What are the best things to see and do in Newport?

Jane C. Govednik

Whether you're looking to kick back and unwind or take the city by storm, Newport has all the options you'll need. From picture-perfect beaches to historic cultural sites, self-guided walking tours to chartered sailing excursions, here are our top picks for things to see and do in Newport:

1. Stroll the Cliff Walk. This a uniquely Newport experience not to be missed. The Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile walkway that takes you along the breathtaking Newport shoreline and allows an up-close view of the grand Newport Mansions adjacent to its path. There are a couple of rough and rocky sections, so it's important to wear proper shoes, but all in all, it's a stroll that most people can enjoy. Not up for trekking the entire route? That's fine — you can walk as much (or as little) of the path as you want.

2. Hit the beaches. A trip to the beach during your visit to Newport is a must. The most popular spots are Easton's Beach and Sachuset Town Beach, known to locals as First Beach and Second Beach, respectively. First Beach is a favorite for beachgoers with little ones, as it's a manageable size and has a playground and carousel. Second Beach, just over the Newport town line in Middletown, RI, is a bit more spacious, and known as a great spot to catch some waves. A short drive from downtown Newport is a third option, Gooseberry Beach. Located on famed Ocean Drive, it boasts calm waters, soft sand and a top-notch view.

3. Sail the bay. Climb aboard a chartered sail boat or yacht for a memorable trip on the sea. These tours are a great way to see Newport in style. Cruising through Narragansett Bay will give you a remarkable perspective of Newport and its surrounding coastlines. Sit back, relax and enjoy the cool ocean breeze as a professional crew does all the work for you.

4. Explore Thames Street. Quaint, lively Thames Street is the hub of downtown Newport. Stretching about 1.5 miles from beginning to end, this historic strip offers a broad selection of shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and inns. It is easy to spend hours on Thames with everything there is to see and do. Of course, no visit is complete without stopping for some ice cream or homemade fudge along the way.

5. Visit the Newport Mansions. The Preservation Society of Newport County leads comprehensive, engaging tours of 11 properties with deep roots in Newport's social and architectural history. These tours offer you unprecedented access to the Newport from the Colonial, Victorian and Gilded Ages. Go back to a time when these mansions were inhabited by some of the city's most prominent historical figures.

  • On August 21, 2013
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Where are the best Newport beaches?

    There are three things Newport is known for: The Newport Mansions, top-notch sailing, and seemingly endless beaches. Unlike the rocky shores that typically grace much of Rhode Island — and New England — Newport beaches are lined with soft sand and some of them even have calm waves, great for families with young kids.

    While each beach has its own unique personality, our Forbes Travel Guide editors chose the top three in Newport — pick the one that best suits your needs best and hit the sand:

    1. Easton’s Beach. The most popular beach in Newport, Easton’s Beach (also known as First Beach) is located at the start of the Newport Cliff Walk. You’ll find loads of activities here, including carnivals, a carousel, snack bars, beach volleyball, picnic pavilions, a skateboard park and a playground. This beach is frequented by all travel types, from college kids to families, thanks to its extended offerings.

    2. Sachuest Beach. Located just a few miles from Easton’s Beach, Sachuest Beach (also known as Second Beach), is a bit more peaceful than Easton’s and is a favorite of surfers. The waves here are stronger than elsewhere in Newport, so if you’re looking to hang ten, this is the beach for you.

    3. Third Beach. The smallest of the three most popular Newport beaches, Third Beach is known for its peaceful water and relaxing atmosphere. Families like it here because the water is calm, but you’ll also find couples and solo sun seekers due to its secluded and quiet location.
  • On August 21, 2013
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the best Newport picnic spots?

    Vacationing in Newport isn’t just a favorite pastime of New Englanders, it’s a sought-after destination among travelers from around the world because of the Rhode Island city’s iconic East Coast small-town charm. Forbes Travel Guide editors found that picnicking is a popular past time for visitors and locals alike — consider these the best spots to unpack a lunch and enjoy the view:

    1. Easton’s Beach. Also called First Beach by locals, this beach is where you’ll find most of the action during the summer months — you’ll also find plenty of picnic tables to host your impromptu picnic parties. Cop a squat in the sand or just find an open space along the beach’s first-come-first-seated picnic areas.

    2. Brenton Point State Park. If you want something with less people and more views, head to Brenton Point State Park. This park offers great, sweeping views of the ocean and Newport’s famous rocky coastline. (Bonus: you can also fish here.) Bring a kite on a windy day and join the others kite flying along the coast.

