20 Things To Do In Newport, Rhode Island

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The city of Newport in the small state of Rhode Island has long been a fascinating destination in the New England Region. Dating back to the 17th century, Newport is among the oldest cities in the United States and gained prominence throughout the country when it became the summertime destination of choice for the world’s rich and famous during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Many of Newport’s opulent mansions and estates still stand to this day which, combined with the city’s Cliff Walk, cultural institutions, historic charm, seaside views and idyllic sandy beaches combine to create one of the most exciting destinations on the East Coast. Here are the best things to do in Newport. 

Newport, Rhode Island

Top Tours

Sailing Adventure Newport Rhode Island
Cruising around Newport Harbour is one of the fun things to do in Newport.

20 Things To Do In Newport

1- Plan A Visit To Cliff Walk and Easton’s Beach

Newport Cliff Walk Self Guided Walking Tour
Going on the Newport Cliff Walk is one of the top things to do in Newport, Rhode Island.

Easton’s Beach and the Cliff Walk are two iconic and ever-popular Rhode Island outdoor attractions that have been drawing thousands of visitors to the New England city of Newport every year for decades.

The Cliff Walk is arguably the most well-known of Newport’s landmarks and is a stunning 3.5-mile-long (5.6 km) walkway stretching along the Atlantic Coast from Easton’s Beach to Bailey Beach.

Easton’s Beach meanwhile forms the start or end of the Cliff Walk trail, depending on which direction you’re hiking from, and is a ¾-mile-long (1.2 km) strip of sandy beach that’s among the busiest public outdoor hangouts in Newport during summer months.

Both attractions are free to visit and incredibly worthwhile, especially the Cliff Walk, which passes by several of Rhode Island’s most spectacular mansions including The Breakers and the Marble House.

Easton’s Beach and the Cliff Walk can both be found near 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI 02840.

Recommended tour: Newport Cliff Walk Self-Guided Walking Tour

2- Admire The Past Splendour Of Newport’s Mansions

Newport Trolley Tour with Marble House Viking Tours
Visiting Marble House Mansion is one of the things to do in Newport, RI.

Newport is home to several of the most impressive 19th and 20th-century estates in the United States, built when Rhode Island was the preferred summer destination for tycoons, politicians and socialites.

The Breakers is undoubtedly the most famous of the three and is a Gilded Age mansion built between 1893 and 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his family.

The Elms and the Marble House are two striking manors in their own right, with The Elms built in 1901 by architect Horace Trumbauer and the Marble House completed in 1892 for William Kissam Vanderbilt.

The Breakers is at 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840.
The Elms is at 367 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.
The Marble House is at 596 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.

Recommended tours:

3- Explore The International Tennis Hall of Fame

The International Tennis Hall of Fame in central Newport is on the grounds of the former Newport Casino, the site of the inaugural US Open tennis championship in 1881.

The centre was established by Jimmy Van Alen after a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame prompted him to create one for tennis, culminating in the Hall of Fame’s establishment in 1954.

The Hall of Fame has inducted 262 male and female tennis stars from 27 different nations and is an absolute must-see attraction for any tennis fan visiting Rhode Island.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame is at 194 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840.

4- Experience The Sights Along Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive is a visually stunning 10-mile-long (16 km) stretch of coastline connecting several of Newport’s most notable landmark attractions.

The drive straddles the shores of the Atlantic to the south of downtown Newport and was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1976 in recognition of its scenery and storied architecture.

Several mansions can be found lining Ocean Drive, though noticeably less ostentatious than those along the Cliff Walk, making it a worthy free attraction to stop by in Rhode Island.

Recommended tour: Scenic Newport, RI Self-Driving Audio Tour

5- Spend A Night At Rose Island Lighthouse

Castle Hill Lighthouse In Newport, Rhode Island
Visiting lighthouses is one of the things to do in Newport to explore maritime history.

Situated on Rose Island, about halfway off the coast between Newport and Jamestown, the Rose Island Lighthouse has been successfully guiding ships around Newport’s Narragansett Bay since first entering service in 1870.

The lighthouse was designed by Vermont native Albert Dow, who had a hand in the design of several other lighthouses scattered around Rhode Island.

Abandoned as a navigation beacon in 1970 before being relit in 1992, this National Register of Historic Places-listed landmark is now an attraction which visitors to Newport can visit or arrange to spend a night at.

6- Tour The Newport Art Museum

Enchanting art lovers with its visual art collection, the Newport Art Museum has cemented its reputation as the city’s premier arts institution since 1912.

