Attractions in Newport

14 Top Visited Tourist Attractions in Newport, Rhode Island

From its origins as a shipbuilding port to its current place as America’s yachting capital, Newport is connected to the sea. Even the New York society mansions that made Newport a legend of conspicuous wealth were built to maximize the sweeping sea views. If you listen to some local people, they may tell you that the enigmatic stone tower that stands on a hill above the harbor was built by those great seafarers, the Vikings. More likely, it was built as a mill in the 1600s, but it has joined the often outrageous stories of the Vanderbilts, Astors and their contemporaries in Newport’s centuries-old folklore.

Sailing isn’t Newport’s only claim to sports fame: it’s home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, in a historic building that was the site of the first US National Championships in 1881. In addition to tourist attractions like its famous mansions Gilded Age, Newport is equally rich in colonial-era buildings, including nine built before 1700 and entire neighborhoods of pre-Revolution buildings. With something for everyone, Newport offers history, art, culture, sailing, tennis and fantastic shopping in its many boutiques.

Read also: Top Visited Tourist Attractions in Newport, Oregon

1 The Breakers

The Breakers Tony Kent / photo modified
 

Cornelius Vanderbilt and his wife spared no expense in building what would become—just as they were intended—the definitive showpiece of Newport Gilded Age mansions. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 70-room “cottage” for the impressive cliff-top setting where the Vanderbilts and their staff (33 of the rooms were built to house them) decamped from their New York mansion every summer. The mansion is so overwhelming in its grandeur that it is easy to miss the fine details of its decoration – the carved wood and stucco flourishes and details on almost every available surface. As interesting as the house is, the kitchens and pantries, which you can visit, shed more light on the grandeur of their lifestyle. The gardens and stables are also open for guided tours.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

Official site: www.newportmansions.org

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Newport

2 Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk
Cliff Walk
 

Some of the best views of Newport’s mansions are from Cliff Walk. Here you see the side that provided the backdrop for elegant lawns and garden parties in the Gilded Age. Marble House , The Breakers , Rosecliff , Beechwood , Rough Point , and several others share the desirable location between Bellevue Avenue and the sea. The shore side overlooking Rhode Island Sound varies between pebble beach and rugged cliffs that are sometimes so steep that Cliff Walk requires tunneling through them. Access the trail—which is paved part of the way—from the bottom of Forty Steps (at the end of Narragansett Avenue), or start at the very beginning at the end of Easton’s Beach on Memorial Boulevard.

Official site: www.cliffwalk.com

3 The Elms

The Elms Tony Kent / photo modified
The Elms Tony Kent / photo modified
 

While not as flashy as The Breakers, The Elms is understatedly opulent, with clean lines and a bright, airy feel. The stairwell in the foyer is supported by marble pillars and bordered by a scrolled iron railing. Built to house the collections of a Philadelphia coal magnate and his wife, the Elms incorporated every modern convenience of its time. Especially interesting are tours here that reveal fascinating glimpses into the inner workings of the building and household. The beautiful gardens have been restored to their original beauty.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

4 Rough point

Raw Point Reading Tom / photo modified
Raw Point Reading Tom / photo modified
 

Ruw Punt is the last of the mansions to be opened to the public, and also the last to be inhabited. Heiress Doris Duke lived here in the summers until her death in 1993, when she left it to the Newport Restoration Foundation, a heritage preservation group she founded. The house, her personal art and antique collections, and the grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead showcase a different era and style in Newport’s past.

Address: 680 Bellevue Avenue, Newport

5 Marble House

Marble House
Marble House
 

Designed by Richard Morris Hunt shortly before he did The Breakers, Marble House was built in 1892. It was given as a birthday present by William K. Vanderbilt to his wife Alva, who kept it after divorcing him and moving to a mansion on Bellevue Ave. Modeled on the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the house is filled with opulent details – ceiling frescoes, chandeliers, carved and gilded woodwork and a grand staircase – but not as extravagant as the ballroom, inspired by the hall of mirrors at Versailles and almost entirely inlaid in gold. In 1913, Alva added a Chinese teahouse to the site, visible from Cliff Walk.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

6 Chateau-sur-Mer

Chateau-sur-Mer Lecture Tom / photo modified
Chateau-sur-Mer Lecture Tom / photo modified
 

Since it was built in 1852 for William S. Wetmore, Chateau-Sur-Mer has undergone so many reconstructions that today it is a catalog of almost all the major Victorian architectural and decorative styles. The Wetmores, whose fortunes arose from the Chinese trade, came early to Newport, when it was the retreat of wealthy families of culture and intellect. Their well-traveled son, who was enthusiastic about the Arts & Crafts movement, hired Richard Morris Hunt to renovate and expand the house, and Hunt turned it into a showcase for the geometric Eastlake style. The library and dining room bear the stamp of their later Italian designer and an upstairs sitting room is inspired by Turkish motifs. Perhaps the most notable architectural feature is the soaring 45-metre-long central hall with stained glass windows.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

7 Rosecliff

Rosecliff muffinman71xx / photographed
Rosecliff muffinman71xx / photographed
 

Designed by Stanford White, the ‘architect of the stars’ at the turn of the 20th century, and based on Louis XIV’s Grand Trianon at Versailles, Rosecliff belonged to one of Newport’s most flamboyant characters, Tessie Oelrichs. Although designed for entertaining – Tessie was a legendary Newport hostess – Rosecliff strikes most visitors as the most livable of all the mansions. It has Newport’s largest ballroom and was the setting for the films The Great Gatsby and True Lies .

