What to Do in Newport, Rhode Island

This beachside town has everything from ghost tours to specialty cocktails.

Newport, RI
Photo Credit: Discover Newport

Newport, Rhode Island is the perfect place to escape to for a weekend, offering activities for everyone from history buffs to foodies to ocean lovers. While this beachside village is famous for being the summer playground of the rich and famous during the Gilded Age, its history goes back even further.

History of Newport

It was first permanently settled in 1636 by famous religious leader Anne Hutchinson and a group of her followers who were fleeing religious persecution, beginning a long tradition of religious freedom in the area. In 1639, a group that split off from Hutchinson moved slightly further south and formally founded the city of Newport. The town's strategic location on the water made it a leader in trade and the shipping and fishing industries. At the same time, the beautiful ocean setting and the fact that it had never been spoiled by industrialization made it a popular vacation destination for everyone from millionaires to artists and intellectuals.

After World War II, Newport's residents realized the significance of their hometown's history, and began to take steps toward preserving the many places that brought it to life.

Things to Do

Historical buildings are one of Newport's biggest draws, which is why the Cliff Walk is arguably the town's most famous attraction. It runs 3.5 miles and winds along dozens of mansions so spectacular that you might think you're in The Great Gatsby. The trail also offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and a variety of unique wildlife, such as song sparrows.

Most of the houses offer tours, and one of the most interesting ones is Rosecliff, which was modeled after an actual French palace. If you like history but not in the form of old houses, think about taking the Olde Town Ghost Walk, a 90-minute tour that mixes true events with (hopefully) fictional spooky ones. 

A visit to Newport wouldn't be complete without taking advantage of its place on some of the country's most picturesque coastline by setting sail. One of the best ways to experience Newport's connection to the ocean is by taking a sailing trip offered by 12 Meter Charters. On the two-hour ride, you'll cruise the waters around Newport on a yacht that raced in America's Cup, one of the world's most famous sailing races. You'll pass by the Rose Island Lighthouse, the New York Yacht Club, and other famous Newport sights.

 Best of all, you will get the chance to help sail the boat, even if you have no prior experience.

Where to Eat

To sample some of the destination's fresh seafood and signature eats, Newport Food Tours allows you to try dishes made from local ingredients at five different restaurants, so you won't have to make a hard decision about where to eat. 

If you're looking to experience even more of Newport's vibrant food scene, you can also check out many restaurants not represented on the food or boat tours. A great place to start is Salvation Cafe, an eatery whose decor is as eclectic as its menu offerings. Try the Pad Thai to sample the best of what it has to offer. If you're not in the mood for exotic fare, head to The Wharf Pub, a simple beachside tavern that offers great pub fare and live music on the weekends. Pair the Statler Chicken and the Homemade S’mores for a super satisfying meal.


Where to Drink

Newport is the perfect place for wine enthusiasts to go, as it is home to a number of famed wineries known for their whites. One of the best ones is Newport Vineyards, which is New England's largest grower of wine grapes. While you're there, tour the vineyard and winery and taste some great whites, such as the In The Buff Chardonnay. When you buy a tour and a tasting, you get a souvenir glass.

If you're a cocktails person, Newport has something for you as well. Check out The Fifth Element, a swanky restaurant with a killer bar, and order The Element Martini, which contains Ciroc vodka and a splash of white grape juice. If you're looking for a place with distinctively Newport flavor, try the Clark Cooke House, a historic hotspot at the water's edge. While you look out at the water sip on a Dark ‘n Stormy, which contains Gosling’s black rum and ginger beer.