The museum was originally established as the Art Association of Newport and is housed inside the John N.A. Griswold House, a National Register of Historic Places landmark and one of the earliest examples of American Stick-style architecture in the United States.

The museum opened a second gallery in 1920 and is today home to an art collection spanning some 600 individual works of art sourced both regionally and internationally.

The Newport Art Museum is at 76 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.

7- Unwind At The Blue Garden

Created by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in 1909, The Blue Garden is a famous Rhode Island outdoor area on the grounds of Newport’s Beacon Hill House.

Both the estate and its adjacent gardens were commenced by railroad tycoon Arthur Curtis James and his wife, Harriet, with the gardens completed before the main manor.

The gardens have gone on to become more famous than the estate itself and are open to the public for guided tours.

8- Cruise Newport Harbor

Scenes Around Newport, Rhode Island
Looking for the best things to do in Newport Rhode Island.

Rhode Island’s unique culture and history have been defined by the ocean ever since the first settlers arrived, and there’s no better place to experience Rhode Island’s roots than Newport Harbor.

The harbour is Newport’s biggest and most visited outdoor attraction and has played an integral part in the state’s early economic development since the 17th century before being converted into a hub for tourism following the decline of the local maritime industry.

Several tour operators now organise guided cruises of the Newport Harbor and the surrounding area, swinging by Rhode Island landmarks such as Goat Island, Fort Adams, Rose Island and Bowen’s Wharf.

Recommended tour: Sailing Adventure Newport, Rhode Island

9- Go Shopping And Dining At Bowen’s Wharf

Situated right on the shores of Newport Harbor is Bowen’s Wharf, downtown Newport’s go-to shopping and dining destination where gastronomes can enjoy some of the finest and freshest seafood options available in New England.

The wharf started as a busy maritime hub during the 17th century before being converted into a tourism and retail hub during the early 20th century that’s today home to world-class eateries, boutiques and an exciting nightlife.

The wharf is the historic starting point of the Newport to Bermuda Race and is the traditional host of the America’s Cup sailing event, the oldest sporting event in the world.

10- Stop By The Redwood Library

Recognised as being the oldest continuously open lending library in the United States, Newport’s Redwood Library is also housed inside the country’s oldest public Neoclassical-style building, making it one of Rhode Island’s most important historic landmarks.

The library was originally chartered in 1747 and officially opened its doors in 1750 following a three-year construction period that was spearheaded by architect Peter Harrison.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1960, the venue today operates as a subscription library and is still housed inside its original 1750 home.

The Redwood Library is at 50 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.

11- Learn About Rhode Island’s Favourite Pastime At The Sailing Museum

Established in 2019 to pay homage to Rhode Island’s most famous pastime, the Sailing Museum is a world-class institution that’s also home to the official National Sailing Hall of Fame.

The museum was initially founded in 2004 in Annapolis before moving to its current home following the museum’s purchase of Newport’s Armory Building, which served as the press headquarters of the America’s Cup from 1958 through 1983.

Among the museum’s broad collection of sailing artefacts and memorabilia are the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, interactive displays and the museum’s unique six thematic zones.

The Sailing Museum is at 365 Thames St, Newport, RI 02840.

12- Stroll Around Bellevue Avenue Historic District

Private Downtown Newport Walking Tour
Strolling along the waterfront is one of the iconic things to do in Newport, RI.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the Bellevue Avenue Historic District is a storied 606-acre (245 ha) Newport attraction stretching from Narragansett Bay in the south to Memorial Boulevard to the north.

The district is centred around Bellevue Avenue, home to stunning Gilded Age manors and Newport venues such as The Breakers, the Marble House and St.

Mary’s Church, where John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jaqueline Lee Bouvier were married in 1953.

The district is home to 8 National Historic Landmark buildings with several more listed on the NRHP, making it undoubtedly one of Newport’s top tourist attractions.

Recommended tour: Private Downtown Newport Walking Tour

13- Tour The Historic Touro Synagogue

One of the only buildings in Newport to survive the American Revolutionary War unscathed, the Touro Synagogue has stood at the forefront of several key moments in Rhode Island history.

The Synagogue hosted sessions of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island and Rhode Island General Assembly meetings between 1781 and 1784, with George Washington stopping by for a town meeting in 1781.

Serving as a Jewish house of worship since 1763, the venue is recognised as the oldest synagogue in the United States and is touted by many as being one of the top 10 most architecturally important 18th-century buildings in the country.

