When it comes to historic cities in the United States, most people think of Boston, Massachusetts or Williamsburg, Virginia. However, the tiny state of Rhode Island has a historic town that is well worth visiting: Newport.
In Newport, Rhode Island you’ll find well-preserved old mansions, historic churches and educational tours that teaches you about life during the turn of the century. Look no further for gorgeous views of the Atlantic ocean. Newport has a gorgeous coastline with scenic walking paths and lookout points throughout the city. The history and views alone make Newport a popular port of call on a Canada and New England cruise.
The Breakers is a famous Newport mansion built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II to be his summer home, and was designed by renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt with interior decoration done by Ogden Codman, Jr. and Jules Allard and Sons. We know – those names probably don’t mean too much to you, but they were a big deal back in the Gilded Age! The Breakers gets its name from its proximity to the coastline and that it’s so close you can see the waves breaking onshore from the mansion. The mansion was designed to reflect an Italian Renaissance villa – as well as to show off just how rich the Vanderbilt family was. The Breakers is a National Historic Landmark and is no longer a private residence; today it’s owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County. This is good news for visitors who get to tour the property, which is open to visitor year-round, and take in its grandeur both inside and out.
America’s first president attended church here along with many other historic figures from America’s past. Trinity Church is still set up with benches located within enclosures, as each family had their own section in the past. President Washington’s was Pew 81. In addition to the unique layout of the pews, pay special attention to what’s in the center of the church: a three-tiered, wine glass shaped pulpit that is the only of its kind in America. Trinity Church is in remarkably good condition thanks to a restoration in the 1980s that gave it a needed facelift while still staying true to its original façade and details so it appears as it did in the 18th century. If you love American history, this church is not to be missed.
Rough Point Mansion was built over the course of five years and was completed in 1892 during the Gilded Age of Newport. It was originally the home of Frederick William Vanderbilt and was last privately owned by Doris Duke before coming under the ownership of the Newport Restoration Foundation. Rough Point is known for its English Manorial style with a red sandstone and granite facade. It is open to the public who can tour it during a Newport cruise port of call.
The Marble House is another one of the famous mansions in Newport from the Gilded Age. Commissioned by William Kissam Vanderbilt (brother of Cornelius Vanderbilt) in 1888, the Marble House represents the best that money could buy at that point in history and was designed by esteemed architect Richard Morris Hunt. The Vanderbilts wanted the house to be a reflection of 17th and 18th century French chateaus and when Marble House was debuted in 1892 after being hidden from public view during construction, it didn’t disappoint thanks to its marble exterior – which also no doubt helped the Marble House’s construction costs to be $11 million.
This picturesque Rose Island Lighthouse is located on Rose Island (hence the name), in the middle of Narragansett Bay. The island had been used as a defense base since the American Revolutionary War, and later became the site of Fort Hamilton Barracks. When shipping traffic increased within Narragansett Bay, Congress decided Rose Island needed a lighthouse. The lighthouse utilized the former circular bastion of Fort Hamilton and was built to be 35 feet tall with a wooden keeper’s dwelling and Fresnel lens in the lantern that displayed a red light. The first time it was lit was on January 20, 1870.
The Redwood Library was founded in 1747 and is the oldest community library in the United States that is still housed in its original building. Inside this historic building, you can find a book collection surpassing 160,000 volumes in addition to the Original Collection of 751 titles.
Though technically located in Middletown, Norman Bird Sanctuary still may fall onto your Newport must-see list if you love nature and birds. Situated less than 15 minutes from Newport, Norman Bird Sanctuary is dedicated to preserving the land that was bequeathed to the sanctuary in 1949 after the death of heiress Mabel Norman Cerio for the protection of the many species of birds who make it their home. The Norman Bird Sanctuary covers 325 acres and visitors can hike the seven miles worth of trails around its premises and bird watch. Some of the birds you might see include herons, mallards, woodpeckers, chickadees, hawks, swans, and many more. You can also visit the onsite Barn Museum, which has information on the area’s ecosystem and natural history.
A short distance outside of Newport in the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, is the Herreshoff Marine Museum. It is a popular place to go for maritime enthusiasts since it houses memorabilia relating to yachting, the America’s Cup sailing race, and the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, which was an acclaimed boat design company that built the largest ever America’s Cup boat as well as designed the first United States torpedo boats and an array of other engineering and design feats in the boating world.