    3. Fort Adams State Park. This spot is an ideal picnic place for boat enthusiasts. Find a  spot on the hill, lay out a blanket and watch the boats come in and out of the bay all day long.
  • On August 20, 2013
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best way to see Newport in one day?

    Whether you’re visiting Newport during the busy summer season or just driving through as part of a longer New England excursion, you’ll find plenty of unique things to do and see in this small coastal Rhode Island town.

    In the summer months, most people start the day at the beach. Head to one of the beaches (we like Easton’s, Sachuest and Third Beach) first thing and you have a good chance of scoring a good spot in the sandy. Thanks to the plethora of beachside restaurants in Newport, you won’t have to go far for lunch. Grab a stool at any of the bars that line the beach and enjoy some casual New England seafood, including lobster rolls, fried clams and oysters.

    Afternoons are best spent sailing, and if you can arrange your sail to coincide with sunset you’re in for a real treat. Sailing charters will take you around Newport harbor, past the Newport Mansions and out to the various lighthouses that line Rhode Island.

    Nighttime in Newport calls for something special, so we suggest making reservations at one of the several harbor side restaurants to end your day with a feast and a fabulous view.
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  • On August 20, 2013
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best way to see Newport in one day?

    It’s hard not to stumble across waterfront dining in Newport. Whether you’re strolling around the boardwalks after a day at the beach, or you want something a little more formal, Forbes Travel Guide Editors found a slew of eateries with a water view in this Rhode Island coastal town.

    The West Deck, located at Waites Wharf, is a local favorite for watching the sunset over the water. Belly up to the bar and watch the chef cook the night’s specialties while the water dances the background.
    The Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf is where wine lovers will meet for rare bottles and unique pours on the water, but it’s the clam chowder that has people returning year after year.

    Muse at the Vanderbilt Grace hotel is located on the water, and while you won’t be able to overlook the ocean from your table inside this fine-dining spot, you’ll have a great views of the water during an after-dinner stroll along the magnificent Cliff Walk.

    Castle Inn and Resort is typically booked during the summer months for weddings and events, but if you’re here off-season you can grab a table at the resort’s restaurant or bar for sweeping views of the water.

    For a more low-key waterside dining experience, head to The Pier Restaurant off Thames Street. The street is famous for its bars and nightlife, but you can avoid the chaos by scoring a water view table at The Pier and kicking back with the restaurant’s live entertainment.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best spas in Newport?

    When in Newport you may as well indulge — in yourself, that is. After a long day of walking or biking the city, your body will need a respite. Thankfully, these spas will pamper you from head to toe.

    1. Stillwater Spa. A full-service spa inside Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island, Stillwater has a tranquil, luxurious atmosphere and spectacular views of Narragansett Bay. 

    2. SpaTerre. Located inside the Hotel Viking, this dreamy oasis will help you relax and unwind with lavish treatments in a serene setting. 

    3. The Vanderbilt Spa. Revive and rejuvenate your face, body, hands and feet at this elegant spa inside the sophisticated Vanderbilt Grace Hotel. 

    4. The Spa at Newport Marriott. Earthy and welcoming, the waterfront Spa at Newport Marriott offers massage, face and body treatments, as well as salon services. 

    5. SpaVana. Located just outside of Newport in neighboring Middletown, Rhode Island, cozy and embracing SpaVana offers a wide array of signature services designed to refresh.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Jane C. Govednik answered the question: Jane C. Govednik

    What is the best thing to bring home from Newport?

    After a memorable trip to Newport, you'll want to bring a piece (or two) of the beloved city home with you. Since the Newport Mansions are some of its most iconic attractions, you may want to stop by one of the authorized store locations to pick up a treasured reminder of the city's history. Books, jewelry and note cards are popular choices at these shops. You can also pay homage to Newport's nautical roots by choosing a sailing print or nautical chart to hang in your home. To bring a taste of Newport with you, be sure to stop by The Newport Fudgery to grab some delicious homemade fudge.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Jane C. Govednik answered the question: Jane C. Govednik

    What are the best Newport food experiences?

    Sometimes a meal is all about the setting. Here are five decidedly Newport food experiences you are sure to appreciate:

    1. Castle Hill Inn Lawn. The sprawling lawn of Castle Hill Inn is an iconic Newport dining hangout. Open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, the lawn is lined with picture-perfect Adirondack chairs for guests to behold the stunning views of Narragansett Bay while enjoying hickory-smoked chicken or a lobster roll. When in Newport, a trip to Castle Hill for food and cocktails alfresco is a must. 

