Dutch Island is west of Coanicut Island (Jamestown) and is visible from the Jamestown bridge, an unpopulated strip of land that lies directly at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. The island is open to the public as a wildlife reserve, with camping and fishing permitted on the grounds. The island features a still functioning self-operationating lighthouse at its southern-most tip.
It was an Indian trading post established with the Dutch in the 1636. It was purchased by the United States government in the 1800s and then the lighthouse was built. The government established a military base, Fort Greble, that at one point hosted over 200 soldiers. The island saw action from the Revolutionary War through World War II, when it was used to hold German prisoners of war. The base was decommissioned in 1947, and has since only been used by the Navy and Coast Guard for staged training assault missions. Shell casings can still be found littered around the island and are the only evidence of its military history aside from the entirely overgrown ruins still present and accessible today. In 2007 the island's lighthouse was rebuilt and restored.
Dutch island is 102 acres and prominently features a dense forest at its core surrounded by both sand and rock clad beaches. The island features a compilation of the fauna found in Rhode Island, including pine trees and willows, which are usually uncommon close to the sea. Of note, sections of the island feature dense thorny briar bushes as well as several fields of wildflowers. Its southern-most tip is entirely granite and limestone. Wildlife includes numerous deer and rabbits, as well as a wide variety of birds including two families of osprey who often nest on the island.
The island is only accessible by boat or kayak, kayaks can be loaded into the bay across from the island at a free public parking lot next to Fort Getty, Jamestown. The island is around 5,000 ft (1,500 m) from the shores of Fort Getty and swimming is not advisable as it means crossing an open water channel.
In addition to camping, relaxing and swimming, there are numerous paths/nature walks around and through the island as well as numerous overgrown ruins to explore including the lighthouse. Ruins of note include a watchtower with its climbable steps still intact, it offers the highest view on the island and is a useful vantage point to locate other, hidden ruins. Old prison cells are also still intact at section of the fort, though the bars have long ago rusted away. Fishing is also an option. Hunting is permitted on the island but there are deer and rabbits to see as well as a wide variety of birds to identify.
Camping is prohibited throughout the entirety of the island, while numerous campsites have been established overtime by travelers.
In addition to bug-spray and sunscreen, recommendations include a tidal chart, medical kit, cell phone, flashlights, accurate knowledge of weather before your visit and a life vest as well as proper knowledge of how to secure a boat or kayak. While island structures appear solid, caution should be applied to open sewer holes scattered around the island, especially at night.