Nearly one hundred years ago, Newport, Rhode Island was the fashionable destination for wealthy travelers up and down the East Coast of the United States. Presidents, statesmen, actors and actresses, and many more of the rich and famous, rode in their buggies, on horses, on ships, or even in the new motorcars, to the breezy shores of Newport. Newport gave East Coasters what they were trying to escape in the summertime – heat and humidity. While most of the East Coast, even up into Maine, is exceptionally hot during July and August, the beaches and town of Newport, Rhode Island, located on Aquidneck Island in the extreme southeastern corner of the tiny state, are mild, breezy, and perfect for a summer vacation.
Today, Newport is still the quaint, breezy town in the summer that it was all those years ago, and it looks much the same as it did then, but with all the modern conveniences. Long rows of century old houses line the narrow streets, tiny shops and churches are dotted throughout the town, and the famous Thames street, which runs along the height of the shopping district, just across from the marina, is made entirely of old bricks. Visitors will enjoy a tasty lunch or dinner at the Brick Alley Pub on Thames Street, and remember, in Newport, Thames is pronounced phonetically, not the proper British pronunciation as in the River Thames.
The beaches in Newport are plentiful and the ocean water in the summer is nearly perfect. It is not the bathtub warmth of Florida or the frigid 50 degree water found in Maine and Nova Scotia; rather, with 80 degree sunshine, it perfectly offsets the air warmth for a quick cool-down. Many beaches are within walking distance of downtown Newport and there are hotels, restaurants, and hot dog stands near every beach.
Other than the mild, summer weather, one of the things that makes Newport unique is its unusual tie to the past. While many cities boast museums and political or agricultural history, Newport, Rhode Island boasts wealthy history. Take a drive alone Bellevue Avenue for an amazing tour of the Mansions that were once known as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Names such as Rockefeller, Kennedy, and others are well-known there. The summer cottages are what most of us would refer to as castles. Multiple levels, high ceilings, many rooms, servants quarters, and beautiful grounds that edge right up to the ocean; many of the mansions now are museums or theaters.
If visitors are ambitious enough to take a brisk walk, the Cliff Walk is a sight to behold. Cliff Walk is a sidewalk that runs along the side of a low cliff above the ocean, just behind many of the famous mansions. Walkers will be treated to the backside and grounds of the mansions, as well as a scenic view of First Beach, the surrounding cover, and other parts of the island. Surfers often surf the swells of the rocks below Cliff Walk, so there is always something to behold.
While Newport affords all these incredible and unusual sights, it also has all the benefits of a modern town. Chain hotels and restaurants, Wal-Mart, and small strip malls are found in different areas around town, available to those who need them, but not interfering with the historic feel of the old town.
Newport has also served as home to the famous America’s Cup races. A visit to the downtown marina will afford sightseers with an array of impressive boats, yachts, and crystal blue waters. Boats can be chartered for fishing, sight-seeing or whale watching, and visitors should be on the lookout, as famous faces are often found spending time on the boats at the marina at Newport.
Newport is easily accessible by air from New York, Boston and Providence. It is about a three hour drive or bus ride from New York City, less than two hours from Boston, and less than an hour from Providence. That first drive across the Jamestown and then the Newport Bridge will take visitors’ breath away.
The next time you are on the East Coast and are looking for a summer vacation that is not too hot, Newport is a summertime paradise.