A mere 48 miles long by 37 miles wide, RHODE ISLAND is the smallest state in the Union, yet it had a disproportionately large influence on national life: in 1652 it enacted the first law against slavery in North America, and just over ten years later it was the first to guarantee religious freedom – in the eighteenth century it also saw the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America. Today, Rhode Island is a prime tourist destination, boasting nearly four dozen National Historic Landmarks and four hundred miles of spectacular coastline.

More than thirty tiny islands make up the state, including Hope, Despair and the bay’s largest, Rhode Island (also known by its Native American name “Aquidneck”), which gives the state its name. Narragansett Bay has long been a determining factor in Rhode Island’s economic development and strategic military importance, as the Ocean State developed through sea trade, whaling and smuggling before shifting to manufacturing in the nineteenth century. Today, the state’s principal destinations are its two original ports: the colonial college town of Providence, and well-heeled Newport, home to extravagant mansions that once belonged to America’s most prominent families, and still a major yachting centre.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Weird America: 9 of the USA's most bizarre traditions

Weird America: 9 of the USA's most bizarre traditions

Despite being a relatively young nation – at just 240 years old – America has developed its fair share of traditions. Most of us are familiar with the big h…

24 Nov 2017 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

Next year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south. On a road …

16 Nov 2017 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
Video: a brief history of the American road trip

Video: a brief history of the American road trip

We dug into the visual archives of yore to bring you a brief history of the American road trip. From the first coast-to-coast car voyage in the USA to today…

10 Nov 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook