Bristol Harbor is the seat of Bristol County in Rhode Island and a suburb for Providence. Bristol Harbor is about 12 nautical miles (21 kilometers or 13 miles direct) north-northeast of the Port of Newport. Bristol Harbor is also 44 nautical miles (30 kilometers or 19 miles direct) west-northwest of the Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Located on a peninsula between Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay, Bristol Harbor contains many colonial-era structures. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 23 thousand people in Bristol Harbor.
Bristol Harbor is home to the country's oldest Fourth of July parade, having first been held in 1785. Bristol Harbor is also home to the America Cup Hall of Fame, a branch of the Herreshoff Marine Museum honoring the legendary yacht designer Nathanael Herreshoff. The Bristol Harbor economy depends on tourism, boat-building, and the manufacture of textiles, plastics, machinery, and rubber goods.
In 1675, the first battle of King Philip's War was fought on the site of the future Bristol Harbor. Nearby Mount Hope was King Philip's base. After the war was over in 1680, the town of Bristol was established as part of the Plymouth Colony. Four investors from Boston purchased the settlement, and Bristol Harbor was part of the Massachusetts Colony until transferred to the Rhode Island 1747. Bristol Harbor and Rhode Island were early centers for slave trading, and one of earliest settlers, James DeWolf, was a prominent slave trader who later became a Senator in the US Congress.
The British Navy bombarded Bristol Harbor twice during the American Revolution. The first attack on in 1775 resulted in much damage to Bristol Harbor. The second attack on Bristol Harbor was more serious when 500 British troops marched into town, burning barracks and houses and taking prisoners to Newport. Bristol Harbor has celebrated the United States' Independence Day every year since 1777. Annual celebrations begin in June in Bristol Harbor and include soap-box races, outdoor concerts, and a firefighters' muster. On July 4th, Bristol Harbor is the site for the country's oldest celebratory parade, and the event attracts more than 200 thousand people from around the world.
The East Bay Bike Path ends in Bristol Harbor's Independence Park. This popular bike path travels an abandoned railway track from Bristol Harbor north to East Providence, Rhode Island, and offers breathtaking views of Narragansett Bay.
Between 1983 and 1920, the Herreshoff boat company in Bristol Harbor constructed five consecutive America's Cup defenders. The 1700 Joseph Reynolds House in Bristol Harbor is a National Historic Landmark, having been the site of the headquarters for Marquis de Lafayette during the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island.