Newport, Rhode Island: One of the Best Ports in New England

New England is blessed with several ports that you can enjoy to the fullest without so much as a dime in your pocket. Newport, Rhode Island is one of the best.

The first attraction in this seaside wonder is the harbor. Vessels from all over the world dock here, and you could spend an entire day looking at them. If it floats, you'll spot it in Newport!

I never miss a chance to stop at the Aquidneck Lobster Company on Bowen's Wharf. This working commercial wharf handles some 30 tons of lobster a day and sells seafood fresh from the fishermen's nets and crates. The atmosphere is wonderful.

The sights on shore are just as varied. The cobblestone wharves and downtown streets are filled with sailing enthusiasts, racing crews and tourists. Church chimes and tinkling halyards add to the agreeable bustle.

Window-shopping could fill an entire visit. Shops run the gamut from art galleries, boutiques and jewelry stores to those selling toys, sweets and crafts.

As I stroll through the streets, I'm always charmed by the inventive signs and wind vanes, statues, anchors and other maritime artifacts.

Newport was founded in 1639, so history surrounds you at every turn. Homes like the 1811 Samuel Whitehorne House, with its stately white pillars and pink bricks, reflect the gracious style of a bygone era. Old-style lampposts, lacy fences and delicate grillwork add to the charm.

I also enjoy visiting two churches here: St. Mary's and Trinity. Established in 1828, St. Mary's is the oldest Catholic parish in the Providence diocese and is a National Historic Shrine.

Located in Queen Anne's Square, Trinity Church was completed in 1726. George Washington used to be a regular in Pew 81. The church is noted for its three-tiered wineglass pulpit, the only one in the nation, and Tiffany windows.

The seaside Cliff Walk–a 3-1/2-mile National Recreation Trail–is a splendid way to appreciate Newport's natural and man-made beauty, with crashing surf below and the mansions of Ocean Drive on the cliffs above.

About two-thirds of the trail is easy to hike, but the southern segment is rough and rugged. Walkers should wear good climbing shoes and be ready to clamber over rocks.

For a short, easy route, enter the Cliff Walk at the north access point (Easton's Beach) and exit at Narragansett Avenue. This stretch is less than half a mile, is completely paved and ends at the Forty Steps, a dramatic stone staircase that plunges down to a seaside balcony.

The Cliff Walk is beautiful, but you should hike with caution. It's not handicapped accessible, nor is it suitable for small children or strollers. Stay on the path–much of it is fenced, but there are some 70-foot drop-offs that may be obscured by brush in summer.

There are other sides of Newport to explore: the Museum of Newport History… the Old Stone Mill, a tower reportedly built by Vikings… Touro Synagogue, the oldest in the U.S… .and the mansions built when Newport was known as “the queen of American resorts”. Best of all, you don't have to be rich and famous to enjoy it.

Newport is at the southern tip of Aquidneck Island, 35 miles south of Providence. For more information, log on to this website or call the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-976-5122.

Primary access points for the Cliff Walk are at Easton's Beach/Memorial Boulevard, Narragansett Avenue at the Forty Steps and at the end of Bellevue Avenue. Temporary repairs on the Tea House Tunnel section should be completed by July 1.

For updates and other information, log on to the Cliff Walk site.

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