Newport is a well-known summer resort that many associate with expensive mansions and luxury hotels. The town is one of the very first settlements in American history and is connected to major events such as the Civil War. Your trip to Newport will be the perfect opportunity to learn more about history, enjoy the beaches, and discover traditional seafood dishes such as lobster rolls.
Newport’s Fascinating History
Newport was founded in 1639 by a group of settlers who left the Portsmouth settlement. The city became part of the Rhode Island colony in 1663 and served as a temporary seat for the Rhode Island government. This is actually where Benedict Arnold was elected as governor, and where the Constitution was ratified by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1791.
Newport grew as a commercial port throughout the 18th century. The sperm oil trade was one of the major industry, and oil and candle factories employed immigrants who settled in the area.
Newport’s history is also connected to piracy and the slave trade. The city was used as a base by famous pirates such as Thomas Tew, and became a home for one of the first abolitionist groups in America.
British troops occupied Newport during the 1770s due to the city’s proximity to New York. The city is still used as a base by the Navy.
Newport attracted some of the richest families in the country throughout the 19th and 20th century. It is now a popular beach wedding destination and a prime example of classic architecture thanks to the mansions and cottages built by wealthy families.
Fun fact: Newport is the second oldest Jewish settlement in the US. The Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the country.
When To Visit Newport
The city is located on an island, which means Newport Rhode Island weather can be cold and humid during the winter. Temperatures typically reach the high 70s during the summer months, which is perfect if you want to enjoy the beaches.
The downside of visiting Newport in the summer is that the city can be crowded since it is a popular beach wedding destination. Visiting Newport during the spring or the fall is ideal if you want to avoid crowds. You might not be able to enjoy the beaches, but you will still be able to visit historical buildings and might be able to book your trip during Restaurant Week.
St. Patrick’s Day is another busy time in Newport. Many Irish immigrants settled in Newport and this holiday is celebrated with a huge parade on Thames Street. The parade will definitely be one of the highlights of your trip, but make sure to book your accommodation in advance.
Fun fact: J.F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy were married in St. Mary’s Church, the oldest Catholic church in Rhode Island.
Top Things To Do In Newport
There are a lot of things to do in Newport Rhode Island between the historical buildings, seaside activities and fine dining options. Here are a few ideas to help you plan your trip.
Visit The Newport Historic District
The Historic District is located in the center of the city. This is where you will find most of the restored historic homes. A lot of these buildings belong to the colonial architectural style, but you will also find examples of Beaux-Arts architecture and Gothic Revival.
Bellevue Avenue is probably the best example of the elegant and luxurious Gilded Age style. You will find cottages and mansions built by rich New York families, such as the Isaac Bell House, the Elms, Rosecliff, Marble House, or Rough Point. Some of these places are privately owned while others offer guided tours.
Fun fact: Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence is set in the 1870s and is about the Newport social scene.
The Newport Harbor
The Newport Rhode Island Harbor is a busy spot between beachgoers, seaside cafes, and boat charter rentals. Chartering a boat is a perfect way to spend your afternoon if you enjoy sailing for leisure or fishing.
Some charter boats will take you to other nearby islands for the day. You can visit Prudence Island, or take a ferry to Jamestown across. You could spend your day visiting the Fort Wetherill State Park and the Beavertail Lighthouse if you want to take a break from the busy streets of Newport.
The Newport International Boat Show takes place every year in September. This is one of the largest boat shows in the country. If you are into boats, you should also visit the Museum of Yachting located in nearby Fort Adams.
There are several regattas organized throughout the summer. The Museum of Yachting organizes the Classic Yacht Regatta every year for wooden boats.
Fun fact: the U.S. Naval Academy had a campus in Newport during the Civil War. There is still a Naval War College in the area.
Newport is home to several exciting festivals:
- The Newport Jazz Festival takes place in August.
- The Newport Folk Festival celebrates folk music every year in July.
- If you like independent movies, make sure you attend the Newport Beach Film Festival in April.
- The New England Great Chowder Cook-Off is another fun event to attend and the perfect opportunity to eat some great seafood. It takes place every year in June.
Relax At The Beach
Plan on spending a few afternoons at some of the local beaches so you can enjoy the seaside and warm summer temperatures. Bailey’s Beach, Sachuest Beach, and Hazard’s Beach are some of the most popular beaches in the area.
Gooseberry Beach can be crowded as well since this is where the locals go. If you are looking for a more secluded beach, consider booking a hotel with a private beach or head north of Newport to McCorrie Point Beach.
Fun fact: the 1956 movie High Society and the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby were filmed in Newport.
You will find many small museums in Newport Rhode Island since a lot of old mansions and cottages have been turned into museums to showcase the restored interiors of these homes. The Breakers and Rosecliff are probably the most interesting mansions to visit.
Other museums include:
- The Newport Art Museum.
- The Audrain Automobile Museum.
- The International Tennis Hall of Fame.
- The Museum of Newport History.
- The National Museum of American Illustration.
- The Naval War College Museum.
Fun fact: famous architect Richard Morris Hunt designed a lot of the mansions you will see in Newport.
Accommodations And Dining Recommendations
Newport is well-known for its luxury hotels and resorts and for its fine dining options. However, there are plenty of affordable Newport Rhode Island hotels and small restaurants to discover.
Where To Stay
If you would like to find an upscale hotel, the Castle Hill Inn is worth considering. This is an old cottage on Ocean Drive turned into a luxurious hotel. The Hotel Viking is another interesting option if you want an upscale hotel that is closer to the harbor.
If you would like to stay in the downtown area to be closer to the harbor and historic district, there are some mid-range options to consider such as the Mill Street Inn, the Wynstone, or the Newport Bay Club & Hotel.
If you are looking for a budget accommodation, America’s Cup Inn is probably the best value you will find in Newport. The Adele Turner Inn and the Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina also have very affordable prices.
Where To Eat
Fine dining is a booming industry in Newport. If you were to only eat at an upscale restaurant once during your stay in Newport Rhode Island, try Restaurant Bouchard or The White Horse Tavern. Restaurant Bouchard is a French restaurant while the White Horse is known for its grilled meats and clam chowder.
There is a Restaurant Week in the fall and spring. If you visit Newport during this event, you will be able to enjoy fine dining at discounted prices!
You can’t visit Rhode Island without trying a few seafood dishes. Here are a few recommendations for clam chowder, lobster rolls, and other specialties:
- The Mooring is a bar with an excellent seafood selection.
- The Midtown Oyster Bar is a popular spot for drinks and oysters.
- If you want a more upscale seafood experience, 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille is the place to go.
- You will find some of the best lobster rolls in town at Easton’s Beach Snack Bar.
- The Brick Alley Pub is where the locals go for seafood.
If you are looking for cheap eats, stop by Rosemary And Thyme Café or try Annies. Meg’s Aussie Milk Bar is an interesting alternative since this small café serves Australian specialties.
Visiting Newport is the perfect occasion to learn more about American history. This historic district is one of the best places in the country to see some examples of colonial architecture, and the beaches and harbor will keep you busy. Make sure you try a few seafood places during your stay!