Newport (Photo:Enfi/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Eleanor Berman
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Newport

A stop at Newport makes for a great day ashore. There are simply so many dimensions to enjoy, from the well-known Gilded Age mansions to a Historic District that is one of the best preserved Colonial neighborhoods in the United States, boasting more than 200 structures that predate the American Revolution.

About Newport


Pro

Newport's Gilded Age mansions are a dazzling site

Con

During the busy season, you might have to wait in line to visit the more popular mansions

Bottom Line

History buffs leaf-peepers and seafood-lovers will love this scenic beach town


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Fine early churches like the 1726 Trinity Episcopal Church, the oldest synagogue in North America, historical centers dedicated to tennis and yachting, the nation's oldest library and the largest coastal military fortifications in the U.S. make Newport a fine destination for any history buff. Newport's also an exceptional destination for its famous 3.5-mile Cliff Walk winding between the mansions and the sea, the super-scenic Ocean Drive and Bellevue Avenue, plus several accessible beaches, a magnificent harbor and myriad shops and seafood restaurants along the wharves off Thames Street.

Newport, Rhode Island, has enjoyed a long and complex history. Unlike puritanical Boston, it was a haven for religious freedom, welcoming Quakers and Jews whose meeting house and synagogue are among the historic buildings surviving today. By the 1760s, Newport was one of the five largest ports in Colonial America and was a major exporter, as well as part of the infamous slave trade. Many fine Colonial homes went up during this period, and Newport-made furniture was among the finest in the colonies. The first American Navy was established there in 1775, but this prosperous period ended when the British burned the harbor and fleet, once during the Revolutionary War and again during the War of 1812.

The scenic beauty of the town and its beaches began to attract summer residents. By the late 19th century, Newport had become a mecca for the wealthy. Families like the Vanderbilts and Astors put up opulent palaces by the sea, which they called "cottages," to be used for a feverish six-week summer season that was America's most elaborate social scene. Though wealthy residents remain, that legendary Gilded Age died out with changing times. The mansions, saved and restored by the Preservation Society of Newport County, serve as major tourist attractions drawing millions of visitors each year.

The Navy kept its ties to Newport over the years, and the U.S. Naval War College and Naval Undersea Warfare Center still are headquartered here, but the naval base that had helped support the local economy was closed in 1973. It was after the naval destroyers moved out that the yachts began to move in. The city fathers turned their attention to tourism, the waterfront wharves were restored, shops and restaurants bloomed, and visitors flocked.

With its many assets, Newport has emerged as one of New England's most popular resorts and a major stop for cruise ships, especially during the fall foliage season.

Where You're Docked

Most cruise ships anchor in Narragansett Bay off Newport and use tenders to take passengers to Perrotti Park, within easy walking distance of the visitor center and local public transportation as well as shopping.

Good to Know

You'll find little to worry about in Newport, but as in any popular port, it's best to keep your money stashed out of sight in a secure purse or inside pocket. Leave excess cash in your stateroom safe.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

ATM machines are available at the visitor information center, one block from the tender dock in Perrotti Park. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Bank of America also has several centrally located ATMs -- at 62 Americas Cup Avenue near Bowens Wharf, 514 Thames Street and 181 Bellevue Avenue.

Language

English is spoken in Newport.

Shopping

Nautical souvenirs are the best reminders of Newport. For something fun, you can find pillows in the colors of signal flags at Custom Canvas Newport (6 Bowen's Wharf; 401-847-4977) and more pricey original Newport scrimshaw by the owner and artist at Scrimshanders (14 Bowen's Wharf; 401-849-5680).