Newport, Rhode Island - Jim Flynn's BestWeekends

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island Overview

Newport, Rhode Island is a charming old seaport peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Rhode Island Sound to the south and the Newport Harbor on the west.

Once the summer playground of the Astors, Vanderbilts, Belmonts and other wealthy American families, Newport was a symbol of the lifestyles and opulence of the Gilded Age. Extravagant cottages were built along Bellevue Avenue and the ocean, one more magnificent than the other. Summer was a time for parties and entertaining, of houseguests and romance.

Newport today is a thriving resort community renowned as the sailing capital of the East. Summer weekends are for racing and parties and eating and drinking in Newport’s wonderful bistros and pubs. Vestiges of past wealth remain. Just as astonishing as the mansions of bygone years are the mansions old and new in which people actually live! Set on bluffs overlooking the sea and surrounded by acres of land, some of the nouveau properties are as spectacular as the old.

Take a stroll along the wharfs and you will marvel at the sheer number and size of the yachts and sailboats moored at the docks. If they are any indicator, our economy is in fine shape.

Most of the restaurants and shops are located in the downtown area along the Newport Harbor, making it an easy place to navigate during a weekend away. To the east the terrain climbs the rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic and you can enjoy the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk fronting the Mansions. To the south are parks and beaches and the 10 mile bike run following Ocean Avenue.

Newport is an ideal weekend escape particularly for those within driving distance from Maine to New Jersey. You’ll get to see how the other half lived, enjoy some wonderful food and some amazing accommodations.

When To Go

Like many resorts of this kind, crowds and traffic are at their heights in July and August. May/June and September/October are the ideal months to visit Newport, the weather is good, it’s easier to get around and you won’t have to wait forever to get a table in a restaurant.

Having said that, however, July hosts the Campbell Hall of Fame Tennis Championship at the International Tennis Hall of Fame (only U.S. grass court event) and August features the famous Newport Jazz and Newport Folk Festivals. The Newport International Polo series runs through the summer and the Tall Ships from around the world convene in Newport in July.

Getting There

Newport is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from New York City, 1 1/2 hours from Boston and about 50 minutes from Providence. You can also fly into Providence or Boston and rent a car for the trip to Newport.

Getting Around

The street design of Newport makes little sense, so navigating the town is best accomplished on foot or bike. Parking and traffic are also issues, particularly in the heart of the season. With one exception, our BestWeekends Featured Properties are all within a 15 minute walk or a short bike ride to the center of town.

Things To Do


Newport National Golf Club. Mitchell’s Lane Middletown. The Orchard course is a 7,200 yard par 72 links style course with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Sakonnet Passage. $125 weekdays, $150 weekends including cart. Was named Golf Digest’s ‘Best New Private Course’ (even though it is open to the public).


The 3.5 mile Cliff Walk is one of the great trails in the country, weaving its way between the Mansions and along the Atlantic.


Bodhi Spa offers a fantastic hydrotherapy program , the art of healing through the application of water in any form; hot, cold, steam or ice. Hydrotherapy has been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years


International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. Bellevue Ave. Open 9:30am-5pm. Play on grass courts from May-September. Visit the Hall of Fame and Museum. Great interactive displays including a Roger Federer hologram.


Amateur baseball rules with the Newport Gulls a summer collegiate league.

Horseback Riding

Newport Equestrian Academy, 287 Third Beach Road, Middleton. 1 1/2 hour private ride by the beaches $100.


Sailing Excursions offers private yacht charters, ticketed sails and sunset cruises. Click here for more boating options.


Newport Polo, host of the Newport International Polo Series, is the home of America’s first polo club, est. in 1876. Saturday evening matches start with tailgate parties. Everyone is dressed in their preppy finest. Quite a social event.


Newport Vineyards is a delightful tasting room with a brewery, restaurant and lots of events.


Nearly a dozen good choices. Among the best; Aardvark Antiques. J.T. Connell Highway, Cottage & Garden, Bridge Street.


Behind-the-Scenes at the Elms. Bellevue Ave. What life was like in the mansions during the Gilded Age from the perspective of the servants. Other mansion tours available from same source. Access Tours has more than 15 different tours available. Private, small groups, comfortable vans. Priced from $20-$70. Viking Tours. Narrated tours, including the mansions, on an open trolley. Fish & Tales Adventures offers seal, lobster and fishing trips. Great for the whole family. Newport Neighborhood Food Tour, off the beaten path to sample some of Newport’s best foods. Rum Runner 11. Built in 1929 during the height of Prohibition for two New Jersey mobsters to elude the Coast Guard while smuggling cases. Cruise by Newport mansions and former speakeasies, lighthouses,  islands and many other points of interest along the waterfront.