You have lots of excellent dining options during a Newport cruise port of call. Newport has restaurants with harbor views that are family-friendly, oyster bars, restaurants on the pier, high-end gourmet restaurants, and historic taverns that have been around for centuries. Enjoy a pint or appetizer at White Horse Tavern, which is the oldest restaurant in Newport and dates back to 1673. For a quick lunch, the lobster roll is a famous food item in Newport that you can find at many of the casual restaurants and bars in town.
Newport was founded in 1639 by a group of settlers who came to Rhode Island (Aquidneck Island at the time) to pursue religious beliefs that they weren’t allowed to practice in secular Boston. Livelihoods in Newport during the time were built off of trade and export businesses (mostly centered on candles, fish, furniture, rum, and silver) made profitable by the easy access to Newport harbor.
During the Revolutionary War, Newport became a hotbed for promoting independence and as a result, the British occupied the town from 1776 to 1779. Though they were eventually driven out and the colonists won the war, Newport had a long road to recovery from an economic standpoint. The trade route that once brought so much riches to the city was now bypassed thanks to the Industrial Revolution, which Newport wasn’t yet a part of. However, this gave Newport a more relaxed vibe, which was soon noticed by artists and intellectuals who helped turn Newport into a summer getaway destination.
It didn’t take long for those in the big city to become intrigued by what was going on in Newport, and Newport began to attract wealthy businessmen and their families who built summer homes in Newport for some rest and relaxation. The height of this was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the Great Depression. The era was full of glitz, glamour and gross opulence and came to be known as the Gilded Age. Residents of Newport utilized the harbor once again, but this time for yachting and sport instead of trade and commerce.
The Gilded Age was mostly prominent due to political corruption and social and economic turmoil that eventually needed to be addressed. As new government requirements and restrictions were imposed, the excess wealth that made the Gilded Age possible started to vanish.
The last half of the 20th century, however, saw a return of visitors sweeping down on the beautiful landscape of Newport to spend their summers. Tourism continues to be a big part of the city’s economy. A large part of the appeal is seeing so many historic structures all in one place, which can be credited to the number of preservation organizations that have fought to save many of these buildings over the past several decades. During a cruise to Newport, Rhode Island, You can experience for yourself what drew in the original settlers and upper-class society of Newport and which still entices people to this day.
The cruise port of Newport is a tender port, which means cruise ships have to anchor off the shore and transfer passengers to the dock in a comfortable tender boat. The ride on the tender boat will take about 15 to 20 minutes and is a pretty boat ride; you can even see Rose Island Lighthouse along the way. We drop you off right by Perotti Park, which is located in the center of town, making it an easy walk to Thames Street.
You’ll get information in a day or two leading up to the Newport port of call on when your time to get off the ship will be, depending on when your shore excursion is departing or when your stateroom class is able to get off. Sometimes there will be a ticket you’ll need to get in advance to get off the ship and it’s first come, first serve (for those not doing a shore excursion) so make sure you listen to when that will be so you can pick up a ticket number right away.
Once you get off the tender boat in Newport, there are not many facilities in the pier, though there are restrooms and a Visitor Information Center located right next to it.
Taxis aren’t often waiting right outside the Newport cruise port. Instead, walk downtown to find one more easily.
The yellow line of the local trolley service will take you to many of the main things to see in Newport, including Cliff Walk and the Newport mansions along Bellevue Avenue.
If you want to do some shopping while in Newport cruise port, Thames Street is the place to do it. The street is 1.5 miles long and is full of historic buildings housing a variety of stores, restaurants and bars.
For a lot of shopping all in one place, head to Brick Market at the top of Thames Street. You’ll find 25 shops situated within a fabulous open-air market designed by the famous architect Peter Harrison.
On a cruise to Newport, Rhode Island, you’ll want to have U.S. dollars on hand since that is the accepted currency in Newport (and the rest of Rhode Island). You’ll be able to find ATMs dispensing U.S. dollars in Newport’s downtown area.
Tipping in Newport is very common, especially in restaurants, bars, and taxis. A common tip amount for restaurants, taxis, and most other services is 15% to 20% of the total bill amount.