Written by: Doug Rentz
Buildings from the 17th century and earlier still stand in South County and tell the stories of the region's founding fathers. The Rhode Island Tourism Division accentuates the county's history through one of its many themed itineraries designed for the packaged travel buyer.
There can't be many places in the world that boast the breathtaking vistas that South County does - it's possible to be standing on a 400-year-old farm while enjoying amazing views of Narragansett Bay, said Katrina White, travel trade manager for the Rhode Island Tourism Division. In fact, South County is home to some of the original plantations of the colony, some of which are still being farmed today.
White's itinerary begins with a stop at the General Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry. A Revolutionary War hero, Greene lived here from 1770 to 1776. He was the youngest general of the Colonial army and a friend and comrade-in-arms of Gen. George Washington. Visitors to the house, which is now a museum run by the General Nathanael Greene Homestead Association, are welcome to explore eight rooms displaying period furnishings and Greene family memorabilia.
Next, the group will enjoy a scenic narrated driving tour of the woodlands of the Arcadia Wildlife Management Area en route to the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter. Through a guided tour, participants learn the history and culture of local Native American Indians, with a presentation of song and dance by students from Nuweetooun School. Guests also can sample Native American food while browsing the many exhibits showcasing the culture.
A tour highlight is the re-enactment of encampment at Smith's Castle in Wickford. The home was built in 1637 and stands on the site of one of Roger Williams trading posts, which was chosen for its access to Narragansett Bay. The castle and grounds provide a glance at plantation life in Rhode Island in the 1700s. Visitors can take in a guided tour of the castle with docents dressed in costume and enjoy the picturesque grounds.
Smith's Castle in Wickford is a real gem, White said. The grounds are stunning. An 18th-century garden is kept, which includes plants from the time, not to mention the beautiful views of the cove leading to the bay.
Rounding out the historical journey through South County is the Quonset Air Museum located in an original Naval Air Station Quonset Point hangar built in 1945. Flight buffs can see a diverse assortment of aircraft, parts, historic artifacts and collections that document the contributions of Rhode Island to the growth and development of America's aviation and space exploration.