International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Bellevue Ave… Artillery Company of Newport Armory and Military Museum. Clarke Street. Military uniforms and artifacts from all over the world. Museum of Newport History. Thames Street. History of the people of Newport. Closed Tuesdays. Touro Synagogue is a National Historic site, the oldest synagogue in America and the only one to survive the colonial period. The National Museum of American Illustration features the largest collection of its kind including the works of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish. Audrain Automobile Museum has rare and seldom seen cars from 1899 to modern day. usually displays 15-20 cars.


There are nearly 20 galleries in town. Some of the more prominent include; William Vareika Fine Arts. Bellevue Ave. Nationally recognized gallery of American art. Onne Van der Wall Gallery, Bannister’s Wharf. Newport and nautical photography. Roger King Gallery of Fine Art, Bowen’s Wharf. 19th and 20th century American art.


Newport Performing Arts Theater. Dance, music, comedy, theater, speakers and more. Firehouse Theater. Award winning improv comedy. Island Moving Company. Classically trained contemporary ballet company.


February – Newport Winter Festival
March – St. Patrick’s Day Parade
April – Daffodil Days
May – Newport Boat Show
June – Newport Polo Series;  Newport Film Festival; Secret Garden Tour
July – Newport Music Festival; Newport Regatta
August – Newport Folk Festival; Newport Jazz Festival
September – Newport International Boat Show
October – Columbus Day Parade
November/December – Christmas at the Mansions
December – Holiday Stroll

Dont Miss

  • Coffee and newspapers at the Coffee Grinder
  • The Cliff Walk
  • A visit to the “Mansions”
  • Chowder at the Black Pearl
  • Dinner at the Spiced Pear
  • A burger at Brick Alley
  • The International Tennis Museum.

The Best Of...

Food & Drink


Franklin Spa, Spring Street, is a throwback to all the great breakfast counters of days gone by and a local favorite. Excellent hash, great prices. Other good choices: Annie’s on Bellevue (fresh squeezed OJ), Cru Cafe, fresh local ingredients. Breakfast all day and the Atlantic Grille, another local’s favorite, Aquidneck Ave. in nearby Middletown. Apple cinnamon stuffed French Toast, incredible omelets and six kinds of Eggs Benedict. Don’t want a full breakfast? Head to Coffee Grinders at the end of Bowen’s Wharf and enjoy the water views, delicious coffees and muffins.


In the colder months, go to the White Horse Tavern , the oldest tavern in the country for a fantastic a la carte brunch. Roaring fires, cozy rooms and a ghost or two. Sun. 11am-2pm. Ask for Table #10. Boat House. On the water. Called “One of the Best 100 Al Fresco” Restaurants in America by Open Table.


22 Bowens, is good anytime. Excellent lunch menu served harborside. Raw bar. Good wine selection. Brick Alley Pub below, the Mooring on Sayer’s Wharf. Perfect waterfront location, awesome wine list and wonderful lunches with a seafood bent (think Lobster Roll!), @the Deck is hidden away on Waites Wharf, but is a local favorite. Sit outside on the deck and enjoy the weather and the water. White Horse Tavern. History, maybe a ghost or two. Wonderful setting. Fireplaces. Try the Lobster Mac & Cheese. Cafe Zelda, on Thames. Great salads, a local favorite. Boat House. On the water. Called “One of the Best 100 Al Fresco” Restaurants in America by Open Table.


Brick Alley Pub. This institution seems to win all the awards for bar food; burger, nachos and so forth. Surprise! A Wine Spectator wine list. A real favorite of the locals.


The Black Pearl . Barrister’s Wharf. Good place for a cocktail as well. The Moorings is a close second.

Oyster/Raw Bar

22 Bowen’s is a favorite for a number of reasons; the waterfront setting, amazing wine list and unusual interpretations of the standards. Love the Bubbles & Oysters- 6 market oysters, hackleback cavier, lemon-chive creme fraiche, 1/2 bottle of lanson Rose Champagne. $85. Midtown Oyster Bar. in the center of town has a great selection of raw bar items as well as sushi.

Fried Clams

Absolutely no debate on this one. Flo’s Drive-In, off 138 on Park Avenue in Portsmouth. Only open in summer. Fanatical following. Local favorite.


