Newport is one of my favorite New England seaside towns, full of shops, restaurants, and charm. It carries the storied history of the upper class of New England, including the Vanderbilt and Kennedys. You will find farms, cliffs looming over the blue ocean, vineyards, and plenty of romance.
It is located on Aquidneck Island and is a cruise port in the fall. When my husband and I want to reconnect, we head out for a romantic day in Newport, Rhode Island. Are you wondering what to do in Newport, Rhode Island? Here are some of my favorite ways to spend time together in this historic town.
History of Newport
Newport was first colonized in the 1600s by settlers from Boston, most notably Quakers, and Jewish people, looking for fewer religious constraints. In the 1700s, the British moved in, kicking out many of the city’s residents.
The town then reinvented itself as a summer home for many of the US’ wealthiest families around the area now known as the Cliff Walk, where many of their grand homes still stand.
Many immigrant groups have lived in the town, including the Irish, making this a fun town in which to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The US Navy has been present in Newport since the 1860s at the Naval War College.
Here are Some of my Top Things to Do in Newport, RI:
The largest fort on the East Coast functioned from the Civil War through World War II. Surrounded by water on three sides, both the listening tunnels and its stunning views make it an intriguing place to visit.
It is also a great place to catch a concert and an ideal vantage point for watching one of Newport’s many sailing races. There is a scenic walking trail in the area around the fort.
Read more about visiting Fort Adams here.
The Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island
These “summer cottages” of America’s elite during the Roaring Twenties are still beautifully decorated with walls that echo stories of suffragettes and railroad tycoons. You can tour many of these mansions, and the most popular are The Breakers and the Marble House.
Best of all, these houses are situated on a gorgeous walking trail called the Cliff Walk. For more information, read my article RI’s Cliff Walk.
If you are in Newport at Christmastime, it will be a treat to visit the mansions all decked out for the holidays.
Take a Ride along Ocean Drive
Even better, get chauffeured on a tour from Newport Classic Car Tours. They offer 1 or 2 hours around town, along Ocean Drive and up Bellevue Avenue, home of the Newport Mansions.
If you have a bike or plan to rent one, you can also ride Ocean Drive.
Enjoy a Newport Spa Day
My favorite spa in Newport is the Spa Fjōr in the Hotel Viking. I like the menu of features and the relaxing environment so much I bring my office staff there yearly as a Christmas gift. So, treat yourself and feel like a member of the old Newport upper crust.
It’s not too often you can learn colonial Jewish history. I found visiting this oldest Jewish temple in the United States very interesting. The synagogue is open for tours, and they have a museum.
Visit the Beaches of Newport, Rhode Island
Sunning yourself while enjoying a good book is always time well spent. (Be sure to check out this list of my favorite books set in stunning places..)
Although there are eight beaches in the Newport area, I usually go to only two.
I like Easton’s Beach, also known as First Beach, because it is right in the middle of all the Newport fun. First Beach is adjacent to the Cliff Walk and has tons to do, including an aquarium and playground. Its snack bar has one of the best lobster roll deals around.
When my kids were younger, we went to Gooseberry Beach, which is located in a cove and is pretty quiet.
International Tennis Hall of Fame
If you are a tennis player, the grass courts are a unique dream to play on. There is also an exciting and very complete museum about tennis. If you are lucky enough to come when the courts hold their tournament in July, you can see world-class tennis up close at a very reasonable price. I go every year.
Shopping in Newport, Rhode Island
No matter what sort of shopping you like, America’s Cup Avenue (named because this town is where the sailing race first occurred), Bannister’s Wharf, and Thames Street are a shopper’s dream.
The men in my life love this collection of antique cars shown right next to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Visit a Winery in Newport, RI
Newport Vineyards, like many things in the area, is actually in the town of Middletown. I love drinking wine, but I also adore the beauty and peace of meandering through the vines. This winery also has a lovely patio where you can have lunch overlooking the vineyards.
Explore Newport’s Wharfs
Along the water on Thames Street, you will find many wharves, the largest of which are Bowen’s and Bannister’s, which are great to explore. They are full of restaurants, shops, and boats. You may even find a boat to charter or to catch a day cruise. They are also the location of The Newport Boat Show and the Newport Boat Parade.
Take a Helicopter Ride to See the Layout of the Island
For my birthday, my husband surprised me with the Lighthouse Helicopter Tour from Bird’s Eye Views Helicopters. It was the perfect focal point of the romantic day he planned, and I couldn’t recommend it to everyone’s bucket list! I was afraid before going on, but the ride was so smooth. You will be so enthralled by stunning views you won’t even notice the heights.
Take a guided tour of Newport by boat or trolley.
The Best Places to Eat in Newport, Rhode Island
This town is often where we head on a night out. Here are my favorite Newport places.
Chanterelle Restaurant– Elegant French restaurant with a pretty patio. Be sure to try their notable desert aperitif, eaux de vie, in which a pear is grown right in the bottle.
Perro Salada– This is not a burrito place, although maybe you could get a really fine one here. Unique Mexican food.
White Horse Tavern– Fine dining in one of the oldest buildings in town. This gambrelled colonial building, built in 1652, has served as a house, meeting house, and, of course, a tavern. You may even see a ghostly visitor during your meal… It has been operating as a restaurant since 1673, making it the oldest in the US.
Pasta Beach- Really good pasta and pizza in a trendy, upscale setting.
Midtown Oyster Bar– If you like octopus, their appetizer is the best I have ever had.
My last restaurant recommendation is also another one of my favorite things to do in Rhode Island and the first of the best views in Newport.
Best Views in Newport, Rhode Island
Castle Hill Inn– On this property is a luxury hotel and restaurant, both really pricey. But you can eat a moderate meal on the patio in good weather or enjoy a drink at the bar and catch the best sunset in town.
The lawn faces Newport proper and the bridge. On some nights in the summer, they offer classic movies on the lawn. After dinner, take a walk down the private path at the far end of the driveway to the Castle Hill Lighthouse.
The Rooftop Bar at the Vanderbilt Hotel- I’ll be honest, the service is slow, and the drinks are expensive, but you can’t beat the views over downtown Newport and to the bridge.
The Pineapple Club at Gurney’s Hotel- Located on Goat Island, this poolside lounge offers dramatic views of the harbor and the Newport Bridge. There is also a lighthouse on the property.
Where to Stay in Newport, Rhode Island
I recommend staying within walking distance of downtown. Parking can be a pain in peak season, and everything is within trolley or walking distance.
A few spots I have stayed in and liked are the Newport Marriott and Hotel Viking. If you stay in the Marriott, be sure to get a water view. The last is a beautiful property and an easy walk to the Hall of Fame area and downtown, but it doesn’t have a water view.
There is a new luxurious hotel, Hammet Hotel, right on Hammet’s Wharf in the middle of the downtown waterfront.
If you can afford it, Castle Hill Inn is a dream place to stay for me. It is far from town, off Ocean Drive, but the property and views are incredible.
As you can see, there is something to make anyone happy in this lovely, seaside New England town. It can be busy in the summer, so I especially love it in spring and fall.
It would take a week to enjoy all these activities, but you can use this list to plan your ideal 24 hours in Newport, Rhode Island! Have a great time, and be sure to let me know how it went in the comments!
If you want more ideas of what to do in this awesome little state, check out A Local’s Guide to 48 Hours in Rhode Island.