10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Rhode Island

Updated On October 7, 2023

Rhode Island has about 400 miles of coastal land, so that makes it an interesting place to view animals.

You will find more wildlife refuges in the state than you will zoos and aquariums.

Here are the nine best places to appreciate Rhode Island’s living creatures. 

10 Best Zoos and Aquariums in Rhode Islands (Mostly Parks)

1. Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo, located in Providence, opened in 1872.

At that time, it featured small animal exhibits. 

Now, this zoo has over 100 species of animals living on about 40 acres of natural habitat.

Elephants, bears, anteaters, cheetahs, monkeys, and piping Quan (a bird that looks like a turkey), only resemble a few species that have resided here. 

It offers immersive experiences that allow you to get more personal with the animals.

You may have the chance to feed some of the zoo creatures if you plan your visit around meal or snacktimes. 

Two Animal Encounter exhibits to check out include the “Rainforest Experience With Sloth” and the “Giant Otter Wild Connection.”

Both provide you with a private interaction experience. Another option is a virtual animal tour at home. 

2. Beavertail State Park Aquarium

The RI Park Naturalist program established the Beavertail State Park Aquarium, founded in Jamestown.

They focus on local marine life, and the aquarium operates next to the Beavertail Lighthouse. 

They sometimes announce events, such as diving at the nearby Wetherhill diving cove.

They do what’s called “snorkeling, seining, and free-netting.” 

So what animals can you actually see at Beavertail?

Well, I saw a Facebook photo of someone coming up from the water holding a starfish in their hand.

That’s during a diving event though.

Other animals you might see here include the ones in tanks.

For instance, you might see a large tadpole, sea robin, quahog, and sea sponge.

The black sea bass also makes an appearance, and you might also see crabs and shellfish. 

3. Audubon Society of Rhode Island 

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island Nature Center and Aquarium located in Bristol, Rhode Island started operating after 1897. 

That’s about 126 years ago as of 2023.

That’s an impressive amount of time, I think.

The Audobon Society that runs The Nature and Aquarium Center started to establish ownership of wildlife refuge space in 1924.

I didn’t find an exact number of animals that live here.

It must be at least hundreds, seeing how they have about 9,5000 acres of space. 

 The facility consists of 25 themed habitats.

These living quarters provide the animals with a safe and natural environment for their well-being.

At the same time, they offer individuals, families, and school groups opportunities to view them. 

Animals you may see at the Nature Center and Aquarium include the following: Owls, snakes, falcons, frogs, turtles, birds, fish, and more.

It’s best to plan your visit in person to experience it, but they do have some online viewing available.

For instance, they have a BirdCam (Providence Peregrine Live Stream). 

4. Save The Bay Exploration Center & Aquarium

The Save The Bay Exploration Center is a non-profit aquarium and science education center located in Newport, Rhode Island.

The mission of preserving Narragansett Bay for future generations led to its founding in 1970.  

I think the Save The Bay Exploration Center offers students a unique way to learn more about Narragansett Bay’s diverse ecology.

For instance, students have the chance to play the role of a marine biologist.

They even have the chance to view plankton through a microscope and check lobster traps. 

Save The Bay Exploration Center also has three “touch tanks.”

In these tanks, people can feel the texture of sea stars and get close to dogfish sharks.

People exploring these tanks can also interact with crabs, lobsters, urchins, skates, seahorses, and more.

There are aquatic turtles in there too, depending on your timing. 

Save the Bay houses at least 40 species of animals, which totals hundreds of creatures.

However, they don’t hold all animals on their property permanently.

They seem to care about releasing each one back into its preferred wild habitat if possible. 

Some exceptions involve rescued animals who may not make it out in the “real world” alone.

However,  the rest are returned to where they were most meant to be in nature. 

Since they seem to care about the animals, I think it’s worth a visit.

They have 14 themed exhibits, such as the one showcasing seals and critters.

Others look into the fossil life of horseshoe crabs and more. 

5. Dave Marchetti’s Animal Experiences 

Dave Marchetti provides entertainment using animals for people of all ages.

You can experience interactions with large snakes, frogs, lizards, bunnies, and more.

Sometimes, Dave has even brought an alligator to some of the venues he visits. 

It’s not your typical zoo experience, as it usually puts you in contact with animals at private parties.

Still, it does count as a chance to get to know the kinds of creatures you would normally interact with at a wildlife center.

 The difference is that the animals normally come to you instead of you having to come to them.

Dave Marchetti’s Animal Experiences take place in a variety of settings, such as schools, libraries, museums, and more. 

Any place that has enough room for private animal interactions during a party, that’s where you can send Dave Marchetti’s Animal Experiences crew.

The staff even brings animals to birthday parties and other events. 

6. The Norman Bird Sanctuary

The Norman Bird Sanctuary (NBS) in Middletown first became established in 1949.

This sanctuary spans more than 300 acres, and it includes 22 different unique plant communities. 

