The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (2023)

Founded in 1639, Newport was originally a religiously diverse settlement that attracted a wide range of communities. This helped Newport become one of the largest port cities in the United States. Over time, Newport became the home of the Navy and the nation's naval capital.

Newport's magnificent sea views attracted the attention of New York's elite, who began decorating the waterfront with elaborate mansions in the second half of the 19th century. Fast forward to today, travelers can enjoy a wide variety of activities in Newport, from exploring the mansions that once housed the wealthiest members of society to experiencing the city's marine life.

With ample access to public land in Rhode Island, there will also be no shortage of parks and waterfronts with their own stories to tell.

17. Chateau-sur-Mer

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (1)

Built in 1852, Chateau-sur-Mer is a complex of architectural styles. While many of the newer summer houses have remained the same, this mansion has undergone several renovations. This resulted in many designs that made the castle one of the most interesting buildings in the city.

Much of this prismatic blend was created by the son of the home's original owner, William S. Wetmore. The son had many adventures abroad which provided him with various inspirations, some of which can be seen to this day. As you explore the house, you can step into the dining room, designed by an Italian decorator, while the Turkish influence can be seen throughout the upstairs meeting room.

16. Playa de Easton

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (2)

At the northern end of the Cliff Walk, Easton Beach is one of the best places to sunbathe. With less than a mile of shoreline there is room to relax and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

The laid-back surf offers fun boogie boarding and surfing when you want to cool off. Easton Beach is manned by lifeguards throughout the summer. Beachgoers also have access to a variety of amenities, including beach wheelchairs for easy access. In addition, on the beach there is a bathhouse, a snack bar and even a carousel.

If you want to stretch your legs, take a walk on the promenade or do the Cliff Walk.

15. Trinity Church

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (3)

With its ever-tall white spire, Trinity Church makes an imposing presence in Queen Anne Square. Before the Revolution, the Church was part of the Church of England. One of the highlights of the tour of the historic building is the period memorabilia, such as the crowned organ, Union Jack paneling and what is believed to be the first bell rung in New England.

But the story of the church built in 1726 does not end there. Newport was part of the famous trade triangle that ran from Europe to Rhode Island through Africa. In the church of the Trinity there is a gallery next to the organ where the slaves could celebrate their mass.

14. Brenton Point State Park

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (4)

Brenton Point State Park is located on the site of the old Reef Estate. The sprawling property has been a hotspot for the local elite for decades, as it sits on the southern tip of the island overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay.

Today the impressive peninsula is state territory. As befits Newport, the state park is equal parts outdoor recreation and history. Travelers can hike, bike, and fish, while couples and families can picnic with a view.

Brenton Point State Park is also home to the Portuguese Discovery Memorial, which celebrates Portuguese pioneers, and the Reef Estate Tower Bells.

13. National Museum of American Illustration

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (5)

America's Golden Age of Enlightenment began in the 1870s and ended eight decades later. The National Museum of American Illustration celebrates this important period with several vast collections.

The museum is housed in the beautiful Vernon Court mansion in the city's historic quarter. Inside the mansion are notable public works of art, including elaborate sculptures and antique furniture.

The highlight is of course the pictorial art. This also includes a parts warehouse at Maxfield Parrish, the largest of its kind in the world. You'll also find items Parrish used with Norman Rockwell. Other notable artists include Howard Pyle and Violet Oakley.

12. Tour Synagogue

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (6)

There is no shortage of great architecture in Newport. But while the mansions may be the first thing that catches your eye, the exquisite Touro Synagogue is the second oldest building in the city. The historic building is the oldest surviving synagogue in the country and the only one from the colonial era.

Touro Synagogue was built in 1763 by local Peter Harrison. Today it is a National Historic Site and an incredible piece of Newport history. Visitors can view a letter from President Washington to the city's Jewish community, among other fascinating exhibits. Architecture buffs will also appreciate the building's 12 pillars, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

11. Bowens Pier

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (7)

Due to its sheltered position on the east coast, Newport has a long connection to the sea. Historic Bowen's Wharf, once home to seafaring merchants and traders, is now the center of the city's waterfront.

Old red brick paths lead you along the waterfront where old buildings have been converted into some of the city's liveliest restaurants and bars. When the sun is shining, you can sit by the water and enjoy some of the city's signature seafood delights.

After sampling the delicious local foods, it will come as no surprise to learn that the pier hosts an annual oyster and chowder festival.

10. Internationale Tennis Hall of Fame

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (8)

When it comes to sports, it doesn't just start and end with a Newport cruise. The beach town is also home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Other events may make headlines in modern times, but it was here that Newport hosted the first US National Championship in 1881.

The event took place at the famous Newport Casino, which was built last year. Tennis was played every year until 1914 and became one of the city's biggest attractions. 40 years later, the casino was expanded to include a hall of fame. Today you can browse through an array of brilliant memorabilia and multimedia exhibits about the history of tennis.

9. Rough spot

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (9)

Rough Point Mansion, owned by tobacco heiress Doris Duke, is one of the most recent homes to open to the public. Located on Bellevue Avenue, Rough Point is the same as it was when Doris died in 1993.

The house was originally built in 1887 for another member of the Vanderbilt family, Frederick. When it opened it was the largest of the cottages in Newport. The design was inspired by the villas of England.

The tour takes you inside the house and highlights the Duke's exquisite taste in decoration as well as his private art collection, including fascinating Flemish tapestries.

