Bristol, Rhode Island
Built in 1855
Off Route 144 under the Mount Hope Bridge by Roger Williams University, in Narragansett Bay. Private residence. Grounds are not open to the public.
|Latitude: 41° 38' 34" N
||Longitude: 71° 15' 37" W|
Before the lighthouse was constructed, a ferry was used for many generations to transport passengers and commerce between Boston and Newport through Providence. The ferry operated until 1865, when a railroad line was established between Newport and Fall River. The Bristol Ferry name stayed with the location of the lighthouse, and hence became the beacon’s name.
Bristol Ferry lighthouse was built in 1855 to guide the increasing whaling and fishing vessels between the narrow passage of Mount Hope Bay and the larger Narragansett Bay. The first three keepers died within months after tending the lighthouse which many believed to be from the constant dampness.
1884 - Vintage image courtesy of
US Coast Guard
The first keeper was George Pearse, who stayed on for only two months. Henry Dinman followed, but died less than a year later. His wife Elizabeth took over as the only woman lighthouse keeper at the lighthouse, but she too died within six months of her appointment.
The reason for the dampness with Bristol Ferry lighthouse involved it’s being built on a depression of land that would cause it to constantly flood during storms, creating havoc with its keepers who consistently complained about the dampness of the structure. The floor was never raised, and the keepers would always become ill, some fatally.
Places to Visit Nearby:
Bristol hosts a diverse range of eclectic shops and restaurants, with plenty of shoreline views, parks like Cedarcrest Park and Cohelo Park. This is a nice area for boaters and to kayak as well, including along the harbor.
The lighthouse is under the Mount Hope Bridge by Roger Williams University, and if you stay away from the private grounds on the university side, you can still get nice photos of the structure. I was lucky enough to find the owner agreable to allow me to take some close ups, he was very helpful. There is a tiny parking lot by the shore to get out and take quick pictures.
The East Bay Bike Path is a scenic 14.5-mile paved trail, running from Bristol to Providence. Very scenic and an easy ride.
The Bristol - Prudence Island Ferry provides you access to quaint and very rural Prudence Island, where you can hike a mile along a path to visit Sandy Point (Prudence Island) lighthouse, fish off the pier, or enjoy unspoiled wildlife and nature. Be aware their are no public bathrooms on the island.
Take Route 144 South to the Mount Hope Bridge.
From the northern end of the Mount Hope Bridge, take Old Ferry Road down to the foot of the bridge where you will see the lighthouse.
Park at the Roger Williams University parking lots on the right (let security there know you are going to the lighthouse) then you can walk a short distance down to the lighthouse.
You can view the lighthouse from the beach, as it is a private residence.
Local Boat Tours
Boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, some will pass by specific lighthouses as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions. Contact info is provided to help you plan your special trips to New England’s shorelines. Enjoy!
Save the Bay Tours
Special organization for lighthouse and coastal preservation provides Ultimate Lighthouse Tour, Northern Bay Lighthouse Tour, Southern Bay Lighthouse Tour, and Providence Sunset Lighthouse Cruise on specific days during the summer.
100 Save the Bay Drive, Providence, RI 02905
You can see the lighthouse as the ferry passes on way to Prudence island.
Phone: (401) 253-9808
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours. There are stories of devastation created by the Hurricane of 1938, and of some remarkable rescues.