Places We Protect

Goosewing Beach Preserve

Rhode Island

A narrow gravelly beach stretches to the horizon with vegetated dunes to the left and the ocean to the right.
Goosewing Beach A mile-long barrier beach provides habitat for birds and other wildlife year-round. © Tim Mooney/TNC

A fragile, dynamic beach divides Quicksand Pond from the Atlantic.



An unspoiled barrier beach in the southeast corner of Rhode Island, Goosewing is a vital refuge for piping plovers, least terns, herons and thousands of migrating songbirds. 

The Little Compton Beach Commission hires lifeguards to manage recreational use of the beach in the summer. Visitors are invited to explore this spectacular, mile-long nature preserve year-round by walking on from South Shore Beach.  

The South Shore parking fee for non-residents is $20/day on weekdays and $25/day on weekends and holidays. The fee is charged daily from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm, from approximately Memorial Day until Labor Day. 

Dogs are prohibited from April 1 to September 1. Please do not enter shorebird nesting areas, marked by signs and rope lines. 




Open year-round during daylight hours


Birdwatching, nature photography

Explore our work in Rhode Island

Quicksand Pond: Giving Fish a Way Out (1:15) If Quicksand Pond doesn't breach naturally in the fall, young river herring have no way to get out. TNC and DEM dig a trench across Goosewing Beach, providing an escape route to the ocean. In 3 or 4 years, mature herring will return to spawn in Quicksand Pond, continuing the cycle.

Photos from Goosewing Beach Preserve

Tag your preserve visits with #GoosewingBeach to have your photos featured here!

A tiny piping plover chick resembles a cotton ball on toothpicks on a sandy beach.
A young deer with white spots on its brown coat, standing in a narrow path though tall, green grass.
A large crab in wet sand on the beach, raising its blue craws aggressively toward the camera
A wide, flat beach dune covered with yellow flowers blooming on low shrubss
A small tern with pointed gray wings, a white breast, black cap and long, yellow bill rests on the sand
A river otter breaks the surface of a still pond in soft light, with only its head visible, looking straight at the camera
A large-bodied turtle with a concave shell, large mouth, sagging skin and long claws climbs over rounded stones
A large hawk with a white breast and dark wings extended in flight carrying a foot-long, silver-scaled fish in its talons.
A narrow channel of open water reflects the clear blue sky, with heaping piles of small stones forming both banks and green dune vegetation in the background
Two pink roses in sharp focus with a greenish, blurry background of wavig beach grasses


  • Goosewing Beach Preserve does not have its own parking area, but visitors can park at South Shore Beach and walk onto the preserve. The address is 140 South Shore Beach Road, Little Compton.

    The South Shore parking fee for non-residents is $20/day on weekdays and $25/day on weekends and holidays. The fee is charged daily from 8:00 am (when the beach gate opens to non-residents) until 4:00 pm, from approximately Memorial Day until Labor Day. 

    There are also a small number of parking spaces at TNC's Marvell Preserve, located just outside the South Shore Beach gate. 

  • South Shore and Goosewing offer a mile-long beach walk along the Atlantic Ocean, with views of Cuttyhunk Island and Martha's Vineyard. 

    Grassy paths lead up to the Benjamin Family Environmental Center and across the dunes. Please stay on established trails and avoid shorebird nesting areas. 

    Winter storms tossed mounds of baseball-sized stones onto the beach. Sand is gradually returning, but the route from the South Shore parking lot to Goosewing Beach crosses a large area of loose stones. 

    Portable toilets are available at South Shore Beach.

  • Goosewing Beach Preserve's barrier beach and coastal pond ecosystem provides habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. 

    Plants: The preserve's meadow and shrublands are a mosaic of plants that thrive on sand: American beach grass, goldenrod, bayberry, beach rose and robust patches of poison ivy. Evergreen junipers punctuate the dunes; their uneven form is shaped by the steady sea breeze. Together, this diverse plant community provides food for many songbirds and butterflies.

