Despite its size, Rhode Island has over four hundred miles of coastline, hacked out of the Narragansett Bay; it is, in fact, made up of over thirty tiny islands, including Hope and Despair. The " Ocean State " therefore developed through sea trade, whaling and smuggling. Partly due to this commercial interest, Rhode Islanders, resenting the stringent economic pressures placed on them from England, were in the front rank of the Revolutionary groundswell. However, no Revolutionary battles were fought on Rhode Island soil, and unwilling at first to abandon its new-found freedom, it turned out to be the last state to ratify the Constitution. Between the Revolution and the Civil War, Rhode Island shifted from a maritime economy to lead the Industrial Revolution with Samuel Slater's creation of the nation's first water-powered textile mill in Pawtucket, just outside Providence.
Today, although still heavily industrialized, the state's principal destinations are its two original ports: well-heeled Newport , yachting capital of the world, with good beaches and outrageously extravagant mansions, and the colonial college town of Providence. Block Island , about thirty miles south of Newport, has a popular state beach, while the rest of Rhode Island is largely made up of sleepy small towns and fishing ports.
Rhode Island is tiny enough to make getting around ridiculously easy. I-95, the major interstate, runs through Providence on its way from Massachusetts to Connecticut. The more scenic US-1 follows the coast of Narragansett Bay into Connecticut. Newport is accessible from Hwy-138, which connects the small islands in Narragansett Bay to the mainland. Public transportation is good: local buses connect Providence and Newport, and Amtrak stops regularly in Providence. Ferries link Block Island and Newport.