Newport, Rhode Island is a small New England city on the coast of Rhode Island. It was a major 18th century port and still has many Colonial era buildings. Newport is home to many fabulous mansions from the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s. Today sailing and yachting is very popular and prevalent in Newport. It is a popular tourist location with many upscale hotels and dining, many shopping areas, and the ever popular mansion tours, plus water activities.
The weather here is lovely in the late spring and summer with temperatures from May to September hovering from the low 60’s to mid 70’s. This is peak tourist season. During the winter months it gets quite cold with average highs in the 30’s.
We wanted to visit Rhode Island and choose Newport for its coastal atmosphere and the uniqueness of the mansions. It was a perfect location to spend a few days.
Getting To Newport
Newport is very accessible by car and relatively close to several major cities. The closest major airport is T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) right outside of Providence, RI. We flew into T. F. Green, picked up a rental car and drove off. The drive from the airport to Newport is around 30 minutes. Newport is on an island but you will not have to worry about ferries as there are bridges that connect the area to the mainland. Overall getting to Newport is very easy.
We stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Newport Middletown, RI. Which was right outside of the city of Newport. It was a 10 -15 minute drive to most parts of Newport including the Thames St. shopping area and all of the main wharfs. This hotel was a significant savings from staying at one of the hotels that was walking distance to this same area.
The Homewood Suites brands is one of my favorite hotel brands because you get so much room at a reasonable price point. I would qualify the brand as a little above average with a lot of included amenities though nothing that would be considered luxury. All rooms include a full kitchen and I find them spacious. This location offers studio rooms and one or three bedroom options. We were in a studio. While the interior at this location seemed a little more dated than some other Homewood Suites we have visited I did not find it to be an issue and nothing felt run down or dirty about it. I love that the room had a couch which allows you somewhere comfortable to sit besides the bed itself. The bathroom area here was also spacious with a separation of the sink outside of the closed off shower and toilet area. This makes it easy for multiple people to get ready at once.
The amenities here include a gym and a small indoor pool. There is also complimentary breakfast which we really enjoyed. On weeknights they even have complimentary evening snacks and beverages. A nice coffee and tea set up with fresh fruit was in the lobby throughout the day.
We chose this hotel to get the full kitchen as we enjoy being able to make some of our own meals. The free breakfast is a huge plus, as is the price point vs. some others in the area. The drive into town was not a big negative for us as it was so short and we only stayed for a few days. I always enjoy a stay at a Homewood Suites and this one was no exception.
We arrived in the mid afternoon to our hotel and after checking in and getting settled we took the quick drive over to the Discover Newport Visitors Center. (aka the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau) We found this the most convenient place to park. While the inside of the building itself was not impressive they have restroom and lots of maps and brochures. This is also a hub for many tour companies. From here we walked to Thames Street which is lined with shopping and dining. Some were chain stores but most were small local shops, mostly clothing shops and souvenir stores. We walked over to Queen Anne’s Square for a stroll and then over to St. Mary’s Church to see the church where JFK and Jackie Kennedy were married.
Next we walked over to the wharfs full of restaurants, bars, and more shops. Here we could take in the sights of the water and many boats. The architecture here was very interesting as well. After exploring several wharfs it was time for dinner. We had made reservations at The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar for dinner. We sat on the patio on the dock with a view of the water and the setting was lovely. The interior of the restaurant was lovely as well. The atmosphere and service here were great. We enjoyed our meal as well sticking to seafood items. I would recommend dining here.
After dinner we walked back to the car and were back to the hotel. Though parking at the Visitors Center was the easiest way to go it did add a half mile of walking to the end of our day. There were other paid parking options throughout the area but some of the fees are steep and the small lots seemed to fill quickly.
We got up bright and early to drive over to the historic Cliff Walk for a morning walk. The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile paved trail along the cliff that boarders the ocean. The walk is in the historic mansion district so on one side you have the ocean and on the other side you have many historic mansions. Access to the Cliff Walk is free of charge and it is open to the public. We arrived around 8:15am on a Sunday to the very small street parking area at Narragansett Ave and 40 Steps. We were able to get a spot to park easily but this area can fill up rather quickly. There were also some porte-potties here the only rest rooms available. One feature of the Cliff Walk is the 40 Steps this is a stone staircase that leads down towards the ocean where you can get a lovely view. We started at the steps as that is where we parked we then started our walk. Even on a very foggy morning the views of both the ocean and the mansions were fantastic. The photo opportunities were great and the mansion views were better than those you would get driving down the street as many of the homes had large walls and gates obstruction the view. Along the Cliff Walk that was not the case and the backs of these magnificent homes were in clear view. The walk itself was rather easy going as most of the pathway is paved or very flat and well worn. I would absolutely recommend not only taking this walk to anyone visiting but to make it a priority.
