Originally a summer fishing settlement with colonial roots, Newport has evolved from a playground for the wealthy during the Gilded Age into a weekend getaway for New England natives.
I’ve lived in Boston for nearly six years and have yet to fully explore all the charming, cozy coastal towns that New England is known for. It’s shameful, honestly. So this year, with no other plans for Memorial Day break in place, my husband and I packed our bags for nearby Newport, Rhode Island. What did we discover? A beach town that is rich with history, majestic mansions, nightlife hotspots, and loads of seafood—really good seafood. Below are some of my recommendations and favorite things to do in beautiful Newport.
The Newport Mansions
Edith Wharton describes the extravagant Newport social scene in her novel The Age of Innocence. Touring the Newport mansions is like taking a step back into that opulent time. You can imagine high society ladies gathering for tea in their lavish gowns and the impressive parties set on the sprawling lawns of these mammoth structures. Many of the historic homes that line Bellevue Avenue are open to the public and run daily tours. If time is of the essence, make sure to see The Breakers, which belonged to the legendary Vanderbilt family and is the grandest of the bunch.
The Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk stretches over three miles along Newport’s coastline. It’s a pleasant, easy walk designed for all ages that combines the natural beauty of the shoreline with the architectural history of the Gilded Age. Stroll beside the cliffs, take in the delightful views of the water, and peek at the mansions that are tucked away throughout the path.
Downtown Newport and the Surrounding Neighborhoods
Downtown Newport is as captivating as an old shore town could be. The main streets are loaded with eclectic stores, sweet ice-cream shops, and local watering holes by the sea. Though the downtown area is the main gathering place for locals and visitors, don’t forget to allow yourself some time to get lost in Newport’s picturesque neighborhoods. So many colorful colonial homes and historic buildings hide amongst the trees and wrought-iron gates, just waiting to be discovered.
Bowen’s Wharf and Bannister’s Wharf
These cozy little nooks in downtown Newport are a great place to take in the sunset before dinner. Shops, cafes, bars, and comfortable benches surround the port where boats old and new come in to dock. Strike up a conversation with a captain, take a sailing tour to see the sights from the sea, or just relax with a glass of wine and watch the sun retreat behind the ships.
Did I mention the seafood yet? I believe so, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you’re visiting Newport, then please visit one of the local restaurants and order some fresh seafood. It’s a golden rule of thumb for visiting any beach town. My favorite pick is Midtown Oyster Bar. A casual place, this eatery serves up some really delicious grub like smoked bluefish dip and scallop sashimi (pictured here). If you’re on the fence about raw scallops, let me just say, the sashimi is absolutely divine and vastly underrated.
As summer approaches, escape to a nearby hideaway for the weekend to soak up some sun and recharge. Getting away, even for a little while, can make a world of difference.
What are some of your favorite weekend vacation spots?