Newport, Rhode Island Guide
Whatever glittering reports you've heard of Newport, Rhode Island, they're probably true, because Newport is beautiful, historic, fun, and well-organized for visitors.
The Elms, a sumptuous mansion on Bellevue Avenue in Newport RI.
Newport, 34 miles (55 km) south of Providence (map), is Rhode Island's most popular tourist destination. There's lots to see & do, and plenty of good hotels, inns & B&Bs, good shopping, and a bewildering assortment of cafés and restaurants.
Palatial mansions, the wealthy yachting set, major US Navy and Coast Guard installations, tennis tournaments, cocktails on marble terraces in the soft air of a summer's evening, hordes of tourists looking for parking, looking for bargains, looking to eat and drink—Newport is all of these.
Newport has enjoyed prominence during two periods in American history. In colonial times it was an important trade center, and so, like Salem MA, it has a lovely colonial district right downtown, much of which has been restored authentically in the styles of centuries ago.
Because of its equable climate, fine yachting port and good beaches, in the mid-19th century it became a resort for the very wealthy, who built "summer cottages" that are in fact palatial mansions in another part of town.
Today the city's symbol is the pineapple, a sign of welcome left from Newport's great commercial era when traders back from West Indies with this fruit would put a pineapple outside their warehouses to invite customers to come in and look over the stock.
The Newport Dress Code
Newport prides itself on having style, and many visitors will be dressed like movie stars. A few restaurants, cocktail lounges, and luxury hotels still require "proper" dress at dinner, and perhaps even lunch: jacket, or jacket and tie for men, skirt and top or pants suit, or similar attire, for women.
When to Go
Newport is crowded in summer, particularly on weekends from mid-June through July and August to Labor Day, especially when the important tennis tournaments and yacht races are being held.
Prices go up on weekends and when the yachters are around, so plan your visit for mid-week when there's no yachting, if possible.
In spring and autumn it's still crowded on weekends, though mid-week visits are more comfortably uncrowded.
Surprisingly, Newport is a great place to visit in December, when the mansions are decorated for Christmas, with lots of special events.
Finding Your Way Around
America's Cup Avenue
The main north-south vehicular route in downtown Newport, America's Cup Avenue is how you drive through the center of town (map).
Newport Gateway Center
At the northern end of America's Cup Avenue (map), the Newport Gateway Transportation & Visitors Center next to the Newport Marriott Hotel is Newport's local and inter-city bus station, largest parking garage (fee), and tourist information office operated by the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 23 America's Cup Avenue, Newport RI 02840.
They have knowledgeable, helpful staff, street plans, road maps, event schedules and ticket sales, hotel and restaurant brochures, and toilets.
Running north-south roughly parallel to America's Cup Avenue, Thames Street (pronounced "thaymz," not "temz") is the colonial main street, lined with shops, restaurants and several inns. Upper Thames Street is north of the spot where it crosses America's Cup Avenue/Memorial Boulevard. Lower Thames Street is south of that point: more shops, restaurants and inns.
What to See & Do
Newport's reputation as a summer refuge for the fabulously wealthy comes to life in its palatial mansions ranged along Bellevue Avenue, overlooking the sea. Click here for my guide to visiting the mansions.
Cliff Walk is a 3.4-mile (5.5-km) footpath along the cliffs overlooking the sea. The northern end of the 80-minute walk is at 117 Memorial Boulevard at the western end of Easton's Beach beneath the inn called The Chanler at Cliff Walk (map). The southern end is at the southwestern foot of Bellevue Avenue (map).
The path passes the "front yards" of many of Newport's most impressive mansions, including The Breakers.
Cliff Walk meanders past Cornelius Vanderbilt's palatial mansion, The Breakers....
You can also get to the path by going east on one of the side streets off Bellevue Avenue, such as Narragansett Avenue, Shepard Avenue, Ruggles Avenue, Wetmore Avenue, or Ledge Road.
Take the Bus!
