Avenue and Purgatory Road, this is a small parking area at the western end of Sachuest (Second) Beach overlooking Sachuest Bay (Atlantic Ocean) with access to the beach and to Purgatory Chasm. This site is also a favorite spot for many Rhode Island surfers. Parking fee.
M6. Second Beach
The main parking lot for this beach is located off Sachuest Point Road. This site has a wide, sandy, 8,000-footlong beach fronting Sachuest Bay (Atlantic Ocean) and is an excellent place for swimming, surfing, walking, and sunbathing. The beach is well known and gets quite crowded during the summer. Facilities include a large parking lot (fees charged) and a concession area with food, restrooms, changing rooms, and picnic tables/benches. Fee.
M7. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
Located at the eastern end of Sachuest Point Road, this refuge forms the point between the Sakonnet River and Second Beach, where the river joins the sea. A network of trails traverses the point with trailside exhibits along the way. The uplands at the point are dominated by shrubs and grasses, and the shoreline is part cobble, part rock. Over 200 species of birds have been spotted here during the year, including the largest colony of harlequin ducks in the eastern United States. Sportfishing for striped bass, bluefish, and tautog is popular. A visitors’ center is open Wednesday through Sunday, and bird walks are held on most summer and fall weekends. Parking is available.
M8. Third Beach
Located at the end of Third Beach Road, this town-owned site offers a protected, sandy beach fronting the Sakonnet River and is ideal for swimming and boating. There is a concrete boat ramp and areas marked off for swimming, boating, and anchoring. The site is suitable for boats up to 18 feet. A walk along the beach toward the Sachuest Point Wildlife Refuge provides a good opportunity for observing waterfowl. There are no fees in evening or off-season. Parking is available.
M9. Third Beach Road
This right-of-way is located at the north end of Third Beach. It is a footpath with a boardwalk through dune grass to the beach. The beach north and south of the access way is private. Don’t be deceived by a chain across the right-of-way; this is public access. No parking is available.
M10. Norman Bird Sanctuary
The parking lot and sanctuary headquarters are located at 583 Third Beach Road, north of its junction with Hanging Rock Road and Indian Avenue. At the headquarters, there is an extensive network of trails winding through fields, forest, wetlands, and rocky ridges. The sanctuary property extends on the south side of Hanging Rock Road through meadows and marshland, and includes the Maidford River where it flows into the Sakonnet River. The sanctuary also owns the section of Third Beach running from the public portion of Third Beach north across the Maidford River and up to Peabody’s Beach. The beach can be accessed from the south on the public beach or by the public right-of-way at the north end of the beach. The diversity of undeveloped coastal ecosystems provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and birds throughout the year. Rocky outcrops offer sweeping views. A natural history museum is located in the old barn and a gift shop in the sanctuary visitors’ center. There is a trail fee for nonmembers. There is no fee to walk the beach. Guided bird walks are offered free on Sunday mornings.
M11. Taggart's Ferry Road
This popular fishing spot is located off Indian Avenue and is a 50-foot-wide path leading to the mouth of the Sakonnet River. Parking is available.
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