Weekend Travel Guide: Newport, RI
When I first began to date Thomas, close to 3 years ago now, I didn’t realize I’d be soon be referring to another Northeastern state as “home” for several weekends during the summer months. But after 2.5 years, I finally feel confident in my ability to share a weekend guide to Newport that will stand out amongst the many, many trip review posts on the Internet, all sharing the beauty behind this amazing Rhode Island city.
Thomas has been spending about 10 years of his college/post-grad life in Newport, sailing with the New York Yacht Club every summer during its Regatta weekends. Despite my frequent power boat content via IG, I literally have zero knowledge about sailing & am just beginning to understand more about it this year. Like most sports, it becomes more interesting once you understand how its played/done. So I’m working on getting my feet wet and looking into taking a Beginner’s Sailing course in the near future, as sailing has very much become my present & will be my continued future when married to Thomas.
Needless to say, sailing is BIG in Newport. But you don’t need to be a sailor, have an interest in sailing nor have access to a personal boat in order to enjoy this charming, historical city. There’s so much to do & see on land that you’ll probably find yourself planning monthly/yearly trips back in order to experience it all; one weekend alone just isn’t enough!
Despite my personal experience having only been in the summer, Newport is absolutely a city you can visit all-year-round. In fact, we intend to do so this Winter once our friends move up here as we heard Christmastime here is simply magical. This post will be updated as often as we explore & experience anything new to us during our visits but in the meantime, here are my best recommendations for places to stay, eat, drink, and do during your stay in Newport, RI.
For more behind-the-scenes content >> be sure to check out my Newport IG Highlight!
WHERE TO STAY
Pelham Court Hotel
Pet-friendly just steps from the main drag (America’s Cup Avenue) and hands-down the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in while in Newport. Highly recommend Pelham Court if you’re traveling with pets or kids & could use a spacious layout or if you simply plan to stay longer than a weekend, as several of the rooms feel like glorified 1-bedroom apartments complete with a real kitchen (oven/microwave/fridge) as well as an open living/dining space with a gas fireplace feature!
Mill Street Inn
Our most recent stay was at this converted boutique hotel that once housed an 1800’s woodworking shop belonging to J.D. Johnston. Located in the heart of Newport’s Historic Hill Neighborhood, this Inn is surrounded with charm & full of modern updates suitable for any weekend guest looking for a comfortable stay close to downtown. Our favorite features were the gym & roof deck spaces, along with complimentary breakfasts delivered to our door each morning as well as complimentary Sangria in the lobby available around the standard happy hour time. Also a pet-friendly hotel on the nicer side for the human guests paying for it, if you know what I mean.
This high-end, design-focused boutique hotel isn’t in the heart of downtown, but only a few short blocks from all the activity while remaining shielded by the 12am+ noise. The Attwater offers bright, spacious rooms and suites that pop with color and unusual nautical touches, a fresh approach to the otherwise modernized historic scenes of its competitors. Very comfortable beds here too!
Forty 1° North
My parents stayed here during their trip to Newport and absolutely loved it! Although they said the room felt a touch small for their liking, the bed was very comfortable bed and the gorgeous water view made it entirely worth it. Forty 1 North also has an equally vibrant marina bar scene as well as complimentary taxi service available to its guests. The hotel itself isn’t too large, making it feel very intimate and perfect for a more romantic-focused Newport getaway.
Inns On Bellevue
We haven’t personally stayed here but our friends stay at one of these three Inns every time they visit Newport & love it. Another pet-friendly option offering its guests complimentary breakfasts & cozy accommodations, located in the Historic Hill Neighborhood as well. All three are a little different than one another, depending on what you’re looking for in terms of experience – from classic decorative to modern convenience to a location only a quiet stroll away.
This is another one that’s been on our list to stay at, as it’s a pricier luxury option right in downtown Newport. But there’s a reason why so many wish to spend their weekends staying at this historic hotel – it’s downright gorgeous inside & out. I’d also consider it one of the more romantic hotels in town too. If you don’t end up staying as a guest, you certainly can visit/dine/drink on its newly renovated rooftop.
Not directly in town, but full of romantic luxury
Castle Hill Inn
You’ll need a car to get here from town, but once you arrive it’s beyond worth it. This might be one of the nicest, most coveted places to stay in all of the Newport area – offering gorgeous overlooking views of the water as well as accommodations as intimate as they come – like private beach cottage intimate! There are also two dining locations on site – upscale in the dining room & more casual vibe on the lawn. Of course with offerings like these comes a lengthy waitlist for room availability, and an even longer one if you hope to have a wedding here. But you can always stop by for a cocktail or glass of wine to enjoy in one of the Adirondack chairs on the lush lawn; I recommend aiming for a happy hour arrival if you can swing it, as sometimes last minute cancellations = outdoor dining seating becoming available!