Parking is difficult at accesses to the Cliff Walk. The best plan is to ride RIPTA Bus 67 (Bellevue/Salve Regina University) from the Newport Gateway/Transportation Center to one of the stops along Ochre Point Avenue to access the Cliff Walk. The southernmost bus stop is near the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Ledge Road, near the southern end of the path at the intersection of Coggeshall and Bellevue avenues, just east of Bailey's Beach.
There are no services along the path except for occasional benches. You may want to bring a jacket or light sweater on days that the sea breeze is blowing, as it may feel cool.
Cliff Walk passes through and by numerous private estates. You are asked to respect the abutters' private property rights and not to stray from the path.
A Walk in Town
The historic center of Newport is beautiful, and it's where the action is.
Right downtown between Thames and Spring streets, next to the Brick Marketplace shopping mall, is Washington Square, the center of colonial Newport, surrounded by historic buildings.
This spot was once on the Newport waterfront. A spring that provided pure water to the colonists still flows, but now underground. Although all of the original colonial houses are gone, the street layout is much as it was at the founding of the colony in 1639.
At the western tip of the square nearest the harbor stands the Brick Market, center of early Newport commerce, designed by Peter Harrison, the ship's captain and self-trained architect who also designed Newport's Touro Synagogue and Boston's King's Chapel.
On the western side of Washington Square at 127 Thames Street is the Brick Market, a Newport landmark.
Designed by Peter Harrison and built in 1762, its name is derived from its use as a market and its brick construction—no bricks were sold here.
At the eastern end of the square stands the Old Colony House, center of Newport governmental affairs from its construction in 1739 until the Rhode Island General Assembly (which met in Newport in the summer) last used it in 1900.
Old Colony House on Washington Square.
It was from the Colony (later State) House's balcony that the Declaration of Independence was read to Rhode Islanders.
In the Assembly Room of the Old Colony House is one of Gilbert Stuart's famous portraits of George Washington.
Just up Touro Street from Washington Square is Touro Synagogue.
Historic Houses of Worship
Because colonial Rhode Island allowed so much religious freedom, many religious groups suffering persecution came here in early times. Thus Newport boasts a number of firsts.
The Touro Synagogue, built in 1763, is Newport's most famous early house of worship and an architectural treasure. It's been beautifully restored.
Touro Synagogue, the handsome Federal building a half block from Washington Square at 85 Touro Street (map), is a National Historic Site, named for a 19th-century benefactor, Abraham Touro, son of the rabbi who presided at the synagogue's dedication.
Designed by Peter Harrison (it resembles his King's Chapel in Boston) and built in 1763, the temple was the spiritual center of Jeshuat Israel, an Orthodox Sephardic congregation in Newport, a colony known for its tolerance and freedom of religion.
It is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, having celebrated the 260th year of its dedication in 2023. But in fact, Jewish life in Newport is even older, beginning with the arrival of the first Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants in 1658.
By 1677 they had purchased land for the synagogue, but construction would have to wait for several decades.
The synagogue and congregation prospered along with Newport, but after the British occupation of the town during the Revolutionary War, prosperity fled Newport and few of its erstwhile citizens returned.
In the late 19th century Newport came to life again. The temple reopened in 1883, and has been used for services ever since.
|Loeb Visitors Center
Extensive and painstaking renovation work was carried out in 2005-2006, and the synagogue is now more appealing than ever.
Exhibits in the new (2009) Ambassador John L Loeb Jr Visitors Center next door tell the story of the synagogue in the context of Newport's history of religious tolerance and equality.
You can see a copy of George Washington's historic letter on religious freedom to the congregation, written while he was president in 1790, on the occasion of his visit to Newport with Thomas Jefferson.
The colonial Jewish cemetery here is one of the keys to the synagogue's history, and has figured in American literature, particularly in poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emma Lazarus.
Trinity Church is a beautiful pre-Revolutionary church built from plans by Sir Christopher Wren. George Washington is known to have worshipped here.
Trinity Church, Newport RI.
