Tuesday, October 3

Newport: A Cruiser’s Mecca

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The 52nd annual Newport, Rhode Island, boat show starts Sept. 14, and if you love looking at new boats, then that’s the place to be. But you don’t need the excuse of a boat show to head for Newport. One of the best and most welcoming cruising destinations on the East Coast, Newport has a lot to offer all year long.

At the end of Aquidneck Island, bounded on one side by the Atlantic and the other by Narragansett Bay, Newport (pop. 25,000) is built along a picturesque, largely protected harbor about 10 nm in from Point Judith. That means it’s easily accessible for anyone cruising along the east coast, heading for, say, Block Island, or up to Cape Cod, the islands and points Down East. The harbor has several large marinas to choose from, plus mooring fields with fast and convenient launch service to the heart of town.

Some of Newport’s downtown streets still have cobblestones attesting to the town’s history, which is indeed richer than most. It was founded in 1638 by English settlers who were escaping from the Puritanism of Massachusetts and negotiated settlement rights from the Narragansett tribe. The fledgling town then flourished as a sea port and was even home to the British navy for a while during the Revolution.

One of my favorite Newport restaurants is the White Horse Tavern, now a National Historic Landmark that’s celebrating its 350th anniversary this year. It was once run by a pirate, and was a meeting place for the colony’s General Assembly and Criminal Court for about a century.

There are great places to eat all over town, but boating people seem to congregate along Bannister’s Wharf for the oyster bar at the Clarke Cooke House, built by a sea captain in 1780, and the Black Pearl, next to it, known for its clam chowder.

But Newport is about much more than eating. It has great tennis, polo, bike paths and sailing. You can channel your inner Dennis Conner and take a ride on an old America’s Cup 12-Meter, probably passing by the waterfront estate of Hammersmith Farm, where  Jackie and John F. Kennedy held their wedding reception.

If you want to stretch your legs, take the 3.5 mile cliff walk with panoramic ocean views on one side and the back of some of the Gilded Age mansions built as summer “cottages” by some of the richest families in New York, Philadelphia and Boston on the other. The Breakers, pictured, was built by the Vanderbilt family in 1895.

Back in your car, take the 10-mile Ocean Drive starting along Bellevue Avenue by the mansions and then go around the end of the island, past Bailey’s Beach with its powdery white sand (and no parking spaces). You might want to stop at the Castle Hill Inn on a 40-acre peninsula overlooking the bay. Enjoy a sunset drink there on an Adirondack chair on the sweeping lawn and look down at the passing parade of sail and power boats.

You also can stop at Fort Adams, now celebrating its 200th anniversary. The historic fort is at the mouth of the harbor, and now is surrounded by a state park with rugby and soccer fields, picnic tables and a swimming beach. Fort Adams is also the home of Sail Newport, as well as the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival.

For a final bit of history, stop at Trinity Church on Queen Anne Square  just a few blocks from the boat show. It dates to 1698, and you can sit in the pew where George Washington worshipped during the Revolution.

Read more: https://www.discovernewport.org/blog/post/top-12-things-to-do-in-newport/



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