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

8 Trinity Church

Trinity Church Leland Jackson / photo modified
Trinity Church Leland Jackson / photo modified
 

Trinity Church stands on the edge of a wide lawn and seems the perfect model for the traditional New England village church. The graceful spire is a Newport landmark, and the interior is just as fine as the exterior. You’ll find box pews, a vaulted ceiling and the gallery where slaves (Newport was a port in the infamous Triangle trade) worshiped next to the organ loft. The organ from 1733 was once played by George Frideric Handel. Look for signs that it was originally the Church of England, the established church of the crown and its colonies. Most were torn off by patriots during the Revolution, but you can still see a crown above the organ and a covering in the shape of the Union Jack above the back seats. The bell, given by Queen Anne, is considered the first church bell in New England.

Adres: Queen Anne Square, Newport

Official site: www.trinitynewport.org

9 Samuel Whitehorne House

The gracious 18th-century home of a prosperous merchant is perhaps the best-preserved example of a Federal-style home in Newport. Although it had become a residence and the interior was greatly altered, enough of its structure and detail remained – even fragments of original hand-painted silk wall coverings – that restorers were able to return it to its original appearance. It houses an astonishing collection of antique furniture and decorative pieces – enough to make it one of New England’s most important museums of the era – including many pieces from RI’s foremost furniture makers, the renowned Townsend and Goddard workshops. The historic garden has been restored and is definitely worth a stroll.

Address: 416 Thames Street, Newport

10 Cruise met Newport Sailing Tours

Cruise with Newport Sailing Tours tiarescott / photo modified
Cruise with Newport Sailing Tours tiarescott / photo modified
 

What better way to see and experience the sailing capital of the world than by taking a cruise between Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay with expert sailors? On a 75-minute sea tour, you’ll see Newport’s famous mansions, the world’s largest fleet of America’s Cup 12-meter yachts, and some of the private yachts of today’s wealthy summer travelers. And you’ll hear some inside stories from the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, regattas and escapades at sea and on land. You can teach yourself to sail or brush up on your skills with basic, intermediate or advanced sailing lessons taught by experts.

Adres: 5 Marina Plaza, Goat Island Marina, Dock A5, Newport

Official site: www.newportsailing.com

11 Hunter House

Hunter House Leland Jackson / modified photo
Hunter House Leland Jackson / modified photo
 

Considered one of the twelve most beautiful colonial homes in America, the Georgian-style hunter’s house was built in 1748 for ship owner Jonathan Nichols. Beautifully restored, the house has exceptional interior features, including five fully paneled rooms. The period furniture and art includes several works by the furniture makers Townsend and Goddard and Gilbert Stuart’s first commissioned oil painting. The ornate front door originally stood on the water and looked out over gardens that have also been restored.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

12 Kingscote

Before the Civil War, Newport was popular with wealthy Southerners who summered here to escape the heat. Kingscote – one of the earliest “cottages” – was commissioned by southern planter George Noble Jones. Architect Richard Upjohn created a highly imaginative Gothic Revival style cottage, a confection of turrets, gabled roofs, gables and Gothic arches that is a landmark example of the American Gothic Revival style. When the Jones family left in 1864, Kingscote was sold to China Trade merchant William Henry King, whose nephew then hired the listed company McKim, Mead and White to enlarge it. Notable in their addition was the new dining room, where colonial American details mix with Asian motifs and modern materials, such as cork tiles and glass stones from Louis Comfort Tiffany. The house is furnished with original family heirlooms: Victorian furniture, oriental paintings, carpets and porcelain.

Address: 44 Ocher Point Avenue, Newport

13 Touro-synagoge

Touro Synagogue Eric Gross / photo modified
Touro Synagogue Eric Gross / photo modified
 

Dedicated in 1763, Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the United States and the only one surviving from the colonial era. The simple brick facade conceals a dramatic two-story interior designed by Peter Harrison, America’s first professional architect. It skillfully combines classical architecture with the practice of Sephardic Jewish ritual. In addition to its architectural and Jewish history, the synagogue stands as a national symbol of civil liberty, having received assurances from George Washington in 1790 that the new nation would protect religious freedom for all faiths. This National Historic Site also contains a historic Jewish cemetery dating to 1677.

Address: 85 Touro Street, Newport

Official site: www.tourosynagogue.org

14 History of Newport Museum

Museum of Newport History 6SN7 / photo modified
Museum of Newport History 6SN7 / photo modified
 

For a great overview of the city’s past, visit the 1762 Brick Market (another design by Peter Harrison), where exhibitions from the Museum of Newport History cover topics as diverse as the city itself. The displays include information about the 17th-century English settlers whose community was based on religious tolerance; and the African Americans, Jews, Quakers, Irish, Italians, Greeks, and Portuguese who followed them. Look back to the Gilded Age by boarding an 1890 reproduction omnibus for a video tour of Bellevue Avenue and learn the backstories that put many of the attractions and their contents into perspective.

Address: 127 Thames Street, Newport

Official site: https://www.newporthistory.org/

Where to Stay in Newport for Sightseeing

We recommend these beautiful hotels and guesthouses in Newport near top attractions such as the harbor and Cliff Walk:

  • The Chanler at Cliff Walk: Luxurious Gilded Age mansion, ocean views, manicured gardens, period-style rooms, complimentary car service.
  • Newport Marriott: mid-range pricing, fantastic location, nautical theme, indoor heated pool, valet service.
  • Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina: 3-star hotel, harbor views, adirondack chairs, bright rooms, harborside restaurants.
  • Inn on Bellevue: affordable bed-and-breakfast, convenient location, old-fashioned style, tasty breakfast.

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