8. Marmorhaus

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (10)

In 1892, William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, built the marble house and gave it to his wife, Alva, for her birthday. as you do The impressive mansion was designed by Richard Hunt, the same architect who would later build the Breakers.

The house pioneered Newport's rapid transformation from a charming farm town to a summer colony for America's elite. William and Alva wanted the house to be America's "temple of the arts." The house certainly achieved its lofty goal. It was inspired by the Petit Trianon in Versailles. The house cost $11 million to build in 1892, most of which was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble.

7. Thames Street

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (11)

Newport's main street, Thames Street, is the place to be for shopping, dining, drinking and entertainment. Although relatively short, the street is only 1.5 miles long and is lined with some of the best restaurants in town. Next to it are stylish boutiques, stylish cafes and museums. Oh, and it wouldn't be Newport without some historic buildings.

Thames Street starts at Carroll Avenue and heads north until it intersects with Farewell Street. It's essentially a promenade and with several award-winning bed and breakfasts, it's the perfect place to stay.

Strolling down the street is a pleasant experience, not only for shopping and eating, but also for people-watching.

6. Cliff of Rose

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (12)

If the Breakers are the crown jewel and the Elms are regal and sophisticated, then Rosecliff Manor is extravagant, just like its original owner, Tessie Oelrichs. Raised as a miner's daughter, Theresa Alice Fair became a socialite and the wife of Hermann Oelrichs, a steamship magnate.

Tessie was famous for her parties and the family estate reflected this in both character and practicality. Rosecliff was designed by Stanford White, who was the preferred choice for many in the One Percent. Built in the French neo-baroque style, the house is inspired by the Grand Trianon in Versailles, which ironically was used by King Louis XIV to escape the regularities of life.

The Rosecliff commands attention from the moment you set foot and boasts the largest ballroom in Newport where Houdini once performed.

5. Fort Adams State Park

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (13)

Fort Adams State Park, on scenic Ocean Drive, is home to the second largest fort in the United States. The fort was originally intended to protect a rapidly expanding US Army stationed near Newport. The first fort was built in 1799 and the current Fort Adams was built in 1824.

141 years later, in 1965, historic Fort Adams and much of the surrounding area became a state park. A few years later, the area was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Today it is a place of history and recreation. A popular stop on scenic Ocean Drive, the park offers beautiful areas for swimming and picnicking. Fort Adams State Park also hosts the annual Newport Jazz Festival.

4. The Elms

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (14)

With all the money up for grabs, Gilded Age mansions in Newport offer a fascinating glimpse into the personalities of the country's wealthiest families. While the Breakers is decorated down to the smallest detail, the Elms is a more enchanting piece of architecture.

The house was built for Edward Berwind, a coal magnate in Philadelphia, and his family. The design features clean lines with a straight and symmetrical front. Its elegance and beauty are somewhat understated, combining the styles of Neoclassical and Greek Revival architecture.

A tour of the Elms gives visitors a taste of the 'modern luxury' of the late 19th century. You can also explore the fascinating gardens which have been restored to their former glory.

3. Ocean Drive

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (15)

Ocean Drive, a 10-mile winding promenade of famous attractions, is an iconic part of Newport. The journey begins on famous Bellevue Boulevard and takes you off the beaten path for a tranquil experience in the southern tip of Rhode Island.

Like the Cliff Walk below, Ocean Drive offers a cinematic depiction of Newport's enchanting wilderness, where the deep blue sea meets its rocky doom. The road's environment, once farmland, was changing rapidly in the late 19th century.

There are so many historical sites along Ocean Drive that it's hard to believe. Pass a cluster of Gilded Age 'summer houses', the famous Hammersmith Farm and Fort Adams, but don't sleep on the many parks and beaches you'll discover along the way.

2. Walk along the cliff

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (16)

The 3.5-mile Cliff Walk takes you along the cliff edge of the Atlantic Ocean and showcases Newport's natural splendor. On a calm, sunny morning, the water still stands at the foot of the cliff. The seaside grass stretches from the edge to the walls surrounding rows of impressive villas.

Enjoy the best experience with your favorite morning drink while enjoying the view while the cool sea breeze blows the pine trees to and fro. Take time to enjoy the vast horizon view while admiring the architectural splendor on the other side.

If you start from the southern end of the Cliff Walk, stay close to the path as there are many steep drops that are not visible.

1. The switches

The 17 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island (17)

A favorite vacation spot for America's elite in the 19th century, Newport is filled with opulent mansions that give a whole new meaning to generational wealth. One of these fabulously wealthy tycoons was Cornelius Vanderbilt II, whose grandfather made money expanding the nation's railroads.

A member of one of the wealthiest families in American history, he set out to build the crown jewel of Newport's myriad flamboyant mansions. Today it remains as majestic as ever and its impressive details are best seen up close. The Gilded Age mansion has 70 rooms on a cliff with stunning views.

You can tour the Breakers to get a sense of the details used, from the gilded woodwork to the elaborate gardens, giving you a sense of the Vanderbilts' place in American life.

Map of activities in Newport, Rhode Island


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Manual Maggio

Last Updated: 29/07/2023

Views: 5825

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (69 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Manual Maggio

Birthday: 1998-01-20

Address: 359 Kelvin Stream, Lake Eldonview, MT 33517-1242

Phone: +577037762465

Job: Product Hospitality Supervisor

Hobby: Gardening, Web surfing, Video gaming, Amateur radio, Flag Football, Reading, Table tennis

Introduction: My name is Manual Maggio, I am a thankful, tender, adventurous, delightful, fantastic, proud, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.