Bristol, Rhode Island: A Traditional New England Coastal Experience

Head to this town for a relaxing and delicious experience
Staff Writer
Lexi Van de Walle

Lexi Van de Walle

The Knotty Dog sells homemade soaps, custom furniture made from reclaimed wood, and a large selection of nautical items.

Famous for holding the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration in the United States and its year-round red, white, and blue line painted down the middle of the parade route, Bristol, R.I., is a quaint harbor-front village surrounded by three sides of water.

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When you visit Bristol, there’s no mistaking that you’re in a New England town that caters to sailors and beach lovers. Its streets are dotted with home goods, antique, jewelry, and clothing stores selling everything from vintage nautical suitable for a Ralph Lauren-inspired lifestyle to coastal contemporary and clam-shack chic. 

Bristol’s restaurants range from new American cuisine with chefs trained at Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts in nearby Providence to more traditional New England seafood restaurants serving lobster and oysters on the half-shell. Many restaurants use local Rhode Island seafood ingredients: tautog, which is the Narragansett Indian word for black porgy or "poor man’s lobster," Rhode Island razor clams sought after by New York chefs, farmed mussels and oysters, hard "quahog" or chowder clams, Atlantic cod, and the quintessential New England shellfish, lobster. 

Two restaurants in downtown (and on the parade route), The Lobster Pot, where boaters can dock their boats and enjoy a sunset view and an upscale meal facing the harbor, and Quito’s Fish Market and Restaurant, which is considerably more casual, serve fresh, local seafood and lobster with as many preparations as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has of shrimp —  steamed, boiled, broiled, baked, grilled, stuffed, lobster sauté, lobster clambake, lobster in a casserole, lobster and seafood scampi, lobster mac and cheese, lobster bisque, lobster zuppa, lobster salad, lobster Caesar, lobster surf and turf, lobster club, lobster roll, hot or cold lobster — always served with lemon and clarified butter but never fried.

After a day of shopping and sightseeing, settle in at the Bristol House Bed And Breakfast which is decorated and furnished like a traditional coastal home and a short walk from town. Kathleen, the innkeeper, will welcome you with her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (but don’t ask her for the recipe — it’s a closely guarded secret).

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