Newport Lobster Shack. Fish local waters and they serve only what they catch. Waterside location. Outside tables.


This is a tough one, having sampled a few around town! In no particular order, the Candy Store at Bannister’s Wharf, the waterfront setting contributes, the Brick Alley, above, everyone has fun here.  Cafe Zelda is a local’s hangout with a cool little bar.


Martini spots mentioned above plus; The Mooring. Also on the water. Try The Fifth Element for artisan cocktails. Outside patio. West Deck patio. On the water. Favorite of the locals. Roof Deck at the Vanderbilt.



The outside bars at Gurney’s Newport are nestled in the trees, overlooking the pool and the Newport Bridge. This is where the locals come to escape the madness downtown during the summer.  Castle Hill Inn & Resort on Ocean Drive, about 5 minutes from town. Grab a cocktail at the bar and sit on the terrace or in one of the Adirondack chairs on the lawn. Also try the rooftop bar at the Grace Vanderbilt.

After Dinner Fun

Newport Blues Café . Thames Street. Blues, jazz, funk, R&B, Motown and reggae. Voted Best place for live music, Newport Life. Dance the night away at The Dockside, down Waites Wharf, is on the water and serves a young crowd. 70’s and 80’s music is the theme at the Boom Boom , downstairs at Cooke’s at Bannister Wharf.

Bike Rental

Ten Speed Spokes. Elm Street, a block from the Visitor’s Center. Good selection. $25/day.

Wine Shop

Great selection at Bellevue Wine & Spirits.

Sweet Tooth

The Newport Fudgery. Thames Street. Hand whipped fudge in 12 flavors. They’ll ship it too. Newport Creamery , Bellevue Ave and other locations. Have an Awful, Awful, a decadent ice cream concoction invented by this company 60 years ago.

Picnic Fixins

We like the Corner Cafe on Broadway. If you are staying at Castle Hill or The Chanler they’ll be happy to whip something up for you.


Lots of shops and boutiques. Some of our favorites; Annabelle, Thames Street, Fine lingerie. Portobello Jewelers. Voted Best Jeweler in Newport. Closet Revival is a fantastic vintage clothing store. Women love Isoude for dresses. Downtown Designs highlights works by special needs community.

Special Things

Top of the Morning

Early in the morning (@7:30am) make your way down Bannister’s Wharf to the end of the pier. There will be no crowds, the air is sweetly fresh and you’ll be drawn by the aroma of fresh coffee. Coffee Grinders is owned by a friendly and fun young woman named Alyssa, she does all the baking herself and carries all the best newspapers, including the NY Post (Page Six anyone?) Grab a cup, pull up an Adirondack chair, listen to the local gossip and enjoy the early morning sun off the calm Harbor waters. This is the best place to start the day. It’s also great place for a casual lunch.

Picnic in the Park

Pick up some sandwiches or salads at Hurricane Jane’s (or have them make you something at Castle Hill or the Chanler, if that’s where you are staying), a bottle of wine at Vickers or an awful awful at the Creamery and head down Bellevue Avenue. Just past the Marble House is beautiful, serene Rovensky Park (Rovensky Ave, go figure), and to the far right is a grove of shade trees perfect for an afternoon picnic.

Sunday in the Vineyard

On a lazy Saturday afternoon take a trip to the Greenvale Vineyards, Wapping Road in Portsmouth, just 6 miles from downtown. Tour the vineyards, taste the wine and enjoy wonderful jazz with Michael Quinn & Guests. 1-4pm.

Two Things We Haven’t Tried

There are two things we haven’t done, but look like fun. Venture at your own risk! The first is a helicopter ride (Bird’s Eye View Helicopters) over the coastline, the mansions, lighthouses, aircraft carriers and the Kennedy’s old summer home, Hammersmith Farms. $165 for 2.

The other is the Newport Dinner Train, a 22 mile, 2 hour journey along the Narragansett Bay. You’ll step back in time to when elegant train travel was the only way to go. We have heard the Cabaret Dining in the Parlor Car ($53) is the best, the food pretty good and the views from the train breathtaking.

