Visiting Newport, RI – A Local’s Guide
Did you know that in addition to being the sailing capital of the world, Newport, RI is also one of the most beautiful and historic destination spots as well? Founded in 1639, Newport was established before the founding fathers of the U.S. had even considered writing the “Declaration of Independence”. Known for its incredible sailing, mansions, sandy beaches, and fresher than fresh seafood, Newport has more to it than meets the eye. Check out our locals guide below on what to do when visiting the city by the sea!
1) Drive Bellevue Avenue, home to many of the famous mansions of Newport. From The Breakers to The Elms, Marble House to Chateau-sur-Mer, the mansions are a fun and historic experience for all members of the family. Our favorites are the Breakers and Marble House. Their operating schedules change seasonally, so make sure to plan out your tours accordingly.
2) Bellevue Ave. will feed you onto the “Ocean Drive“. This ten mile winding road, leads you along the coastline of southern Newport, allowing for mansion and ocean views.
While on the route, stop at the Inn at Castle Hill, a renowned relais-chateau located at the mouth of the Narragansett Bay. Have a drink on the lawn, relax in one of the many Adirondack chairs, take in the sunset…. With sweeping views of Newport, Jamestown and Narragansett Bay, this is easily the best view in Newport!
2) Stop at Brenton Point State Park on Ocean Drive. Enjoy a wide-angle view of the Atlantic Ocean while flying kites and having fun in the sun. Every Sunday there is a spectacular kite-flying festival.
3) Explore one of the biggest historic sites in Newport – Fort Adams, also located off of Ocean Drive. The fort, built in 1841, too 33 years to build and is one of the largest, best preserved forts on the East Coast. Get the complete history by taking one of their tours! It is now used as the site for the Folk Festival and Jazz Festival, in addition to countless other events throughout the year. Fort Adams is also a great place to ride bikes, walk dogs and play sports!
5) What would Newport be without its beaches? Located close to the downtown heart of Newport is Easton’s Beach, also known as First Beach. At 1 1/4 miles long, it’s a great beach for families and those walking from their place of stay. The beach offers parking for a fee and is neighbors to the Atlantic Beach Club and the Save the Bay Exploration Center. To reach this beach, drive up Memorial Avenue towards Middletown, and you can’t miss it on your right hand side.
Second Beach (Sachuest Beach) is located about 5 minutes east of First Beach. While driving past First Beach, simply stay right at the fork by the Atlantic Beach Club, and follow that road up and down the next hill. Again sitting to your right side, Second Beach is a 2 1/2 mile long ribbon of beautiful, sandy dunes and beach. Parking is also offered. If you don’t time it right, you could end up in quite a beach traffic jam, so we recommend you head there early in the morning or closer to the lunch hour.
Driving past Second Beach and taking a left at the campground leads you to Third Beach. About 3/4 mile long, this beach is much calmer and more protected than First or Second. With no surf, this is a perfect beach for kids.
6) Like to walk? Here are some of our favorite routes:
A) All over Newport! Get out of your car and walk Newport’s side streets, particularly in the “Point” neighborhood (located between Van Zandt Ave and Long Wharf) and along Spring St (runs parallel to Thames St from Ruggles Ave to Broadway). Newport has more colonial-style architecture than New York, Boston, and Philadelphia combined! Beautiful homes date from the 1600-1900’s.
B) The Cliff Walk. Starting on Memorial Ave (at the top of First Beach) and ending on Bellevue Ave at the intersection of Ocean Drive, this path has breathtaking views, with the ocean on one side and the mansions and private homes on the other. The Cliff Walk has multiple start/end points. We recommend beginning your walk at the 40 Steps (at the end of Narragansett Ave), and follow the path to the right. This way you will quickly be walking behind many of the mansions. Make sure to wear your walking shoes as the word “cliff” in the title hints at the rocks you’ll be climbing along the way.
C) Sachuest Point. A natural wildlife refuge, this series of walking trails takes you through the southernmost section of Middletown, RI at the end of Second Beach. With over 2.5 miles of trails, you’ll have great views of Tiverton and Little Compton to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the South, Middletown to the West, and lots of deer, rabbits, mink, and birds you’ll meet along the way!
7) The International Tennis Hall of Fame, located on Bellevue Avenue, is a museum and sports ground in one. The museum features the entire history of the sport, with historic artifacts, photographs, posters, and player memorabilia. After perusing the museum, visitors are able to see the grass courts where great tennis players have competed since 1881. Championships are still held on these grounds every July, so if you’re a tennis aficionado, you know when you’re coming to visit Newport!
8 ) What would vacation be without a little shopping? The entire downtown area of Newport is a shopper’s dream. Stroll up and down both Upper and Lower Thames to find souvenirs, the latest clothing trends, homemade fudge, and nautical regalia. Bowen’s and Banister’s Wharf, located off of America’s Cup Ave, are home to smaller shops and galleries. Check out Spring Street and Broadway if you’re into funky and vintage finds. Lastly, who can forget Bellevue Avenue, home to the finest in all things fashion, beauty, and home goods?
9) Eating out: where to start? Newport, Middletown, and Jamestown have hundreds of restaurants and bars, all being good. With fresh seafood in abundance throughout the area, it’s hard to go wrong. Visit www.gonewport.com to read about featured restaurants and weekly deals in town.
10) Make sure to visit us at Sightsailing on Bowen’s Wharf! We offer public sailing tours and private charters on three different sailing vessels. We hope to see you in Newport soon!