The Touro Synagogue is at 85 Touro St, Newport, RI 02840.

14- Satisfy Your Taste Buds At The White Horse Tavern

Deemed to be the oldest operational restaurant in the United States, Newport’s White Horse Tavern is an eye-catching National Historic Landmark that’s recognised as one of the oldest eateries in the world.

Originally constructed as a two-story home for Francis Brinley in 1652, the venue first began serving food and drinks to patrons in 1673 and was renamed to its current title in 1730 by then-owner Johnathan Nichols.

The venue still operates as a top-notch culinary destination to this day and features a typical Colonia-style design complete with a gambrel (two-sided) roof and clapboard walls.

The White Horse Tavern is at 26 Marlborough St, Newport, RI 02840.

Recommended tour: Olde Town Ghost Walk

15- Plan An Afternoon Visit To Fort Adams State Park

Fort Adams State Park is a large outdoor recreation space and historic landmark that sits perched on a scenic peninsula at the mouth of the Newport Harbor.

The park is named after Fort Adams, a First System coastal fortification and a former US Army post dating back to 1799 that forms the park’s signature landmark.

Among the 105-acre (42 ha) state park’s notable attractions are its stunning waterfront vantage points, its small and sheltered beach, its sports fields and its picnic spots, perfect for satisfying all your outdoor needs.

Fort Adams State Park is at 80 Fort Adams Dr, Newport, RI 02840.

16- Go Wine Tasting At Newport Vineyards

Cultivating a vast selection of high-quality wine varieties across a 60-acre (24 ha) plot of land just 3 miles (5 km) north of downtown Newport is the Newport Vineyards, an award-winning winery regarded as Rhode Island’s premier wine producer.

The vineyard boasts an on-site restaurant, café, tasting room and marketplace in addition to its myriad of vines, treating visitors to an all-encompassing culinary experience that’s hard to rival elsewhere in the region.

The Newport Vineyards is at 909 E Main Rd, Middletown, RI 02842.

17- Explore The Naval War College Museum

The Naval War College Museum is among ten official US Navy-operated museum centres in the United States, with the venue’s day-to-day duties managed by the Naval History & Heritage Command.

Established in 1952 at the behest of the Chief of Naval Operations, the museum boasts a large collection of rare maritime and naval artefacts and has been occupying its current home on Coasters Harbor Island since 1978.

Not only is the museum housed inside a George C. Mason & Sons-designed historic landmark building, but its vast collection and impressive displays are truly unmatched anywhere else in the New England region.

The Naval War College Museum is at Building 10, Luce Ave, Newport, RI 02841.

18- Escape To Nature At Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge

Home to the second-largest harlequin duck population during wintertime, the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is among the last remaining wilderness areas near Newport and is a haven for nature enthusiasts looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

The 242-acre (98 ha) refuge got its start in 1970 following a land donation from the state’s Audubon Society, which has since been extensively expanded thanks to land transfers between the refuge and the US Navy.

Devoid of the retail outlets and busy seaside attractions modern-day Newport has become synonymous with, the refuge is renowned for its tranquillity, great hiking trails and incredible wildlife-watching opportunities.

The Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is at 769 Sachuest Point Rd Middletown, RI 02842.

19- Tour The Acclaimed Audrain Auto Museum

The Audrain Auto Museum has been the premier automotive museum in Rhode Island since being established in 2014, hosting a wide selection of internationally acclaimed auto shows and events throughout the year.

Housed inside an eye-catching venue that’s situated next door to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the museum’s vast car collection includes some of the world’s rarest and most valuable automobiles.

About 160 unique vehicles are on display at the museum through a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, such as the centre’s “The Best on Two Wheels” and “Small Wonders” exhibits.

The Audrain Auto Museum is at 222 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI 02840.

20- Stop By The National Museum of American Illustration

The National Museum of American Illustration became the first museum of its kind in the United States solely dedicated to American Illustration art when it opened in 1998, growing into what is today one of the most prestigious art institutions in Rhode Island.

Housed inside Newport’s Vernon Court estate along the city’s historic Bellevue Avenue, the museum currently boasts a visual art collection of well over 2,000 individual works of art.

Works by iconic American Illustration artists such as Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Maxfield Parrish can all be viewed inside this one-of-a-kind Rhode Island institution, making it one of Newport’s top-rated art museums.

The National Museum of American Illustration is at 492 Bellevue Avenue Newport, RI 02840. 

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.