Trinity Church, One Queen Anne Square (141 Spring Street) at the corner of Spring and Church streets (map), was built in 1726 from plans by Sir Christopher Wren, and still has its "bishop's miter" weathervane, as it did before the American Revolution.
The church is full of history: Bishop George Berkeley (who first asked "If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one to hear, is there sound?") donated the organ (1733)—to make sure that within the church, at least, there would be sound.
George Washington was known to have worshipped at Trinity Church (pew no. 81). In later years, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Leah Tutu have also worshipped at Trinity.
The church's famous three-level pulpit, with its "wineglass" or chalice shape, is widely admired.
One might think that in a British colony such as "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," one of the first buildings to be built would be a meetinghouse for Church of England worship.
However, we must remember that Newport was founded as a refuge from the Church of England's control, and so the town didn't have a viable C of E congregation until 1698.
The first church, finished in 1701, was soon outgrown, so Trinity Church was built as the congregation's new meetinghouse.
The church sits prominently on a hillside with beautiful Queen Anne Square and Trinity Park in front of it. This was not always the case. The area in front of the church had been crowded with commercial and residential buildings, some in poor repair.
Heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke undertook to buy and clear away these buildings to open the area for a park. She and the Newport Restoration Foundation which she founded also constructed, or moved, period houses to the borders of the park to achieve the view that we enjoy today. Queen Anne Square was dedicated in 1976.
By the mid-1980s, sea winds had battered Trinity Church so badly that it was in need of structural and decorative renovations. A local effort paid to install heavy anchors in the cemetery on the church's north side to brace the walls, and to restore the church to its colonial beauty.
The church is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 10 am to 12:30 pm, and of course on Sunday for Episcopal services.
Great Friends Meeting House was the home of the largest Quaker meeting in the country in colonial times. It has been restored to its character in the early 1800s.
Newport's Great Friends Meeting House (or Quaker Meetinghouse), 30 Farewell Street at Marlborough Street (Map of Newport), was built in 1699, but was greatly modified in the early 1700s and again in the early 1800s.
The Society of Friends ("Quakers") grew out of the teachings of George Fox, an English dissenter from the faiths of the day. Fox preached that the "inner light" of divinity was present in all humans, and that a "plain" style of living was the most seemly.
In 1657 the faith arrived from England in Newport, and began to find adherents. Within a few years it had won many converts, and the simple living, pacifism, and honesty in business dealings of its adherents were a major factor in Newport society.
In 1672 a Quaker was elected as governor of Rhode Island, and Quakerism was part of the liberal, tolerant, openness of the Rhode Island colony.
The Newport Yearly Meeting, the Quaker population's most important annual congress, was held in the Great Friends Meeting House, and was the largest Yearly Meeting in the New World up to 1720, when that of Philadelphia exceeded it.
Modified in 1705, 1727, 1809, 1857 and 1867, it fell into disrepair in the mid-20th century, but has now been returned to the appearance it had in the early 1800s. It is owned and maintained by the Newport Historical Society.
The Newport Art Museum is housed in three buildings on a 2-acre campus at 76 Belleview Avenue in Newport's most exclusive neighborhood (map). One is a house (1862) designed by mansion architect Richard Morris Hunt.
The Museum specializes in the art of Newport and southeastern New England, both historical and modern, from the late 19th century to the present time.
Most of the exhibits are in the Griswold House (1864), a stick-style mansion designed by Richard Morris Hunt, and in the Cushing Gallery, a 1919 neo-classical building.
The museum's collection of 2300 works includes art by James Baker, Edward M Bannister, George Bellows, Dale Chihuly, Howard Gardiner Cushing John Frederick Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane, Sue McNally, Richard Merkin, Allison Newsome, Joseph Norman, William Trost Richards, Rita Rogers, Italo Scanga, Aaron Siskind, Helena Sturtevant, Hugh Townley, and Toots Zynsky.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Tennis Museum, 194 Bellevue Avenue at Memorial Boulevard (Map of Newport), is sure to be of interest to anyone obsessed with the game. This is where the first national tennis tournaments were held. The museum has trophies, tennis fashions, and displays explaining the evolution of tennis equipment.