The Chanler at Cliff Walk
Here’s another wishlist hotel on my list, as this one is housed in one of the Gilded Age Mansions along the infamous Cliff Walk (see more on that below under “Things To Do.”) There are only 20 rooms here, making it another super intimate & romantic hotel option for anyone wishing for a unique experience and open to being a little bit outside of the hustle & bustle of downtown Newport. The Chanler is another fantastic wedding venue location, if you’re considering options up here for your upcoming special day.
Just like it’s Montauk residence, this Gurney’s is a taste of the Hamptons in Newport. I haven’t personally stayed here myself but from what I’ve read about it in Kendall’s review here, it looks like a gorgeous spot to stay that’s near downtown without being physically downtown – instead it’s on an island…Goat Island to be precise. Along with privacy, guests can enjoy dining at its Showfish restaurant notorious for its sunsets & cocktails.
WHERE TO DRINK + DINE
Empire Coffee & Tea
If you’re looking for a better-than-just-a-pastry-meal + coffee, maybe a quiet place to answer a few emails or settle down to read a book, this is the place for such that. There are two locations in Newport; we personally like the Broadway location over the William St one based on layout/tables (since we spend most early Friday mornings working here before the sailing starts.)
Another coffee spot with 2 locations in Newport, although I’ve only ever visited the one off the main drag. Delicious coffee & healthy-focused meal options for breakfast + lunch for anyone needing a quick but nutritious bite.
This iconic waterfront coffee shop is small but mighty, and definitely the best place to get a coffee in Newport IMO. If you walk all the way down Bannister’s Wharf – like all the way to the very end where the Marina is – you’ll find this cozy coffee shop tucked away behind The Black Dog General Store serving up some goodness in takeaway cups. PS – the chocolate chip cookies made daily from scratch are OH MY GAH good, especially with coffee.
Nestled off Spring St in the Historic Hill neighborhood is this midday eatery offering delicious, hearty classic breakfast & lunch plates. I’m very picky about my eggs & breakfast sausage and I’ll happily announce this was my favorite breakfast in Newport so far…
Gary’s Handy Lunch
Similar vibe to Franklin Spa, Gary’s is another hearty breakfast/lunch spot located in a retro-fitted 50’s diner setting. You’ll find this place right off the main drag of Thames St downtown.
Best of the Best
Reservations Required & Competitive
Clarke Cooke House
If you want to experience a true Newport social scene, hands down it’s at Clarke Cooke. Located in Bannister’s Wharf, this might be the hottest place in town to eat along with its prime real estate right by the water in the heart of downtown. There are 5 levels of bars (including basement) & 2 levels of dining that range from casual (Candy Store Bistro) to ultra fine (The Skybar) with a menu offering seafood plates (including sushi) to an all american cuisine. For the fine dining, there’s an exclusive menu provided at seating for its dining guests.
Click to book a reservation on Resy
— Reservation times become available exactly 2 weeks out from desired date —
And yes, there’s a moderate dress code requirement for its patrons. In the summer, women can wear anything in the realm of white jeans or dresses/jumpsuits/rompers paired with casual nice sandals or clean white sneakers for footwear – pretty much don’t wear anything that looks like you came from the beach, fell asleep or worked out in. For men, it’s a bit more limiting and requires all males to be in collared shirts (like a polo or SSBD), no jeans/lounge attire & preferably boat shoes/nice trainers over sandals & sneakers. There’s only one bar at the very top (4th floor) that requires men to wear a jacket for admittance (crazy, but very strict on that even in the summer) but most of the time it’s rented out for wedding after parties. The true, best bar in the entire place is the one right below the stairs to the jackets-only on the “third floor” but that’s just my opinion… There’s also a basement bar called the “Boom Boom Room” that opens around 10/11 pm & you can probably tell by the name what it’s all about. If you’re not a fan of windowless rooms, loud banging music, in your 30’s and NOT on a Bachelorette, you probably won’t have a boomin’ time down here.
RE: in your 30’s — I don’t know why but someone in their 30’s like me will rarely see anyone in their age decade down in this basement unless on a Bachelorette or Birthday outing, GNO etc.. It’s literally full of kids in their 20’s or adults in their 40’s… so strange but there’s no in-between for someone like me! I either feel too old or too young whenever I’m down there but that’s just my opinion.
