America’s First Resort is Newport, Rhode Island

Colonial history and coastal culture make The City By the Sea a must on your cruising bucket list.

One of New England’s most popular coastal communities, Newport, Rhode Island, is a year-round destination that flaunts historic charm, spectacular scenery, extraordinary culinary delights, sweeping ocean views, and a crisp, refreshing sea breeze.

Nicknamed The City By the Sea for its location on the southernmost tip of Aquidneck Island—approximately 37 miles southeast of Providence—this resort town is also known for its Gilded Age-era opulent mansions and gorgeous beaches.

Once the summer playground of America’s socialites—think Vanderbilt, Astor, Kennedy—Newport today still offers a rich colonial landscape of cobblestone streets and brick buildings set alongside a breathtaking waterfront. If Newport isn’t already on your cruising bucket list, it should be.

Freedom to Boat

Founded in 1639, Newport was one of the largest and most important seaports during the Colonial Era before the American Revolution. It is also the birthplace of religious freedom; Newport was the new nation’s first city where everyone was allowed to worship without government interference. The Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663, drafted by Newport physician and minister John Clarke and approved by King Charles II, officially gave the colonists the freedom to elect their own governor, write their own laws and outlined rules for religious tolerance.

By the early 20th century in the era known as the Gilded Age—a time of economic upturn—many of America’s wealthiest families descended upon Newport and built extravagant mansions to host some of the most lavish parties in town. The social scene was always in full swing along Bellevue Avenue at palatial sites: the Vanderbilts’ The Breakers and Rough Point, William Henry Kings’ Kingscote, William Shepard Wetmore’s Chateau-sur-Mer, and Jackie Bouvier’s childhood home, Hammersmith Farm on Harrison Avenue, where she married John F. Kennedy in 1953. Today, visitors can stroll through these swanky estates for an intriguing look at what life was like for the rich and famous names of that period.

Views for Days

If days of cruising have made your legs long for exercise, the Cliff Walk is a 3.5- mile trek along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and an opportunity to explore some of the beauty and history of Newport. A combination of paved and rocky roads, this pathway offers some of the most picturesque views, so keep your sneakers tied tight and your camera handy. Sights include Forty Steps, a popular spot for swimming or fishing from the cliffs; lovely views of the impeccably manicured lawns of Bellevue Avenue mansions; and Bailey’s Beach (aka Reject’s Beach), a private stretch of shore that the Gilded Age elite designated for the common folk.