Within earshot of the surf along Narragansett Town Beach sits a burnished little gem of a museum that dunks you into the lives of the farmers and fishermen of a coastal Rhode Island community. South County Museum, under the lively direction of Jim Crothers (a theater professor at the University of Rhode Island), trots out a cast of woolly Romney sheep and Rhode Island Red chickens, plus an eclectic collection that encompasses everything from slave shackles to whale jawbones to one of the best assortments of horse-drawn buggies in New England.
Located at Canonchet Farm, where ex-governor William Sprague’s mansion once stood until it burned in 1909, the museum is entirely personal. Comprising donations from Rhode Island families, it’s a little like stumbling into your grandmother’s trunk–if it had regularly changing exhibits. Kids get some hands-on experience of the hard work their 19th-century peers endured in the print shop, or bang out delicate wrought-iron hooks in the smithy.
Bring a picnic and decamp in the shadow of the carriage-house ruins, all that remains of the estate built by “The Boy Governor.”
SOUTH COUNTY MUSEUM, Strathmore St., Narragansett, RI.