Posted by: Jack Spratt | June 5, 2009

Newport, Rhode Island on a Bike and Foot.

In an earlier post my travel journal took me to Watch Hill in Rhode Island. Today my journal discusses Newport, RI. – a place I visit regularly and here’s why.

It doesn’t matter when I visit Newport, RI it never disappoints. Summer is popular but I’ve also traveled there in the fall and enjoyed the ocean breeze and walking around the harbor alleyways. I’ve even visited during the holiday season when some of the mansions are decorated and special events are going on.

But the summer is the best for family entertainment.

The most famous attractions are the Mansions you can visit and tour. Over the years I’ve done most, and if you’ve never done any before then you should at least do a couple.

The mansions are mostly on Bellevue Avenue just outside the downtown harbor and shopping area. You can buy tickets at any of the mansions. They’re all group tours and my advice is not to plan on too many in a day – two is plenty and three is overkill unless you don’t want to do anything else.

I don’t do the Mansions anymore as after a few they all begin to look the same. I found Marble House grotesque even for Newport – but enjoyed the Astors’ Beechwood and Rosecliff. At the Astors’ when I visited the tour guides were actors and performed the tour in role play and it made the visit fun and engaging.

But Newport has much more than just the Mansions.

If you have a bike, take it with you and park you car at the large garage at the Newport Gateway and forget about it for the rest of your trip. You can cycle out to Bellevue Avenue and then pick up Ocean Drive at the end of Bellevue and this will lead you out of the town and along the coast to Brenton Point State Park.

Be sure to take your camera and stop frequently along the way. Many times I see people fishing out on the rocks and I’ll take a break to see what they’re catching. There is always a breeze along the coast and I can sit for hours listening to surf and enjoying the solitude.

At Brenton Point people have picnics and fly kites and play Frisbee and tag football. If you want to get a picnic table come early at weekends and grab one of the BBQ pits available. I can barely get one of the simple one string kites up and running, but “experts” perform complicated maneuvers with multiple string kites. I wonder sometimes how long it takes to get to that level and whether I have the passion enough to put the necessary “time in” to get those skills – anyway they are wizards to watch.

With the cycle back into town you have choices on the route. You can go back passing Fort Adams State Park – another great place to stop and admire the view across the harbor – or you can shortcut back to Bellevue Avenue when you see the sign at one of the crossroads. If you have the time take the Fort Adams and then Harbor route back to town as it’s more interesting and offers a chance to make frequent stops and get out your camera.

You can also do the same Ocean Drive route in your car and have almost as much fun.

Newport also has some nice beaches and the famous Cliff Walk that is accessed from Easton’s or First beach. I’ve done the Cliff Walk a few times and it takes you around the back of many of the mansions and at points offers dramatic views of the Newport coastline. Just remember this is an out and back walk and so allow plenty of time for retracing steps. It’s also a little rugged in places with some steep drops hidden by bushes.

A perfect end to a visit to Newport, RI for me is to walk around the harbor alleyways with their specialty shops and café and have a drink and an ice cream.

If I can swing it and have time to spare I’ll also take one of the harbor cruises and just soak up the sun and the cooling breeze out on the water. For others it’s a history trip as the narrator talks about who owns what houses and points out isolated houses on rocks and smugglers coves – all good stuff.

I confess I enjoy Newport, RI for the scene and the biking and walking opportunities. The scene is multi-million dollar yachts and homes and surrounded by New England history and great dining and bars.


Jack “the dude” Spratt



  1. “I can barely get one of the simple one string kites up and running, but ‘experts’ perform complicated maneuvers with multiple string kites.”

    Sounds like you have found a great kite-flying venue. If you want to bone up a bit on stunt kites and maybe fire up the enthusiasm a bit, feel free to drop in…

    My personal thing is to fly single-stringers right up to the legal limit! That’s 400 feet here in Oz.

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