After our walk we hopped back in the car and drove over to Ocean Drive and the popular scenic route Ten Mile Drive. We saw some more mansions and got a closer look at the rocky shores. There were several beaches and parks along the way. We parked in a few of the parking lots along the route and took a little time to explore the shore.
After the drive we headed back to the hotel to change and have some lunch in our room. Then it was back to the Discover Newport Visitors Center where our afternoon tour was departing from. We took the Viking Tours of Newport’s Grand Mansion Trolley Tour with The Breakers (Tour 2B). The tour vehicle itself was an adorable trolley bus, though it does have wooden benches as seats so it is not the most comfortable ride. The first portion of the tour was about an hour during which we were driven around the Ocean Drive area and the tour guide provided narration with history of the area, the mansions, and some notable current residents. It was great to get some back story on the homes we had seen in the morning and to see even more.
For the second portion of the tour we were dropped at The Breakers with house tour tickets and told what time to return to the trolley by. We were dropped right at the front gate so there was not much of a walk at all to get to the entrance. The Breakers is the most famous and grandest mansion in Newport. The summer home of the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilt family and built in the 1890’s. The home is the hight of Golden Age luxury and opulence it was built to showcase the wealth of the Vanderbilts. Today it is owned by the Newport Preservation Society and is a historical landmark. There are several ways to visit The Breakers, you can simply buy a ticket, visit as part of a larger tour as we did, or there are even more in-depth tours offered. We had the normal house tour ticket and it came with an audio tour. The audio tour presented on headphones and a digital device gave a lot of background about what each room was used for, the lifestyle of the family, and the details of what we were looking at. The home itself is nothing short of breathtaking and astounding. The intense level of detail and amount of artwork and craftsmanship is amazing. On the main level each room had something different that would impress you. Upstairs the bedrooms were less elaborate but provided a more intimate look at the daily lives of the former inhabitants. A look into the kitchen on your way out was very interesting as well. Of course there was also a gift shop on site. The restrooms were outside in a separate area so I recommend seeking them out before you start your tour. Honestly you can’t go to Newport without seeing a mansion and The Breakers is the most noteworthy. I really enjoyed the visit here and recommend adding it to your itinerary. However, if you are traveling with young children I would skip visiting this, or possibly any of the mansions. It’s a relatively quiet affair as everyone is listening to their audio tours and basically everything around you is breakable.
We were back on the trolley at our appointed time and taken back to the Visitors Center. Using the trolley tour made visiting The Breakers stress free and easy. I really enjoyed hearing the history of the mansions and being able to ask questions from the tour guide during our drive. This was a great tour experience.
After the tour we walked back toward the wharfs. On the way we stoped at the Museum of Newport History. While the upstairs museum exhibit was closed for the day the museum store downstairs was open. This shop had some nice resources about the area for sale. The museum would have been a nice addition to our visit and if I return it will be on my list.
After a little more window shopping along the way we arrived at our dinner plans, a restaurant on Bowen’s Wharf, The Wharf Pub. We found this location online and it was well reviewed but that was not our experience. The atmosphere was very much of a wharf pub which was what we expected. The burgers and tots that were our main meal were very basic. Though perhaps we should have ordered something more exciting from the menu. What really soured us on the experience was the service. Everyone we encountered had a bit of an attitude where it felt as though they were annoyed we were there. A side salad that my husband ordered came with anchovies and he ordered the salad without them. When the salad arrived there were anchovies. This is an understandable error but when we pointed it out the server simply took the salad in back and picked off the anchovies. This was clear because the salad still tasted like anchovies which is a very distinct taste. I would not recommend dining here.
After dinner we walked back to our car at the visitors center and went back to the hotel to pack back up as we flew out early the next morning.
Of course there are a bunch of other activities in Newport that we didn’t get to partake in. Here are a few highlights.
More Mansions – There are several other mansions that offer tours and you can even get tickets that cover multiple ones.
International Tennis Hall of Fame – Tennis fans will want to check out this museum.
Boat Tour & Water Sports – There are many harbor tours, seasonal whale watching tours, yachting experiences, sailing and more available in Newport. If you want to get out on the water you have a lot of options.
White Horse Tavern – This is the “oldest operating restaurant in the U.S.” and is acknowledged as the 10th oldest in the world. This is an upscale dining option serving guests since 1673.
Festivals – There are several annual festivals in Newport that add additional opportunities for enjoyment. These include annual events like the seafood festival, boat show, flower show, and the oyster & chowder festival. Check out the annual calendar here.
Overall as a destination I loved my time in Newport. It is the perfect little town for a weekend getaway or as part of a larger trip through the area. We paired it with time in both Mystic, CT and New Haven, CT and the travel between the three was very simple by car.
I would recommend Newport for couples, families with teen or adult children, friend groups, and solo travelers. I think you get a great taste and feel for coastal New England here with the added attraction of the mansions which are unique to Newport.
Newport is definitely on my list to visit again!
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