Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Travel and Review: Newport, RI (with photos)

Castle Hill Inn, photographed from Newport Harbor
I've been going to Newport in Rhode Island for vacation since I was a kid when my parents used to take our family there.  Thirty years later, I now take my family there, and it's a relaxing and enjoyable trip.

My impressions of Newport now as an adult are echoed by the same types of memories that I have of Newport as a child.  As soon as I make the right turn off the Newport Bridge and drive toward America's Cup Avenue on the water front, a wave of relaxation comes over me every time and stays with me the entire time I'm there.  Good stuff.... 

The general vicinity of activities in Newport is encompassed within a couple of square miles, but the core of the primary activities that you'll probably do is located in an area of just a few square blocks along the Newport water front of America's Cup Avenue and some of the surrounding blocks in that area.

What to do:

Let's get some information out of the way up front in this post with the following links for good things to do while you're in Newport:
  1. Fodor's profile of Newport
  2. Newport Chamber of Commerce
  3. Whale watching out of Provincetown
  4. Whale watching out of Barnstable
  5. Sailing on the custom 50' Flyer catamaran in Newport Harbor
  6. Information on touring the Newport Mansions
  7. The beautiful Cliff Walk hike above the coast alongside the mansions 
  8. Fort Adams State Park
  9. Visit Castle Hill Inn to relax on the lawn with a drink overlooking Newport Harbor.
  10. Shopping in the quaint shops on America's Cup Avenue.
  11. Cape Cod is within an easy drive of Newport, and this might merit adding some extra time to your vacation if you want to explore the Cape while you're in Newport. 
  12. Going to the beaches, although this is not my primary choice of activity in Newport. 
  13. Enjoy a few pints of Newport Storm IPA beer!  :-)
That should keep you busy!

I've found that three full days in Newport is a good amount of time to strike a balance between activities and relaxation, especially if you're traveling with kids. That would generally mean an activity in the morning, a break for lunch, and an activity in the afternoon.  If you're not traveling with kids (who get tired eventually) or you want to add some time on Cape Cod, then four days is probably better.

The Elms mansion....definitely a must-see activity!
Of all the activities above, I can particularly recommend the Cliff Walk, sailing on the Flyer catamaran, and touring one or more of the mansions.  These are classic Newport activities that everyone should experience.  If you go to the mansions, then try to see The Breakers, The Elms, and/or Marble House.  These are the best of the mansions and they offer an incredible glimpse of the wealth of the gilded age and the lifestyle of the rich and famous in Newport at that time.  Every time I see these mansions I just stare at the beauty of them.  What craftsmanship and extravagance!  There's a bathroom in The Breakers that actually has hot and cold running sea water in the bathtub!  And the ballrooms are magnificent...

A note about the beaches.  Newport has several beaches to pick from (Easton's Beach, 1st Beach, 2nd Beach, 3rd Beach) but I would say that Newport isn't exactly known for its beaches.  First, they can be rocky and have a lot of shells.  Second, due to the geography of the region, there's often a lot of seaweed that washes into the coves where the beaches are located.  Don't get me wrong.  The beaches are OK, but if you're looking for beautiful wide sandy beaches with crashing waves, Newport is not the place to look for that.  You would need to go out onto Cape Cod for "better" beaches...

Where to eat:

The outdoor section of The Black Pearl.  Good food, great location!
When it comes to dining, the water front wharfs on America's Cup Avenue are packed with restaurants to choose from.  Most of them offer some kind of outdoor dining with views of Newport Harbor in addition to their indoor seating.  I don't think I've ever had a bad lunch or dinner in Newport.   Many of the restaurants have been in their current locations for a long time, and that's a good indicator because competition on the water front is fierce.  If any of the restaurants were truly bad, I'm sure they would close quickly.  One note....If you're headed out to the water front for dinner on the weekend in the summer, make sure you get there by 5:00pm or you'll be waiting for a long time to get a table.  Weeknights are a little better for seating, but not much.

Some of my favorite restaurants include those at the links here:
  1. The Black Pearl
  2. The Gas Lamp Grille
  3. The Barking Crab
  4. The Red Parrot
Where to stay:

Store fronts on Thames Street
There are many different types of accommodations in Newport.  Right in the center of town by America's Cup Avenue and Thames Street there are quaint Victorian bed and breakfast inns and a few larger hotels (Marriott, Hyatt, Newport Hotel).  All of these book up early in the summer for the prime summer weekends, so unless you plan ahead you might be prevented from getting a room in these areas simply because they're all full.  The other issue with staying in the prime areas of town is the cost.  All rooms in these locations are over $200/night, and some of them are a lot more.  The Hyatt on Goat Island is one of the most expensive hotels in Newport.

If you're OK with staying 5-10 minutes outside of town, then the Holiday Inn Express at this link or the Courtyard Marriott at this link in Middletown are perfectly viable options.  In fact, I just stayed at the Marriott and it was nice, clean, convenient, and had a good indoor/outdoor pool.

In summary:

The shops and restaurants along Bowen's Wharf in town...
As you can tell from this post, I really enjoy visiting Newport.  It's a bit on the expensive side and I wouldn't put it on my list of places that I need to go every year for vacation, but every 2-3 years I go back there for a few days and I always enjoy it.  It's like re-reading a good book or watching a good movie that you've seen before.  You know what it's about, but you still love reading and watching them again.  Newport is like that.  It doesn't change at all over the years and has been kept up nicely, and it's always ready for a return visit.  It's consistently a fun, relaxing, nice way to spend a few summer days.  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. hi john, this is a nice little writeup on newport. thanks for the links and suggestions! i enjoy your photos.