The historic Newport Casino (1880) is the perfect location for a tennis museum. Major professional tournaments are still played here during June, July, and August. The 13 grass courts (and three indoor courts) are open to the public for play, so bring your racquet and call ahead to make arrangements.
The Newport Tower, also known as the Old Stone Mill, in Touro Park is a bit of historical mystery: was it built by Vkings?
The eerie Old Stone Mill in Newport RI.
Some people think so. Others claim that it was built by an early governor of the Newport colony. Scientific and historical evidence points to its being the remains of a 17th-century windmill.
In any case, it's a treasured landmark and bit of history at the center of Touro Park just off Bellevue Avenue across the street from the Newport Art Museum (Map of Newport).
Walking through the park one October evening (not long before Hallowe'en), I was struck by its eerie, ancient appearance as a full moon rose on its right.
I almost expected to see a flock of bats fly from its rugged arches, or perhaps the ghost of a Viking peering around a corner....
On a peninsula jutting into Newport Harbor at 90 Fort Adams Drive, Fort Adams State Park, named for President John Adams, offers several attractions. The fort's defenses are some of the most impressive in the country.
On a peninsula jutting into Newport harbor reached by Ocean Drive (map), Fort Adams was the main defensive work for this important commercial port.
The fort itself, named after President John Adams, is open daily from 6 am to dusk all year, and picnic and fishing sites are open to all. Guided tours are offered from June through October, Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm, for a fee.
Fort Adams State Park offers several attractions including boat-launching ramps, a swimming beach with lifeguards, a picnic area, and fishing spots.Views of the town and the harbor from hills in the park are well worth the short climb.
Newport's beaches are of two types, public (open to everyone for a fee), and private (open to members only, "Keep Out—This Means You!").
Easton's Beach, formerly called First Beach, on the isthmus at the eastern reach of Memorial Boulevard (map), is Newport's large public beach, a broad half-mile-long (800-meter) swath of light grey sand sloping gradually into the ocean, with plenty of waves, usually fairly benign, though good enough for the surfers who show up starting at dawn.
Besides the sand beach, it offers life guards, showers, beach volleyball nets, toilets, and food stands. Restaurants provides finer fare, and live music on weekends.
Facing south onto Rhode Island Sound, Easton's Beach, traditionally known as Newport's First Beach, is a broad half-mile-long (800-meter) swath of light grey sand sloping gradually into the ocean, with plenty of waves, usually fairly benign, though good enough for the surfers who show up starting at dawn.
Stay at the 3-star, 55-room Comfort Inn at Atlantic Beach or the adjoining 3-star, 68-room Newport Beach Hotel & Suites and you'll be right across the street from Easton's Beach, and only 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the center of Newport.
Sachuest Beach is in Middletown, a bit farther east from Easton's Beach along Memorial Boulevard where the street changes names to become Purgatory Road.
You'll first come to what used to be called Second Beach, with lots of parking and good facilities. It's backed by a private RV camping park across the road. Just around the corner to the east from Second Beach is what used to be called Third Beach, or Navy Beach, on the eastern side of Sachuest Point, at the mouth of the Sakonnet River. Third Beach)may be a bit chilly at any time except July and August, but is a favorite with windsurfers and kitesurfers.
Bailey's Beach, at the southwestern end of Bellevue Avenue, is definitely private, except for a small bit with no facilities at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive.
Gooseberry Beach, on Ocean Drive not far west of Bailey's Beach, is an especially attractive beach, mostly private but with a portion open to the public for a car-parking fee on weekdays, with a lower fee for pedestrians and cyclists. It's framed by nice mansions on either side, and has interesting rock formations.
