In the spirit of the July 4th holiday, I visited the historic island of Newport, RI to get my red, white and blue on.
Like most Rhode Islanders, I do my best to avoid Newport during the busy and touristy summer months. It’s a popular vacation spot for tourists—and a destination for some of the east coast cruises. But it’s all for good reason. Newport is a picturesque seaport village with fantastic beaches, upscale shopping, great food and—most famously—the island is home to some of this country’s finest gilded age mansions.
The crown jewel of Newport’s famed mansions is a summer cottage called “The Breakers.” Built by the Vanderbilt family in the late 19th century, the 70-room, 65,000 square-foot mansion cost an inflation-adjusted $335 million to construct. Notably, the newly-out Anderson Cooper (who is a descendent of the Vanderbilts) spent many a holidays summering at The Breakers. In fact, some of the tour guides share stories of young Anderson sliding down the mansion’s grand staircase—into the 50 foot by 50 foot by 50 foot great hall—on a silver serving tray.
The Breakers, like many of the mansions, are now open for public tours. Visitors may also explore the home of the Astor family, Doris Duke and many other famous socialites. It’s a great and fun way to experience this country’s living history.
Beyond its gilded past, Newport has long been entwined with the United States Navy, and it’s the current home to the Naval War College. As such, there’s no shortage of seamen and eye candy—especially at the local pubs and bars.
Though the beaches in Newport are some of the best that the state has to offer (which is saying a lot, considering Rhode Island is the Ocean State), I prefer crossing the massive Caliborne Pell Newport Bridge (it’s the 70th longest suspension bridge in the world) to the nearby island of Jamestown. No less beautiful than Newport, Jamestown is one of the state’s best-kept secrets.
By far, the best spot in Jamestown—and potentially in the entire state—is a quiet state park called Beavertail. While the name sounds like a lesbian bar, the park is nothing short of breathtaking. The park juts out into Narragansett Bay and offers panoramic vistas of rocky cliffs, the nearby Newport mansions and countless sailboats stretching into the horizon. Climbing out onto the rocks—and getting hypnotized by both the view and sounds from the unrelenting waves—is one of my favorite things to do in the entire world.
For a true slice of Americana and to experience New England at its best, pay a visit to Rhode Island’s seaport villages of Newport and Jamestown. And come find me out on the rocks of Beavertail.
Read more from the Davey Wavey Travel Blog.