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3 Days in Newport for First Timers

Organisiert von Jacqueline Kehoea travel writer who’s been obsessed with the Gilded Age long before its HBO debut.

Most history buffs qualify for early-bird specials—but I became a history buff at 12. My first footsteps in Newport weren't long after, and I became entranced by the beauty of the age-old resort town. I didn’t know any architectural terms then, but I knew I felt transported by the preserved Colonial-era buildings.

Now that I’m older, my enjoyment of Newport goes beyond the progressive styles of the Bellevue Avenue mansions. I hike the trails, hit the beach, and can certainly appreciate French cuisine on the water. But, if you walk away only thinking “beautiful!” after your first visit—well, that’s good, too. Here’s where to begin.

Pack layers. Between sun exposure and chilly nights, you’ll want them.

If you only have time for one thing, make it the Cliff Walk.

Day 1

Many first-time visitors get their Newport bearings one way: via trolley tour. Sure, it’s a bit touristy, but it’s also fun, gas-efficient, and informative, covering all the town’s innumerable highlights.

Once you’ve taken a spin about town, settle on one of the Gilded Age mansions that are open for touring, like Marble House, Rosecliff, or The Breakers. The latter was an Italian Renaissance-style summer “cottage” for the Vanderbilts, with 48 bedrooms, 27 fireplaces, and a Great Hall with 50-foot ceilings—it’s the grandest Grand Dame of them all in the City-By-The-Sea.

Day 2

Today, hop in the car to cruise the 10-mile Ocean Drive. It winds along Newport’s scenic southern coast, taking visitors to Fort Adams State Park, New York Yacht Club, Castle Hill Lighthouse, Hammersmith Farm (where John F. and Jackie O. got married in 1953), Gooseberry Beach, and beyond.

Stroll the 3.5-mile paved Cliff Walk for views of Newport’s crashing coastline and the mansions towering above it. The flat pathway starts at The Chanler—a true historic gem—and winds south past Rough Point to Bellevue Avenue, just off Bailey Beach. It essentially ends where Ocean Drive begins.

Day 3

Home to America’s Cup, a famous sailing regatta, no trip to Newport should end before getting in a few moments on the water. Sightseeing cruises abound, visitors often palming complimentary drinks as they whizz past Claiborne Pell, Newport Bridge, and Castle Hill. What’s more, you’ll learn all about Narragansett Bay and grab easy-access views of the rocky shoreline.

Once you’re finished on the water, cap off your trip to Newport with a slow evening spent savoring the city’s food scene, which includes historic taverns, local farms, and international eateries.

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