With its dazzling history as a Victorian-era getaway for the rich and famous, beautiful Newport, Rhode Island is more than just a seaside resort. Known as the Queen of Summer Resorts, this coastal town oozes history, luxury, and New England charm. Whether your interest is in touring opulent houses, sailing along the Atlantic seaboard, or exploring quaint towns and funky museums, you'll find just what you're looking for in Newport.
Newport has a storied Revolutionary war history, but its true claim to fame came in the mid-nineteenth century when wealthy southern planters built vacation cottages here, looking for a cool place to spend the summer months. These early homes-such as Kingscote (1839) on Bellevue Avenue-were soon joined by larger mansions, built by well-off Yankee families. The Wetmore family came in 1852, building the incredible Chateau-sur-Mer, followed by the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and a number of other dynastic families.Today, the Preservation Society of Newport County maintains eleven of these amazing homes, keeping them open for public tours. You can stroll the halls of The Breakers (1895), Marble House, the Edward King House, and Griswold House, noting the fabulous antiques, rich curtains and wall hangings, and expensive furniture. Beyond these rich mansions, Newport is full of other historic buildings to visit from the Newport Colony House to the White Horse Tavern, Old Stone Mill, and Gray's Store.
To jump into the great outdoors, take a jaunt out of town for a cliff walk with dramatic views, a day of crabbing and fishing, or an afternoon on the beach. You can hike to the local lighthouse, carrying a picnic lunch and your camera, or visit the Norman Bird Sanctuary for the nature walks, peaceful atmosphere, and the chance to view marine life. And of course the ocean offers a wide range of activities from sea kayaking and scuba diving to deep sea fishing, pier fishing, and windsurfing.
You can rent a bike and head to the 5.5 mile loop in the Hope Valley area or visit the local golf courses for a day of long drives and short putts. Block Island is a popular sailing destination for those who charter day-sailors, and it's also a terrific place to go for horseback riding along the beach. Set just twelve miles off the Rhode Island coast, this island offers seventeen miles of sandy beaches, 356 fresh-water ponds, and miles of trails for hiking, biking, and bird watching. The island also has two lighthouses and a delightful town with boutique shops, cafes, and unique restaurants.
The nearby town of Mystic, Connecticut was made famous by the film "Mystic Pizza," but it has always been well known for its tall ships, seaside cottages, and stunning views. The kids will love the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium with its sea lions, penguins, and beluga whales.
Newport is home to the Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Jazz, and Battleship Cove, the world's largest collection of retired navy ships. Families can plan a day trip to the Roger Williams Park and Zoo, while adults will have a fun evening out at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino or the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Rhode Island-the nation's smallest state-is a great place to explore by car. In one day it's easy to reach any great Rhode Island destination from Brown University to the world-famous Rhode Island School of Design. This is also a great sailing and maritime center, with outstanding museums and sailing schools. Whether you're new to sailing or are an old salt, you'll enjoy exploring Newport's maritime sites. If you're interested in learning to sail during your vacation, contact the international Yacht Restoration School, the Newport Sailing School, or Newport Learning Adventures to find out about their day trips and daytime adventures. For the land-lubbers in your group, consider a brewery tour, a seal-watching tour, or a walking tour of the town's historic homes and buildings.