    Birds: Goosewing Beach provides nesting habitat for piping plovers and least terns in spring and summer. Many other shorebirds, including dunlins and sanderlings, stop over to rest and refuel on their long spring and fall migration. In summer, ospreys plunge into the ocean to catch fish, while herons and egrets are drawn to the shallows of Tunipus and Quicksand Ponds. Thousands of tree swallows use the preserve as staging area in the fall, feasting on bayberries in preparation for their long return journey to Central America. 

    Animals: Evening or off-season visitors may encounter mammals seemingly better suited to the forest than the beach. But white-tailed deer, mink, red foxes, coyotes and skunks all find a home at Goosewing Beach. 



  • We hope you enjoy visiting Goosewing Beach Preserve in any season. We ask that you please observe the following guidelines to help protect the unique plants and animals that thrive in this dynamic landscape.

    • Dogs are not permitted anywhere on the preserve (leashed or unleashed) during shorebird nesting season (April 1 to September 1). 
    • Stay on marked trails and avoid all shorebird nesting areas.
    • Campfires and fireworks are not permitted.
    • No active beach sports such as football, soccer, wiffle ball or volleyball. No access for windsports of any kind.
    • No drones, kites or sky lanterns – they can disrupt shorebird nesting, causing adults to abandon their eggs or chicks.
    • Respect preserve hours (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset). Overnight camping and hunting are prohibited.
    • Do not ride horses, bikes or any motorized vehicle through preserves or on the trails.
    • Do not remove any living or non-living materials or disturb any vegetation.
    • Remove any trash you create and, if possible, any garbage that you see left by someone else.
    • Dress in long pants and socks to avoid deer ticks. After any nature walk, it is a good idea to check for ticks when you return home.
    • Be careful! Your safety is your responsibility.
A fluffy brown and white plover chick with long orange legs hunts on a wet, sandy beach
Plover Chick These little cotton balls feed on their own, but will run back to mom or dad when danger is near. © Geoff Dennis

Piping Plovers

The piping plover is a small, sand-colored shorebird that returns to Goosewing Beach Preserve in mid-March, migrating from as far away as the Bahamas. Hunted almost to the point of extinction in the early 1900s, piping plovers have been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1986.

At Goosewing, plovers spend the spring and summer on a narrow strip of beach, dune and mudflat between Quicksand Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. They lay their eggs on the open beach, relying on camouflage to avoid crows, gulls, foxes and mink. But spring storms and king tides can drown their nests and adults may be preyed upon by hawks or peregrine falcons.

To add to their challenges, plovers compete for space with people, who favor the same stretch of sandy beach for relaxation and enjoyment. If not careful, humans and dogs can easily disturb a nest or cause a plover to leave its eggs or chicks for too long, without even realizing it.

Through four decades of conservation and management, piping plovers have slowly rebounded and now number about 100 breeding pairs in Rhode Island. Please help sustain the ongoing recovery of this remarkable bird by following all Goosewing Beach Preserve guidelines and leaving your dogs at home. 

A full moon rises above the ocean, with its light reflected on the waves.
Moonrise Goosewing Beach is conserved forever, thanks to the support of many donors and partners. © Nat Rea


The Goosewing Beach Preserve is part of the traditional homelands of the Wampanoag and Pokanoket peoples. 

The Nature Conservancy established the preserve in 1989, in partnership with the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust and the RI Department of Environmental Management. It is one of a handful of Sakonnet-area nesting sites for federally threatened piping plovers. The muddy flats along Quicksand Pond provide an important food source, as well as a safe brood-rearing area.

In 2010, TNC opened the doors of the Benjamin Family Environmental Center, thanks to the vision and generosity of a longtime supporter. The “Ben Center” serves as a base for summer nature programs and offers views of the entire preserve and much of Quicksand Pond.  

Nearby Preserves

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy’s other nearby preserves.

Find More Places We Protect

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