Where To Stay

Castle Hill Inn

OVERVIEW of The Castle Hill Inn

The stately and elegant Castle Hill Inn is a top choice for accommodations in Newport. Slightly formal, yet very comfortable. The property sits on 40 acres of magnificent oceanfront, just a short drive from town on Newport’s renowned Ocean Drive.  Perched atop a small bluff, the water views…

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Cliffside Inn

OVERVIEW of The Cliffside Inn

Just outside of town and about a block from the legendary Cliff Walk is one of the most charming B&B’s we have seen, the Cliffside Inn. Once the home of noted artist Beatrice Turner, it has retained all the wonderful subtleties of days gone by, while including all the…

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Francis Malbone Inn

OVERVIEW of Francis Malbone Inn

Conveniently located downtown, within walking distance to everything, The Francis Malbone is our choice as the best B&B in downtown Newport. That says something because this town is filled with wonderful B&B’s. This gorgeous inn was built in 1790 for a shipping merchant and stands today…

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Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina

OVERVIEW of Gurney's Newport Resort & Marina

A few years back, new owners George Filopoulos and Lloyd Goldman  transformed the once stodgy old Gurney's Montauk resort into the new hot spot at the East End of Long Island. Now they have worked their…

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Hotel Viking

OVERVIEW of The Hotel Viking

The Hotel Viking opened to rave reviews in May of 1926 and quickly became a favorite of famous dignitaries and celebrities. Today, it is a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America. A recent A $6.2 million restoration maintained the…

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Mill Street Inn


OVERVIEW of The Mill Street Inn

An article surfaced the delightful Mill Street Inn and I was charmed by this all-suite property housed in a 19th century mill. With 23 suites, the Inn is located just two blocks from the center of town, convenient to restaurants and shopping. It is a member…

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Newport Beach Hotel & Suites

OVERVIEW of Newport Beach Hotel & Suites

The Newport Hotel and Suites is one of the best values I have seen in a long time. Ideally located across the street from the Easton Beach, minutes from the Cliff Walk and next to the Newport Pond, the hotel is the perfect choice…

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The Chanler at Cliff Walk

OVERVIEW of The Chanler at Cliff Walk

If the adage “location, location, location” is true, then The Chanler is perfectly positioned to take advantage of it. Perched atop towering cliffs overlooking Eaton Beach and the Atlantic Ocean, few spots offer as dramatic a setting. Housed in…

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The Vanderbilt

OVERVIEW of The Vanderbilt

In a town with great accommodations, the relatively new The Vanderbilt takes its place among the best. Originally built in 1909 by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the former Vanderbilt Hall was purchased by the Grace Hotel Group in recent years and painstakingly restored…

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Where To Eat

22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grill

Can a steak house be romantic? If it's 22 Bowen's it can be. A waterfront setting with great views, soft lighting, small dining alcoves, beamed ceilings, white linens, sparkling crystal, with great food and an amazing wine list, all add up to a superb experience. I love the Bubbles & Oysters to start with six…

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Newport might seem an unusual place to find a classic French restaurant, but the Bouchard story makes sense. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Albert honed his skills working at four-star restaurants such as The Dupuy Canal House in High Falls, New York, Chez Hosten in France for 2…

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Nearly floor to ceiling windows capture the spectacular ocean vistas from Cara's elegant dining room. White walls, striking artwork create a backdrop for coral colored chairs adding a splash of brightness. Chandeliers and candles cast a warm glow on a room with beautiful crown moldings, a marble fireplace, crisp table linens and sparkling tableware. Our…

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Castle Hill Inn

As you look around the bar and restaurant at Castle Hill, it is evident that this is a special occasion destination. Everyone is dressed up and everyone seems to be celebrating something. Most of the people at the bar, waiting for a table, were there for a special event. There's good reason to come here…

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Clarke Cooke House

The Candy Store at Clarke Cooke on Bannister Wharf has always been a favorite for cocktails. It's bright and airy with great drinks and bartenders and when the weather is nice and the back windows are open to the water, it just doesn't get any better. Still the best Dirty Martini in town. For some…

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Mamma Luisa

A simple "what's your favorite restaurant in town"? uncovered Mamma Luisa, a gem I had missed on previous visits. A long time resident somewhat reluctantly revealed this delicious Italian located at the far end of Thames Street in a residential neighborhood. Opened in 1992 in a former residence, the restaurant has three charming and intimate…

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Sardella's is another local's favorite. They love the Monday/Tuesday Special: Dinner for 2 with a bottle of wine for $32.00, that's right $32.00 for 2 with wine! Specials aside, this is a warm and romantic place, serving basic, but very good Northern and Southern Italian food. My favorite appetizers are the Zuppa di Vongole, Littleneck…

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