    2. Lobster dinner and sunset sail. Seafood and sailing — what's more Newport than this combination? Enjoy a classic New England lobster bake dockside before hopping on the Schooner Aurora for a memorable sunset sail around the Harbor. 

    3. Flo's Clam Shack. This is a barebones, no-frills fried seafood shanty, and that's what we love about it. Order your food at the window (the line may be long on the weekends), pick it up yourself and enjoy. Flo's says it's "famous for clams since 1936," but it makes this list for its beautiful ocean view, too. 

    4. Newport Dinner Train. Hop aboard to experience Newport and its surrounding area on a 22-mile, 2.5-hour train excursion along Narragansett Bay. Newport Dinner Train is the only moving dinner train in the state, and offers special events like romantic evenings, murder mysteries and family nights.  

    5. The White Horse Tavern. This Colonial-era establishment boasts it has served America for more than 350 years, making it one of the oldest taverns in the nation. Its chefs are passionate about creating contemporary seafood dishes made from the freshest local ingredients, ensuring that foodies who love history will appreciate everything about the White Horse Tavern.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Jane C. Govednik answered the question: Jane C. Govednik

    Where is the best nightlife in Newport?

    Newport has a vibrant nightlife scene with something for everyone, though the most sought-after spots are the ones that feature live music. The Landing is always a top place for drinks and entertainment, and with its prime waterfront location, you can't beat the view. The Newport Blues Cafe attracts popular local bands nearly every night in the summer. One Pelham East and The Fifth Element, both favorites with the locals, consistently bring in a great selection of bands, too. For a simple late-night pint, travel a bit off the beaten path to Pour Judgement, where there's a wide variety of craft beers in a cozy pub atmosphere.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Jane C. Govednik answered the question: Jane C. Govednik

    What is the best way to see Newport in one day?

    Though there is much to see and do in Newport, the city itself is rather compact, making it easy to explore in one day. Walking or riding your bike is the best way to get around, especially in the summer, when parking is at a premium. Where Thames Street meets Memorial Boulevard in downtown Newport, you can walk or ride east on Memorial to visit Bellevue Avenue, the Cliff Walk and the beaches; north on America's Cup Avenue to experience the scenic waterfront; or south to browse the shops and grab a bite to eat on Thames. For an excursion to view the impressive cliffs and historic homes on Newport's famed Ocean Drive, a bike or car is your best bet, as this scenic stretch of road is located a few miles from downtown. If you don't have a bike, don't worry — you can rent one at one of many conveniently placed bike shops.
  • On August 19, 2013
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Newport?

    Newport and luxury go hand in hand, especially when it comes to its accommodations. Whether you want a peaceful escape or prefer to be in the center of the action, you can pick from numerous lodging options. Here are the top places we'd choose.

    1. Castle Hill Inn. Located a short drive from downtown Newport, beautiful Castle Hill Inn sits on 40 acres atop its own private peninsula. Providing impressive views of Narragansett Bay, the Inn boasts 35 exquisite guests rooms, nine of which are in the property's stately 19th-century mansion. In addition, Castle Hill offers guests upscale beach houses and cottages, as well as elegant, romantic rooms in the shingle-styled Harbor Houses and Chalet.

    2. The Chanler at Cliff Walk. A European-style boutique hotel overlooking Newport's storied Cliff Walk, The Chanler is a venerable reminder of the city's Golden Age. Just a mile from downtown Newport, and mere steps from the ocean, this historic hotel is a great place to visit if you want to explore the city by foot. Stay in one of The Chanler's 20 opulent guest rooms for a luxurious vacation experience.

    3. Hyatt Regency. You will first spot the Hyatt Regency as you drive over the Newport Pell Bridge on your way to the City by the Sea. Located on Newport's Goat Island and accessed by a causeway bridge, the Hyatt Regency is a tranquil retreat just a mile away from the flurry of downtown activity. 

    4. The Vanderbilt Grace. Gilded Age glamour meets modern luxury at Newport's Vanderbilt Grace. This early 20th-century mansion built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt houses 33 rooms and suites that define sleek sophistication. Tucked away on a quaint side street, the hotel is centrally located near both the waterfront and downtown Newport.

    5. Hotel Viking. A grand five-story brick structure built in the 1920s, the Hotel Viking sits atop Newport's Historic Hill, a short distance to all the city has to offer. Guest rooms are enchanting and period-inspired, yet include modern amenities like flat-screen LCD TVs and rainfall shower heads.