King Park Beach
A very short, narrow strip of rough sand and pebbles next to a sea wall near the children's swings in Newport's King Park is called a beach. It does allow access to the waters of the harbor, though you'll spend most of your time sunning on the grassy lawn behind it. Public toilets are nearby. At least it's near the city center, and free.
Shopping in Newport
It's great, and there's plenty of it along Thames Street, the wharves, and in the gift shops of the great mansions.
Sunhats for sale on Bowen's Wharf, Newport RI.
Shopping in Newport (map) is a pleasure because you're walking its charming streets and wharves as you do.
Art, antiques, nautical paraphernalia and memorabilia, gifts, jewelry, maps and charts, home furnishings, and of course all sorts of clothing are available in Newport's shops and boutiques.
Upper Thames Street is lind with boutiques, cafés and restaurants, and there's little traffic, so it's a great place to stroll and window-shop.
The historic Brick Market building at the top of Upper Thames Street near Washington Square is a grat place to start, with shops selling handmade gifts, shoes, costume jewelry and all sorts of other items.
Next, cross America's Cup Avenue to Bowen's Wharf and Bannister's Wharf, both of which are packed with shops and restaurants.
Lower Thames Street is a bit less visited, perhaps because if its narrow sidewalks, but prices may be better here because of it.
And don't forget the Newport Mansions Stores in a number of the mansions administered by the Preservation Society of Newport County: The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, and on Bannister's Wharf in downtown Newport.
Christmas in Newport
One of the best times to visit is in December, when the town and the mansions are lavishly decorated for Christmas, admission lines are short or non-existant, and prices are lower. Imagine Newport's sumptuous Gilded Age mansions filled with Christmas trees, poinsettias, music...even eggnog! A December visit is a must!
Actually, the mansions are decorated for Christmas and open to visitors starting in mid-November, and stay open until New Year's Day.
In the 50-foot-high Great Hall of The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt's 70-room Italianate palazzo, admire a huge Christmas tree made entirely of poinsettias, and even more of the green-and-red flowers lining the Grand Staircase.
Great Hall of The Breakers at Christmas, Newport, RI.
In the sumptuous Music Room, made in France, shipped to Newport and reassembled in The Breakers, Christmas tree lights and crystal chandeliers make all the gold and silver leaf glitter.
When Newport, Rhode Island celebrates, it does it in grand style. It is truly something to see.
You may wait in line for an hour in summer just to get into The Breakers for the guided tour. On most December days you can walk right in, and walk all around on your own with an audio tour.
Marble House and one other mansion cared for by the Preservation Society of Newport County (perhaps The Elms) are usually open as well, and mansions under the care of others may also be open and have special events.
You can buy a Winter Pass at any of the mansions, or at the Tourist Information desk in the Newport Gateway Center. The pass admits you to all of the mansions that are open. It's valid forever, so if you miss a mansion this time, you can come back later and use it.
Hotel, inn, and bed-and-breakfast room rates are much, much lower in winter than in summer, value-for-money package plans are offered, traffic is calm, parking is available... This is Newport the easy way!
Even if you've enjoyed Newport during the summer, you MUST come for Christmas, too.
Plan to attend at least one musical event at The Breakers so you can enjoy wandering the house at leisure, admiring the spectacular Christmas decorations.
Marble House, view from the Gold Room...
Plan to drive along Ocean Drive and, if weather conditions permit, to stroll along the Cliff Walk, and to visit some of Newport's many other sights.
Enjoy several of Newport's fine restaurants, which are cozy, welcoming and uncrowded at this time of year.
I love Newport in the summer, but a winter visit is so different, so easy, and so enjoyable!
Newport History Tours sponsors many 1-1/4-hour walking tours of historic Newport year-round, departing from the Newport Historical Society Museum & Shop at the Brick Market, 127 Thames Street (map). Tours depart weather permitting. Space is limited, so it's good to reserve in advance. More...
Should you want to get the "lay of the land" before heading out to see individual sights, take a bus tour of the town, Ocean Drive, Bellevue Avenue, and other districts.
You don't necessarily have to take a tour that stops and goes through a mansion, although those are offered as well.
