All roads lead to Newport

by Aimee Palmer

Newport, Rhode Island is the perfect place for a summer vacation. You can’t help but be captivated by this little town by the beach with its character and charm and unique brand of entertainment

Driving over the iconic Newport Bridge for the first time, I wondered what this historic little town would have in store. It turned out that Newport, Rhode Island is the perfect place for a summer vacation. From its beaches and ocean views, to its maritime history and art galleries, to its shopping, fine dining and nightlife, Newport has so much to offer. Whether you are seeking a romantic getaway, a relaxing family holiday, or a cultural/historical experience, you can’t help but be captivated by its character and charm and unique brand of entertainment.

Getting around

Geographically Newport is extremely easy to navigate – so much of the town is within easy walking distance for anyone with even a moderate level of fitness. Just make sure you wear comfortable footwear though, as the lovely old cobbled roads and paths can take their toll on suspect ankles. If you don’t feel like walking there are frequent trolley buses that will take you to your destination of choice – go to www.ripta.com for bus and timetable information. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle from www.tenspeedspokes.com. Newport provides the perfect backdrop for a leisurely ride to any one of the beaches that surround it. A favourite route of mine starts on Bellevue Avenue and continues around to the white sand paradise of Gooseberry Beach on Ocean Avenue.

Mansions

During your bike ride you will get to ogle at some of Newport’s grandest mansions, including The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff and just around the corner - The Breakers. Pay a visit to any one of them and get a sense of what it was like to be a part of the privileged American lifestyle that afforded these families such extravagant holiday homes. It is well worth purchasing a Newport Mansions Experience pass from the Preservation Society for $31. It allows you to visit five mansions for a substantial reduction. Purchase one online at www.newportmansions.org or from one of the Newport Mansions shops in town.

Where to stay:

A couple of great places to stay in Newport are the historic 3-star Hotel Viking, on Bellevue Ave and the 4-star Marriott Hotel on Americas Cup Avenue, both of which offer a full range of amenities. Alternatively, there are many charming little inns dotted around town which can be found at www.innsofnewport.com. Most are centrally located, within easy access to the main shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants on Thames St, Bellevue Ave and America’s Cup Ave.

Culture:

For cultural seekers, I would recommend that you plan to stay in Newport during the months of July or August when most of the festivals come to town. July brings the Newport Music Festival and in August there are the famous Folk and Jazz Festivals – check out www.gonewport.com for details.

Eating out

Foodies can satisfy their taste buds at a choice of restaurants. There’s the historic 17th century White Horse Tavern, 26 Marlborough St (+401 849-3600,  www.whitehorsetavern.us) which was once run by a notorious pirate, or for the seafood fan there’s The Clarke Cooke House, 26 Bannisters Wharf ( +401 849-2900,  www.clarkecooke.com) which offers select tables with harbour views. If you’re hankering for a Japanese meal with added entertainment, then you can’t look past the Sea Shai Hibachi Garden, 14 Long Wharf Mall (+401 841-0051, www.seashai.com). For those of you who want to carry on into the night, visit some of the great local bars and clubs on and around Thames St – but remember the curfew is 1am.

Cliff Walk:

A nice leisurely stroll around the acclaimed Cliff Walk is a must. If you’re on Bellevue Ave, it’s an easy amble down Memorial Drive to the entrance. As you make your way along, you will get a stunning view of the ocean and the mansions along the cliff and plenty of opportunities to photograph these sights.

Water activities:

I’d even recommend taking your swimsuit, so you can cool off at Easton’s (aka First) Beach after your walk. It’s just down the road and is Newport’s only ocean beach. The more adventurous can hire or purchase a surf or paddle board from the local surf shop just around the corner at 86 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown www.islandsports.com. You can head back to Easton’s Beach (better for beginners and paddle boarders), or if you're a seasoned surfer you can take a short drive around to Sachuest Town (Second) Beach in Middletown to catch some great waves www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/beaches/.