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Newport, Rhode Island: Sites to Visit as a Tourist

Updated on October 20, 2018
Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

The Marble House, Newport, R.I.
The Marble House, Newport, R.I. | Source

Newport, Rhode Island is a quaint seaport town filled with history, shopping, and the sea. Founded by English settlers in 1639, it quickly became one of the five top New England seaports in Colonial America. Today, that history is still evident in its town buildings, quaint old homes and the seaport area itself.There are many things to see and do in Newport. I will just mention a few here that are don't miss activities.

Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Newport was seen as the place for the wealthiest American families to build their "summer cottages." But these are unlike any summer cottages you have ever seen. The Newport mansions are a glorious testimony of the rich in days gone by. Built in what is now known as the "Gilded Age," these mansions as we know them now, were built of the finest materials, including marble and limestone. Even back then, the cost to build them often ran into the 1 - 3 million dollar range. Families including the Astors and the Vanderbilts designed and built homes in Newport.The four most famous Newport mansions are Marble House, The Breakers, The Elms, and Rosecliff (movies in which scenes were filmed at Rosecliff include The Great Gatsby and True Lies). Most of the mansions are on Bellevue Drive.The mansions are currently under the jurisdiction of the Preservation Society of Newport County, and the cost of tickets goes toward preserving their beauty and history.

To see a schedule of tour openings and costs:

The Cliff Walk

The Cliff Walk is a mostly paved pathway that winds behind the Newport mansions for a 3 1/2 mile distance. It runs behind 64 Newport homes, and the ocean, so the walk is a beautiful combination of nature and astonishing architectural structures. Some of the homes are from the late 19th century, while some are less than 50 years old. The Cliff Walk is a National Historic Trail, located in a historic district, so you get the best of both worlds. The scent of the salt air fills your nostrils, while the sounds of the ocean waves crash against rocks and cliffs on the shoreline. There are benches situated sporadically along the Cliff Walk so if you need to rest, or just want to sit and enjoy the scenery, in the warm sunshine, can do so. Walkers, hikers, families with children, and pet owners with their leashed dogs can all be seen enjoying the Cliff Walk. It's a don't miss experience if you are a visitor to Newport, R.I.

Ocean Drive

At the end of Bellevue Drive, following the shoreline, you will find Ocean Drive, or historic, 'Ten Mile Drive" as it is also called. After meandering a bit, you will find yourself awed by the beauty of the seascape before you. And also awed by the amazing homes, some older, and some brand new, that line Ocean Drive to take advantage of the beautiful seacoast views. There are little fishing coves, and small private beaches, a state beach, a public beach, and a state park, all available for public use. There's also a strip of coastline with a parking lot across the street that will allow you to park your car and enjoy the beauty of the Rhode Island seacoast.

Fort Adams

Fort Adams was designed as a coastal fortification to protect the residents of Newport. Built in 1799, it withstood many battles, but after the War of 1812, the old fort needed fortification. This rebuilding of the fort was completed in 1841. In 1965 it was given to the state of Rhode Island as Fort Adams State Park, and in 1976 was officially named a historic landmark. It is now open seasonally for tours, and group overnight adventures. The fort is surrounded by a harbor with a marina, and also a grassy area with picnic tables tucked into hills here and there.

Downtown Newport

Just before arriving in the main wharf area of downtown Newport, you will find the Visitor Information Center and the Newport Dinner train. The dinner train has lots of special events and seasonal programs, and if you like trains, it's sure to be an enjoyable experience. The website for prices and programming is here:

Just after that on the same side of the road is the Visitor's Center which is a must see stop if it's your first time to Newport. You can't miss it as it's in a large brick building right on the main road on the way into the wharf area in downtown Newport.

Downtown Newport, Rhode Island consists of two distinct areas, a wharf area filled with historic buildings, a few wharfs from which boats take tourists for rides, and a more pedestrian area further back from the water, with shops lining both sides of the street. Both areas deserve your time. The wharf area also has ice skating in the Winter. There are restaurants in the area that you won't want to miss, including 22 Bowen's Wine Bar and Grille on Bowen's Wharf, and The Brick Alley Pub in the shopping area a bit back from the wharf area. Bowen's Wharf is a bit on the pricey side, so a visit at lunch will be less expensive. The wharf area has cute little shops a bakery, and coffee shop, while the area across the street has gift shops, a cupcake store, Army Navy Surplus, and lots of little restaurants tucked in among the stores. There's even an arcade for the kids, or for the kid in you!

Before leaving the downtown area, it's worth a drive through the quaint narrow streets to catch glimpses historic homes, taverns, and shops from the late 17th century that are still standing and in use today. And for those interest in Yachts, there's a museum of yachting on the main drag, Thames Street, near the wharf.

Visit During a Festival

Newport, Rhode Island is a charming place to visit to enjoy a day or a weekend. There are annual festivals that take place there each year, including the Legendary Chowder cook Off in June, The Newport Blues and BBQ Festival in August, the Wine Festival at the Mansions in September, and the Oktoberfest in October (of course), and enjoy some of the decorated mansions at Christmas!

Newport, Rhode Island is a town filled with New England History, the Gilded Age opulence, terrific restaurants, and the sea!

The Breakers, Newport, R.I.
The Breakers, Newport, R.I. | Source
Back view of The Breakers from the Cliffwalk, Newport, R.I.
Back view of The Breakers from the Cliffwalk, Newport, R.I. | Source
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I. | Source
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I. | Source
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.
View from The Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I. | Source
View of the Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.
View of the Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I. | Source
Fort Adams, Newport, R.I.
Fort Adams, Newport, R.I. | Source
Shopping area in downtown Newport
Shopping area in downtown Newport | Source

Newport Mansions

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