From cozy B&Bs to palatial mansion inns, from full-service hotels to bare-bones motels, you can find your preferred lodging in or near Newport. Use the handy Hotel Map with Prices to find the hotel, inn, resort or B&B you need.
Seafood is a specialty, of course, but in fact Newport has all sorts of dining, from the quick bite to the seven-course elegant dinner.
Fine cuisine is a Newport tradition alive since the Gilded Age, and dining is one of the foremost pleasures here.
Of course, there's also just-ordinary-food, as there must be for the crowds that throng Newport's streets and waterfront in the high summer season.
We all like nice dinners now and then, but we don't want elaborate meals every evening. Here's the layout of eating-places in Newport:
America's Cup Avenue
Roam Bowen's Wharf and Bannister's Wharf in the center of Newport off Americas Cup Avenue and you'll find dozens of restaurants serving edibles from the quick-and-simple to the leisurely and refined. The Clarke Cooke House and The Black Pearl are two of long-standing, with several dining rooms, each with its own menu and range of prices.
Upper Thames Street
Among the boutiques of Upper Thames Street are several pubs and pub-like restaurants and cafés, among them the Brick Alley Pub, which has been here for decades, and which is busy nearly every night of the year.
Lower Thames Street
Stroll south of Memorial Boulevard to find some of the less-crowded restaurants. Don't neglect to detour into the wharf areas.
Elsewhere in Newport
Newport's inns and boutique hotels have their own exquisite, tasteful, chic dining places, most of which are open to the public. Even if you choose not to spend what it takes to stay overnight in these fine places, you should consider a good lunch or fine dinner here.
The fastest way from New York City, Boston, or other points west or north, is to follow Interstate 95 to US Route 1 to RI Route 138 east across the bridge to Jamestown and then the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge (toll) to Newport (map).
Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge to Jamestown island, Newport RI.
Coming from New York City on an Amtrak Northeast Regional train, leave the train at West Kingston RI. RIPTA Bus 64 connects the West Kingston Amtrak Northeast Regional train station with the Newport Gateway Center in downtown Newport. The bus trip lasts about one hour. More...
New York City to Newport
Peter Pan Bus Lines operates two or three buses daily from New York City (Port Authority Bus Terminal) to the Newport Gateway Center, 23 America's Cup Avenue (tel 401-846-1820) (map), but you transfer buses at both Providence and Fall River. The trip takes between 6-1/2 and 7-1/2 hours.
Providence to Newport
Peter Pan Bus Lines operates 4 bus routes on weekdays and 2 on weekends between Providence's Peter Pan Bus Terminal and the Newport Gateway Center. You change buses at Fall River MA. The trip takes between 2-1/2 and 2-3/4 hours. More...
Boston to Newport
Interstate Navigation Company operates two Newport to Block Island high-speed ferry trips daily from late June to early September. The swift passenger-only catamaran ferry departs Perotti Park (map) near the Newport Gateway Center. More...
Conanicut Marine Services operates the Jamestown Newport Ferry in summer, connecting Newport with its neighboring island and town to the east, Jamestown. Stops include Jamestown Village, Rose Island with its lighthouse, Fort Adams, Waites Wharf on Lower Thames Street, and Perotti Park on America's Cup Avenue near the Newport Gateway Center.
If you take the ferry all the way and back, you'll have a thrifty harbor & islands cruise.
Several national and regional airlines fly into T F Green Airport in Warwick RI, south of Providence, 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Newport. From the airport, RIPTA Bus 14 takes you south to the Newport Gateway Center (map) in about one hour. More...
Car & Parking
You'll want a vehicle to do the 10-Mile Drive along Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive, but you can't really drive to see the mansions (no parking for cars).
Central Newport along America's Cup Avenue (map) is walkable, and walking is the best way to get around and see everything.
The best parking deal is the large municipal parking lot by the Newport Gateway Center and the Newport Marriott Hotel off America's Cup Avenue at West Marlborough Street. Not only are prices lower, the parking times are longer, and you can choose to park in sun or shade.