I didn’t find out how many species of birds reside here.

However, I did learn about this natural area’s types of birds.

Some include bobolinks, Savannah Sparrow,  Eastern Kingbirds, Tree Swallows, or Northern Harriers and owls. 

It’s not just birds at the Norman Bird Sanctuary though.

Other animals include butterflies and bees that pollinate the wildflowers found onsite.

In addition, you might see raccoons, deer, opossums, and more. 

7. West Place Animal Sanctuary 

The West Place Animal Sanctuary was established in 2007 in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

This non-profit animal rescue and sanctuary provides refuge for homeless, neglected, or otherwise unwanted animals. 

The sanctuary serves cats and dogs who need rescuing.

Other animals who receive help here include horses, pigs, sheep, goats, cows, and bunnies.

Any creature that would normally fit into a farm setting could find care here. 

West Place does have visitors’ weekends at least three times per year.

In addition, this rescue center also hosts private tours for camp and scout groups, wedding parties, and more. 

8. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge

The Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, Rhode Island was first established in 1970 to protect animals and their habitats.

It spans about 242 acres and welcomes more than 65,000 visitors every year. 

It serves as a haven for about 150-200 migratory birds and features the harlequin duck.

In fact, it’s on record for having the largest winter population of this bird on the East Coast.

Saltwater fishing also takes place at this wildlife refuge. 

To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than animals living in their natural habitat.

With that in mind, it’s not that zoos as we normally think of them are “bad.”

However, I like viewing animals that belong in their natural habitat more than I do having creatures “shipped” in from other places. 

Other animals you may see at Sachuest Point include the snowy owl, peregrine falcon, and northern harrier.

Whatever animals you hope to see here, however, the best time for migratory bird watching is in the spring and fall. 

Whatever your reason for arriving at this animal sanctuary, it does provide chances to appreciate nature.

They do have almost two and a half miles of trails for walking, running, and biking, as well as bird watching. 

9. Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island

The Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island located in Cranston first started operating after its founding in 1993.

Animals the center cares for include skunks, raccoons, bats, woodchucks, and foxes.

Other animals nursed here include salamanders, songbirds, squirrels, and more. 

The Wildlife Clinic observes animals being cared for before they’re released back into the wild.

During this process, they provide rehabilitation and food to the creatures along with housing. 

I don’t know much about their public viewing hours.

You’ll have to find out if they do allow public visitors to see their animals.

I suggest calling them to see if they will allow you to come to see them. 

10. Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge

Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1987 and is located in South Kingstown.

This refuge has over 300 species of birds, including gulls, piping plovers (a shorebird), and herons.

It also has more than 40 species of mammals.

It also has some reptiles and amphibians.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t find any information about the animals in this pond and trail area specifically.

However, I did learn that the state of RI has river otters, beavers, squirrels, snapping turtles, watersnakes, and more. 

A unique amenity at the Trstom Pond refuge is its bird-watching and wildlife observation tower, which offers spectacular views of wildlife.

It also offers hiking trails, where visitors can explore animal habitats up close.

The refuge and its walking paths span over about 787 acres. 

10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Rhode Island – Summary Table

Zoos & AquariumsAddress
Roger Williams Park Zoo1000 Elmwood Ave, Providence, RI 02907, USA
Beavertail State Park AquariumBeavertail Rd, Jamestown, RI 02835, USA
Audubon Society of Rhode Island 1401 Hope St, Bristol, RI 02809, United States
Save The Bay Exploration Center & Aquarium175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840, USA
Dave Marchetti’s Animal Experiences 29 Argyle Ave, Riverside, RI 02915, USA
The Norman Bird Sanctuary583 3rd Beach Rd, Middletown, RI 02842, USA
West Place Animal Sanctuary 3198 Main Rd, Tiverton, RI 02878, USA
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge769 Sachuest Point Rd Middletown, RI
Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island2865 Tower Hill Rd, Saunderstown, RI 02874, USA
Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge1040 Matunuck School House Rd, South Kingstown, RI 02879, USA

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does Rhode Island have any zoos or aquariums?

Rhode Island has at least one zoo and a couple of aquariums that I know of.

Those are not the only places where you can feel close to animals though.

Does Rhode Island have any parks?

I found out RI has 22 of its own parks.

It also has two national parks.

These areas provide chances to view both plants and animals instead of just going to zoos or aquariums.

Does Rhode Island charge admission at its zoos?

The fenced-in areas usually require that you pay an admission fee.

Some of the state parks may require an admission pass.

Trail walking in refugees is often free though.

How much does it cost to go to the zoo?

It’s normally under $20.00 as of 2023.

Children, military veterans, or senior citizens may pay less than general adults.

1 Comment on 10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Rhode Island

  1. Rhode Island has a variety of options for viewing animals, from traditional zoos and aquariums to nature centers and wildlife refuges, providing a diverse and immersive experience for all animal lovers.

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