We toured Newport, Rhode Island on a recent cruise throughout Canada and New England on Holland America Lines. Here’s a little information on the area and some great recommendations of things to see and do! On our cruise, we visited New York, Newport, RI; Gloucester, MA; Bar Harbor, ME; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Sydney, CA; Charlottetown, PEI; Saguenay, CA; and Quebec City.
Newport is located on Aquidneck Island, 30 miles south of Providence. The original settlement was started in 1639 after a political split from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. It was one of the 4 villages that made up the Rhode Island colony. In the late 17th & 18th centuries it was the base of operations for pirate activities. The most popular pirate was Thomas Tew, who the residents came to watch when his ship docked. After the British cleaned up this problem, Newport became a major port for the colonies and the United States.
In the mid-1800’s, the area became the summer residence for the rich and famous, making it the first American Resort. Southern plantation owners built huge summer mansions her to escape the oppressive heat. Many of these palatial homes are still here to admire and tour through. In fact, Newport has the highest number of colonial buildings of any US city. As you walk through the mansion area you find huge houses that are still privately owned nestled beside mammoth mansions that are owned and maintained by the Historic Preservation Society.
JFK and Jackie married at the St. Mary’s Church in 1953, and it continued to be a favorite summer resort. In fact, during the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies Newport was known as the Summer White House.
Things to See
If you don’t take an excursion, go immediately to the Information Plaza, where you can purchase tours on your own. You need to hurry over there because the tours fill up quickly. Walking around the mansion area is trying, even for the most hardy, as the homes are on huge lots (acreage!).
- NEWPORT DOWNTOWN DISTRICT (OLD QUARTER) – Tree lined streets, museums, places of worship, and historical homes can be experienced with just a leisurely stroll. There are guides available at the Historical Society(127 Thames) that point out all of the important sites. Or go to their website: www.newporthistorytours.org. The area is bordered by Thames, Touro, Bellevue & Memorial.
- THE MANSIONS – 10 palatial homes built in the mid to late 1800’s as summer homes. The find out about them or get directions log onto their web-site: www.newportmansions.org . These are the famous homes you have always heard about but never seen, like The Breakers, Belcourt Castle, Rosecliff, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, and Marble House.
- CLIFF WALK – This is a 3.5 mile public walkway bordering the eastern shoreline and beautiful homes. Originally this was a deer path, then Indian trail, and starting in 1880 the residents started to develop the walkway in earnest. The north end of the walkway starts at Memorial Blvd & Cliff Ave. The first section is paved and easy walking, but then it gets a little rougher and good walking shoes are suggested. At any time, a short walk to Bellevue and you can catch a trolley back to your starting point.
- ROSE ISLAND – An 18.5 acre island in the Narragansett Bay, a few minutes from Newport, that features an 1869 lighthouse. There is a walk around the island that offers beautiful scenery off shore or inland. The walkway is closed during nesting times, April – August. You can reach the island by the Jamestown Ferry.
NOTE: During your time in Newport there are two festivals you might want to check into.
- Bowens Wharf Seafood Festival (www.bowenswharf.com )
- Newport Mansion’s Food & Wine Festival (www.newportmansion.org )