Founded in the early half of the 17th century, Newport is a town that truly captures the spirit of New England charm. Blanketed with historical buildings and full of personality no matter what time of year you visit, it’s at once charming, modern, and nautical all at the same time. Explore historic sites and points of interest and enjoy a medley of lively bars, restaurants, and shops. Newport is the perfect spot for a long weekend getaway or a stop on your next New England road trip.
1. Visit The Gilded Age Mansions
American aristocrats with last names like Vanderbilt began building waterside summer “cottages” in Newport in the late 1800s during the storied Gilded Age. Today those architectural marvels are as grand as ever, especially the Breakers, Marble House, the Elm, and Rosecliffe, the latter being the mansion where The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. Self-guided tours of these marvels include access to the gorgeous gardens that surround them, so give yourself plenty of time. The opulent details of these masterpieces are not to be missed.
2. Explore The Cliff Walk
The Newport Cliff Walk is a scenic 3.5-mile path that runs along the eastern edge of Aquidneck Island, where Newport is located. Facing stunning Narragansett Bay, the easy-to-navigate path provides incredible views of the back of many of the Gilded Age mansions. With multiple entry and exit points, it’s easy to do only part of the Cliff Walk. the views of the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline below the Cliff Walk are this National Recreation Trail’s most stunning feature, but depending on the time of year you visit, the wildflowers and natural geology are just as memorable.
3. Sail Narragansett Bay
Home to the renowned annual sailing regatta, America’s Cup, Newport is considered the sailing capital of the world. Its nautical history dates to the mid-1800s when sailors from the New York Yacht Club encountered the area’s deep waters and steady winds and created an outpost on the island. Soon the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the J.P. Morgans brought their fancy sailing yachts to Newport, and the rest is nautical history. Today there are multiple sailing companies such as Sail Newport ready to whisk you away with the wind on classic schooners perfect for a day or sunset sail.
4. Enjoy A Bowl Of Clam Chowder
You can’t visit Newport without indulging in a hearty bowl of New England-style clam chowder. The thick, creamy, salty-sweet concoction made of clams and other local seafood, diced potatoes, and onions is one of the region’s most popular dishes. In Newport, the Black Pearl, the Mooring, and the Brick Alley Pub are consistently voted among the best for their clam chowder recipes, but you can find over-the-counter clam shacks as you wander through town, too.
5. Shop And Stroll Along Thames Street
The beating heart of Newport, Thames Street is the 1.5-mile main thoroughfare that’s ripe for strolling and people-watching. Whether you window shop or step inside the quirky stores, museums, and lively restaurants and bars, the vibe on this route is always upbeat, with happy travelers and locals mingling about. It’s a great way to soak up the energy that makes Newport so popular as a vacation destination.
6. Take A Trolley Tour
Newport’s charm is best seen on a fresh-air trolley tour perfect for those who hate the idea of driving around an island and having to navigate parking. With stops throughout the town, including the famous Newport mansions, it’s the perfect way to see the town while learning about it via the fun commentary provided by professional guides who know the area inside out.
7. Walk Through History At Fort Adams
In addition to guided tours of Fort Adams’ cannons, nooks, and crannies of the largest and most complex coastal fortification in the U.S., this former U.S. Army outpost established in 1799 is also the best spot in Newport to watch the sunset. The 2.5-mile Fort Adams Bay Walk circles the perimeter of the fort and provides incredible views of Newport Harbor, the Newport Bridge, and Narragansett Bay.
8. Make A Racket At The International Tennis Hall of Fame
Even if you don’t step inside (though you certainly should), the Victorian Shingle Style building that houses the International Tennis Hall of Fame (formerly the Newport Casino) is worthy of a visit. The indoor displays feature photos, audio recordings, tennis equipment, apparel, and trophies highlighting the history of tennis. You can also check out the grassy tennis courts and the indoor tennis stadium and catch various tournaments throughout the year.
9. “Wine Down” At A Local Vineyard
Newport and the area surrounding it are home to breathtaking wineries, breweries, and the state’s only rum distillery. Take a tour of the vineyards, sign up for a tasting, or kick back in an Adirondack chair and watch the sunlight dance atop the vines. From the 60-acre Newport Vineyards to the Greenvale Winery and Farm nestled on the scenic Sakonnet River, you’ll be spoiled for choices for a perfect winery day in Newport.
10. Walk Through The Newport Historic District
With 400 years of history at every bend, Newport is perfect for a self-guided walking tour, especially if you love the charm of New England architecture. From the city’s oldest existing house (the 1690 Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House) to the church where President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy were married (St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church) and the oldest operating restaurant in the United States (the White House Tavern), Newport is filled with architectural gems depicting quintessential Georgian and Colonial styles.