The rocky coast of the New England states presents plenty of great opportunities for photography. If you’re looking for a location to easily photograph the amazing coast, Beavertail State Park in Rhode Island is an excellent option.
Beavertail State Park is located in Jamestown, on Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay. The island is easily accessible by bridge from the mainland (to the west) as well as from Newport (to the east). The park sits at the southern tip of Conanicut Island.
While the park is not large (only around 150 acres) it does have plenty to offer. One of the unique things about this small park is that includes coast on both the east and west sides of the island, so you can get amazing views at both sunrise and sunset.
The park is also home to Beavertail Lighthouse, which sits at the southern tip. The lighthouse grounds now feature a museum, but for photographers the lighthouse itself can be a great subject along the coast.
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Getting familiar with Beavertail State Park is pretty easy. Beavertail Road enters the park from the north and once inside the park Beavertail Road forms a one-way loop that basically circles the park. There are four main parking lots: two on the east and two on the west, as well as some additional parking at the southern end near the lighthouse.
From the road within the park you will have a view of the bay and the rocky shoreline, but to get a much better view you will need to park and walk closer to the shore. There are many short paths that lead down to the rocks. Some of those paths are a bit steeper than others. Once you get down to the rocks you can walk around and find the best views.
There are also some trails within the park, but to get great coastal views you won’t need to hike. Just park in one of the lots, find an entry point to the rocks, and explore on foot.
Be sure to be careful on the rocks. Obviously the rocks are uneven, some of the rocks are loose, and they can also be very slippery. But if you are careful there is plenty to see with relatively little effort.
Tips for Photographing Beavertail State Park
Photograph sunrise or sunset. This is an amazing location because you can easily get east and west facing views. Take advantage of the best light by photographing either a sunrise or sunset.
Explore the rocks on foot to find the most interesting photos. From a car you can see the water. But the road is a good bit higher than the water, so you need to get out and walk to really see the majority of the rocks.
Bring the right gear. Ideally you will want to have a sturdy tripod to set up on the rocks. It’s also a good idea to have a circular polarizer for cutting down the glare off of wet rocks. You may want some neutral density filters for long exposures that will soften the look of the water in your photos. For details on how to do this, please see Guide to Long Exposure Landscape Photography.
Also in the Area
If you’re making a trip to Beavertail State Park there are several other locations within a short distance that you may also want to visit and photograph, including:
- Brenton Point State Park – This state park in Newport also features a rocky coast and great views. Like Beavertail, it’s also a small park with parking lots right next to the road that make is very convenient to find the best views (see our Guide to Photographing Brenton Point State Park).
- Castle Hill Lighthouse – Just a very short distance north of Brenton Point, the Castle Hill Lighthouse is surrounded by stunning rocks along the coast.
- Black Point – One of my favorite sunrise locations in the area, Black Point in Narragansett is just across the bay from Conanicut Island.
- Fort Wetherill State Park – Also in Jamestown, just a short distance from Beavertail. This is another small state park that presents some nice views of the coast. The views aren’t as epic as Beavertail or Brenton Point, but still worth checking out if you are in the area.
- Point Judith Lighthouse – An iconic lighthouse on the mainland not far Conanicut Island. On a clear day you can actually see down to Point Judith from Beavertail.
- Claiborne Pell Bridge – A picturesque suspension bridge that connects Jamestown and Newport.