The Lawn + The Dining Room at Castle Hill
As I mentioned above when talking romantic hotels, Castle Hill is surely one of the nicer places to have dinner in Newport despite not being in downtown. If you can swing a reservation at either the casual Lawn setting or its intimate Dining Room, it’s beyond worth it! Thankfully, you can book reservations through OpenTable but these reservations go QUICK once they become available 2 weeks out. If you’re dying to have dinner here, I’d set an alarm for 12 am exactly two weeks (14 days) from the date you wish to dine there. It’s worked for me every time & I’m always so happy I made the calendar reminder!
Click to book a reservation: The Lawn | The Dining Room
Midtown Oyster Bar
Although this spot doesn’t qualify as competitive fine dining, it doesn’t deserve to be included the frequent walk-ins welcome list of places below neither. Without a doubt, Midtown has THE BEST OYSTERS IN TOWN! Better than literally every single place I’ve tried, including the two places listed above. They have a list of 6-8 types of fresh oysters caught daily to choose from, and the list gets updated practically every day (or so it seems – at least weekly!) We sometimes come here for happy hour and hang at the 2nd floor bar upstairs and get a dozen or two of whatever they have that day. If you choose to have dinner here, the fish entrees are so delicious & the crabcake app is AWESOME! Definitely one of the best places in town to dine/drink at.
Click to book a reservation on OpenTable
Great dinner or sit-down lunch options in town. You don’t need to book reservations so far in advance for these spots, but probably wise to do so for parties of 4+ people or during Regatta weekends
The Black Pearl
Atmospheric wharf bar (located in Bannister’s) & formal restaurant with nautical decor, famed chowder & a busy summer patio.
Intimate place for pastas dressed with homemade sauces, gourmet thin-crust pies & focaccia panini.
A new ramen spot in town (as of 2021) featuring an Asian-inspired cuisine and incredible house made noodles – they even have a handmade whole wheat option!
Harry’s Bar & Burger
Modern choice for fresh-ground sliders with all the fixin’s, 50-plus craft brews & alcoholic shakes.
Slow-smoked barbecue eatery in a semi-enclosed space near the harbor. This place is known for its cocktails & one of the few dog-friendly dining places in town.
Cozy, casual tri-level steak & seafood restaurant with a raw bar, cocktails & views of the harbor.
The Red Parrot
Wide menu offering pasta, pizza, surf ‘n’ turf & cocktails served on 3 levels within a spacious 1898 building.
For The Bar Scene
Some have pub food menus & probably better as lunch options, but definitely stand out as the fun places to check out after dinner or for a late night drink
Relaxed, narrow speakeasy pouring craft brews & serving elevated pub eats & New American dishes.
A fun, lively sports bar scene overlooking a small dock on the water, complete with games including darts, pool, ping pong & more. Best pina colada I’ve ever had was here, including the ones I’ve tasted in tropical settings – no comparison, theirs is THE BEST.
PS – You won’t find it on Google Maps but it’s on the ground level, closest to the water in the building to the left if you’re facing the Forty 1 North hotel. There’s an entrance through the parking garage or you can walk through a pedestrian breezeway in-between the small boutique retail shops also on the ground level of this long building.
The Fastnet Pub
Straightforward sports bar with TVs, darts, Ping-Pong & live music including Irish folk bands. There’s also a substantial outdoor space in the back.
Newport Blues Café
Highish-energy “nightclub” in an old bank featuring rock & blues bands plus an American cafe upstairs. It describes itself as a nightclub, but it’s Newport’s version of that – not like NYC. The few times I’ve been here, there was a Piano or Jazz centerfold which was very enjoyable.
An all-ages garden patio is a draw here, as well as pool tables, TVs, musical acts & comfort food.
WHAT TO DO
Explore By Boat
See the sights of Newport from the bay & ocean side – highly recommend if boats are your thing (like me!) Depending on what you’d like to see & how long you want to be out for, you can either charter a private boat or hop on one of Sail Newport‘s luxury sailing vessels for an hour long cruise (including sunset times.) I’ve done both, more recently the former getting a private boat for a 3.5 hour afternoon cruise – IT WAS INCREDIBLE. We booked through Boat NPT and had one of the most magical days on the water we could ever wish for. Highly recommend it!
