Narragansett is long and narrow, with water borders. Along its east flank the shore extends beyond the entrance to the West Channel of Narragansett Bay to face the open ocean. Off its narrow southern end is more open ocean. Up its west flank, ponds and the ponding of the Pettaquamscutt River almost disengage this strip of Rhode Island from the rest. Europeans originally settled it as part of the Pettaquamscutt Purchase, which included the shoreline and an area extending well inland in what is now much of North Kingstown, South Kingstown, all of Narragansett, and land to the south into Charlestown. It included some of the richest agricultural land in New England, the economic basis for the social, hunting, and horse-breeding culture associated with the socalled Narragansett Planters. The Narragansett Pacer, bred in these plantations, was a prized export.
For over two centuries a ferry that sailed from a landing point near the end of South Ferry Road to Jamestown and thence, in conjunction with another ferry, to Newport, was a prime connection between the rural life of southern Rhode Island and the world of sophistication in Newport, especially significant during the colonial and early national period. Not only was it a conduit for agricultural goods and high-style finery between the mainland and the island, but also a shuttle for Newporters who owned country property on the mainland and for mainlanders who operated outlets in Newport, conducted business there, or sought the glitter of its social life.
Around 1780, John Robinson, son of William, who owned the largest of the plantations in Narragansett, built a stone pier for shipping a little south of the mouth of the channel into the bay. It was the start of Narragansett Pier, which eventually became one of the premier seaside resorts in New England. A chain of beaches extending from Narragansett Pier, together with those south and west to Watch Hill on the Connecticut border, are among the best on the East Coast. To the south, flanking the entrance to Point Judith Pond, are the twin villages of Jerusalem and Galilee, fishing communities where the local fleet parades for its annual blessing. North of the Pier are clustered marine research facilities, among them the oceanographic campus of the University of Rhode Island.
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