Westerly, Rhode Island, USA

Westerly is a town on the southwestern shoreline of Rhode Island, United States, right along the border with Connecticut and along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a beachfront community, so like many destinations in New England, it becomes a huge tourist attraction during the summer months.

The town was founded in 1669, over 300 years before I was born there, and today holds a population of over 22,000. While Westerly may be known as beach town full of family fun activities and local attractions, it certainly has a refined side too. Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, it certainly doesn't lack in charm or culture!

History and Highlights

Westerly was named for the settlement's location, respective to Rhode Island's geography, being the westernmost town in the state. It is also speculated that Westerly got its name from the English village of Westerleigh, in the county of Gloucestershire. The state of Rhode Island got its name when explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano refered to an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay and likened the island to the Island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean.

The Westerly Downtown Historic District is home to many great shops and businesses including the Westerly Sun newspaper, a historic Spanish Colonial railroad station, and a beautiful public library and park. Westerly is made up of many different villages, all of completely different styles. When you're in Downtown, it is easy to forget that you're right down the road from the beach!

One of my favorite places in town is Wilcox Park, located right next to the public library. Wilcox Park features a beautiful landscape defined by an open meadow area with surrounding trees, a fish pond, monuments and gardens. Many special events are held here throughout the year, including the Summer Pops Concert and Shakespeare in the Park.

Since 1998, 20,000 rubber ducks are dumped en masse in the Pawcatuck River each year for a race that benefits over forty local charities. The day is full of food, fun, and festivities, and does such a great job raising funds for local schools and non-profits.

I cannot talk about Westerly without mentioning Misquamicut, a three-mile length stretch of beach which offers plenty of oceanfront recreation including motels, cottages, restaurants, gift shops, amusements, water slides, miniature golf courses and a concert hall. Two annual music festivals, Springfest and Fallfest, are held each May and September. The word "Misquamicut" comes from a Native American word meaning "red salmon at this place."

One of my very favorite childhood memories is riding the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill, the principal summer resort area of the town of Westerly. The carousel is believed to have been built around 1876, and was originally part of a traveling carnival, until 1879 when the carnival was forced to abandon the carousel in Watch Hill. In the middle of the ride, a device holding metal rings is lowered for riders to grab as they pass. The last ring is brass, granting the "winner" a free ride token.

A Tour of New England

Although I was born in Westerly, I spent much of my childhood in Griswold, Connecticut. In Griswold you'll find Buttonwood Farms, which annually holds the "Sunflowers for Wishes" fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. Each year, over 10 acres of sunflowers are grown for the town's viewing pleasure, and then cut and sold in exchange for a donation to the charity.

Del's is a brand of frozen lemonade typically found in Rhode Island and other parts of New England during the summer months. It is made from crushed ice, lemons, and sugar, and is absolutely delicious! Rhode Island legislature made an attempt to decide on an official state beverage in 1993, but it ultimately lost to "coffee milk," another Rhode Island staple!

If you're looking to travel outside of Rhode Island, you're just a quick 1.5 hour train from Boston! Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is also home to some of the greatest sports teams in the country, shares many cultural roots with greater New England, and is considered to be a world leader in innovation.


I hope you enjoyed the tour of my hometown. I have great pride in the Northeastern region of the country and try to dedicate much of my linguistic studies to New England dialects, specifically those from my beloved Rhode Island! LINGUIST List is invaluable not only to me, but to everyone who is studying or simply interested in linguistics from all over the world. Please donate to LINGUIST List to keep us going strong. Your donations are vital and so very much appreciated.