Our Private Cruise Details: We went out on the Macintosh Apple with Justin (last name ‘Hoye-House’) as our captain. If you can request him to charter as your captain, you’ll have an outstanding time – he’s just terrific and a great driver, especially out in the ocean if you choose to see the sights out there. I’d just make sure you have a Seabands bracelet handy if you’re prone to getting seasick – the water out there is very different than it is in the bay. Our boat fit us 4 very comfortably but can hold up to 6 passengers + captain – but you can choose your desired boat from 10 yachts in Boat NPT’s fleet depending on the party size hopping aboard with you. We brought our own beer & snacks, but Justin provided the ice in the boat’s built-in cooler. We were able to hook up Spotify on the boat’s bluetooth and listen to our playlists through several clear-sounding speakers located throughout the bow area (not just one speaker by the navigation/wheel like most center console boat models have.)
International Tennis Hall of Fame
Any racquet enthusiast would enjoy visiting the The International Tennis Hall of Fame, located in the northernmost part of town but still within walking distance. This complex, formerly known as the Newport Casino, honors both players and other contributors to the sport of tennis, including attractions such as a museum, grass tennis courts, and an indoor tennis facility.
Cliff Walk + Mansion Tours
You’ll have to hop in your car to get here a little easier, but it’s only a quick drive away from downtown. The Cliff Walk is a beautiful public-access promenade overlooking the ocean shoreline one one side and a glimpse into several properties housing original mansions of Newport’s Gilded Age. This walk is open all year round and stretches 3.5 miles long, with about 2/3 of it deemed “walkable” for those with conditions or strollers/dogs. The remaining 1/3 of it is a rougher, natural trail, moreso on the south part of the walk – it can easily be avoided for those not interested or able to walk it.
The Mansions aren’t just for seeing from the outside – you can tour some of them! They’re protected & operated through The Preservation Society of Newport County and many of them still serve as vacation/private residences for notable families (the Vanderbilt “Marble House”) & their descendants (such as Anderson Cooper) – of course, these parts are closed off to the public but it’s still cool to be in one of the homes of today’s celebrity.
Click here for the list of mansions to explore & to purchase tour tickets in advance
Outside of Town
Some of these places are closer to downtown than the others, but all of them are worth checking out if you have access to a car
This place is more than just a vineyard. Think of it as a touch of Napa you can experience right here on the east coast. Newport Vineyards is a beverage and culinary destination that blends together award-winning wine, fresh craft beer, farm to table dining experiences and unique events situated on over 100-acres of preserved farmland. Pre-Covid, this place was open for walk-ins but now there’s a reservation required for visiting – not sure when that will change but my guess is not anytime this year and unlikely early next spring (but I could be wrong!) It’s also dog-friendly, as is its brewery below.
Taproot Brewing Co.
On the same property, right next door to the vineyard is this fine brewery establishment. Similar to its wine counterpart, guests can enjoy beer flights, glasses, pints, and farm to table fare from its kitchen – available for both lunch AND dinner – to enjoy an afternoon or evening overlooking the seasonal vines, or our working winery and brewery. Book your reservation here (which is also required for any visitation.)
Compared to Newport Vineyards, this adorable 6th generation farm is a smaller operation but definitely a strong competitor! Reservations are not required here, as it’s a weather-depending outdoor seating venue complete with 1-2 food truck options and a dog-friendly atmosphere! Check out its calendar of upcoming events which include live music weekends.
Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.
A much smaller-scale brewery but a great place to checkout nonetheless, operating as a visitor center & gift shop that offers guided or non-guided tours plus beer & rum tastings (dog-friendly too!) The only downside is the lack of food menu, so I’d plan accordingly and BYO-Sandwich if you intend to stop here during lunch hour(s).
First “Easton’s” Beach + Sashuest “Second” Beach
During the summer, there are two beaches right outside Newport that are open to the public for sunshine enjoyment. The largest of the two mentioned here is Easton’s Beach – locally known as First Beach – which is located on Memorial Boulevard at the start of the Cliff Walk. There’s an on-site Bath House facility with amenities for its sunbathers and exploring guests, which include a snack bar, a year-round aquarium, a historic carousel & beach bounce, as well as a Ballroom space available to rent for special events.
Down the road in Middletown, you’ll find Sashuest Beach – locally known as Second Beach. Because it’s smaller in beach and facility size, as well as farther from downtown, this one is treasured more by locals and those looking for a quieter beach experience (although it still gets somewhat crowded in season, especially on weekends – just not “people on top of you with their setup” crowded.) In terms of amenities, there are on-site restrooms & showers as well as a concession stand & picnic tables. There’s also a lifeguard on-duty during the in-season months too.
Enjoyed your tour and pictures! Newport looks such a lively, colourful place.
Thank you so much Gail! xx