Also, if you park and take RIPTA buses and trolleys (see below), you're entitled to discounts on the parking fee.
There are some parking meters along Upper Thames Street (north of Memorial Boulevard), but they are in great demand in summer, relatively expensive, and of only 1- or 2-hours' duration.
Bus & Trolley
RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority), based at the Newport Gateway Center, operates buses and trolley-buses including Bus 67, the Yellow Line, going along Bellevue Avenue to the Newport mansions, and Bus 63, Purple Line, connecting downtown Newport with Middletown and its money-saving motels.
Bicycle & Pedicab
If you have bicycles, bring them! Seeing Newport by bike is a joy. If you don't you can hire a pedicab to take you on a tour, or from place to place.
Scooters & Trike Bikes
Scooter World rents bicycles, motor scooters and safer, more stable 2-person trike bikes (3-wheeled scooters). With one of these you can easily drive all over Newport, and even along Ocean Drive.
The harbor shuttle departs its ticket booth at Perotti Park near the Newport Gateway Center every hour on the hour in summer, making a circuit of Newport Harbor, stopping at Bowen's Wharf (Aquidneck Lobster Bar), Ann Street pier, International Yacht Restoration School, Sail Newport marina, Fort Adams, and Goat Island (Marina Café).
You can buy a round-trip ticket or, for a little more, buy an all-day ticket allowing you to hop on and hop off as you wish. An all-day ticket also allows you to stay on the boat for the full hour and have a thrifty harbor tour. More...
A Bit of History
Newport is at the southern tip of an island which the Native Americans called Aquidneck, and which the colonial settlers dubbed Rhode Island.
Just as Providence was settled by Roger Williams, a dissident from Salem MA, so Newport was founded by one William Coddington, who decided to strike out on his own from Providence in 1639.
The new town soon became famous for shipbuilding, and as soon as the ships were built in sufficient numbers, for trade.
The famous "triangle trade" from Newport to ports in the West Indies and Africa would later bring great wealth to the town from the buying and selling of slaves, rum, molasses, and other goods.
Because Providence and Newport were founded by dissidents, they became places of refuge for others wishing to worship as they pleased: Quakers from England, Jews from Portugal and Spain, and Baptists all came to Newport in the mid-1600s to find religious freedom. They brought talent and a gift for hard work, and the settlement prospered so that it became the colony's most important town, and one of the New World's busiest ports.
The many beautiful colonial homes, the handsome Old Colony House (center of government), Touro Synagogue, and other landmarks attest to the wealth and prosperity of Newport at the time.
During the American Revolution the British occupied the town and its excellent harbor, and held it for three years. A British frigate, HMS Rose, did much to hinder the transport of supplies to the Americans, and spurred them to found the United States Navy in retaliation.
Despite a French naval blockade and an American siege, the British held onto Newport until 1779, and after this interruption in its social and economic life, Newport never regained its status as the prime trade center in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Several decades later, however, it achieved prominence in another fashion. Drawn by the beautiful woods and dramatic coastline, wealthy merchants from New York and Philadelphia began to come to Newport to spend their summers. In the early-1800s the first of Newport's famous mansions, Kingscote, was built, and others followed until Newport's Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive could boast the highest concentration of summer palaces—and they are palaces—anywhere in the world.
You already know Gilbert Stuart's art: his George Washington is on the US $1 bill.
George Washington in 1796, as painted by Stuart. The portrait was "flipped" (facing the other way) for use on the $1 bill.
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), the son of a snuff-maker, was America's most famous portrait painter after the Revolutionary era, and did no fewer than three portraits of George Washington from life, perhaps the most famous of which is the so-called Athenaeum Head, now owned jointly by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
Judging from the house, his father had a comfortable living, and the son was able to go to London to study painting with Benjamin West. Period furnishings, waterwheel-powered snuff mill, and copies of Stuart's portraits adorn the house.