Written by Missy Johnston
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a magically nautical place to visit in the summer, with July and August being the peak of the season. Everything from the beaches, history and landmarks, mansions, seafood, and cultural life make it a wonderful destination to visit via a private yacht charter.
Newport is relatively small in terms of geographical area—entirely walkable, in fact—but it certainly packs a punch. Some of America’s grandest houses—“summer cottages” of the Gilded Age—were built right by the spectacular New England coastline of Newport. It’s also not uncommon to see visitors dress up in the evening for an enchanting dinner by the sea. There’s a reason why people continue to make Newport their summer vacation destination—the charm, luxury, and scenery remain constant, making Newport Rhode Island a wonderful private yacht charter destination.
A brief history of Newport
Newport Harbor Bannisters Wharf Photo Credit Missy Johnston
Newport, known as a colonial harbor town, sprang up between the 17th and 18th centuries as an important trading city and one of the first sailing cities in the states. It was blockaded by the British during the American Revolutionary War in 1776, at which point life in Newport came to a screeching halt. But as always, the spirit of Newport was not diminished.
Initially, Newport rivaled the likes of New York and Boston in colonial days. Because the British blockaded the harbor in 1776, today, Newport has the largest stand of colonial buildings in America, most of which are still in active use today. Just wandering the streets of Newport is a step back in time. The main graveyard is a fascinating glimpse into history, containing the graves of many important Newporters from the 1600’s on, including the grave of one of Rhode Island’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Newport is also home to many “firsts” in America, including the Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in America; the Old Colony House, one of the first state houses where dignitaries met together as local leaders; and the Artillery Company of Newport, the oldest operating Artillery Company in the United States with cannons still used today that were cast in Paul Revere’s Foundry.
Touro Synagogue Newport, Rhode Island
Today, Newport is known as one of the most important sailing harbor towns in the United States. In Newport, the sailing museum, and soon the Sailing Hall of Fame, which is being moved to Newport, anchor the town as a sailing center. For decades, Newport was the scene of many America’s Cup Races between defenders and challengers, until in 1983, the Cup was lost to a challenge from Australia.
In addition to being home to many “firsts” in America, Newport is also home to many of the Gilded Age “cottages,” which can be found along Cliff Walk—a beautiful 3.5-mile walk along the coastline. Almost every afternoon from spring to fall, a cooling southwest thermal wind fills in Narragansett Bay, which made Newport a cool summer destination in the 19th and 20th centuries for the wealthy, and today makes Newport a sailor’s paradise. Many noteworthy families such as the Vanderbilt’s, Astors, and Morgans made Newport their summer vacation destination, building their summer cottages here during the Gilded Age, a period from around the 1880’s to 1929.
Newport Shoreline-Americas Cup Race Course
America’s cup is one of the oldest and best-known international yacht sailing competitions. Traditionally, the race is between the defending vessel and a challenging vessel, which are determined separately through a series of elimination races. Each vessel is built in the country it represents, and built to win. In 1983, Australia II defeated the United States in a stunning victory which took place in Newport. This was the first time the United States was beaten and lost the America’s Cup after a consecutive 24 wins—1870 was the last time they were defeated. Since that defeat, the race has not returned to Newport, but many hope that one day Newport will host the America’s Cup races once again.
Newport’s Gilded Age Mansions
Newport – The Breakers
One of the top attractions in Newport are the gorgeous 19th century Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue. These exquisitely designed “summer cottages” were built for the wealthy in order to “summer” in Newport to escape the season’s heat. The wealthy who summered here for six to eight weeks during July and August made Newport their playground. Yachting was an important gentleman’s sport, and many wealthy summer visitors brought their large luxury yachts to Newport. Sailing regattas were popular in Newport, given the constant thermal winds, which eventually helped Newport become the sailing capital of the world.
Taking a private specialized tour with your very own private guide is an excellent way to see the mansions up close and personal. There are a variety of immaculate mansions to choose from, including The Breakers, perhaps the grandest of them all. This Italian Renaissance-inspired mansion is filled with 70 rooms and was built for the famous Cornelius Vanderbilt II. After a private tour, head over a few steps to the Cliff Walk for a stroll, with the Atlantic on one side and the mansions on the other.
“Ten Mile Drive”
Ocean Drive, Newport, RI
Newport’s famous “Ten Mile Drive” is a fun way to experience Newport’s coastline. This scenic ocean drive is best spent in a convertible, allowing you to feel the cool, salty breeze of Newport’s seaside air with the wind in your hair while cruising by the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean and immaculate summer cottages of the Gilded Age. There are miles of beautiful Newport shoreline, so perhaps bring along a basket for a picnic of fresh seafood.
“Ten Mile Drive” has four routes—Brenton Cove Shore, East Passage of Narragansett Bay, Ocean Drive, and Bellevue Avenue. Our recommendation is to start at Thames St. and make your way around to Bellevue Avenue. No matter which route you choose, it will be a relaxing drive full of scenery and adventure.
Yacht Clubs in Newport
Newport is the “sailing capital of the world,” and as such, home to many wonderful yacht clubs. Newport Yacht Club is one of the top yachting facilities in New England, and is located in the northeast corner of Newport Harbor. However, the star of the show is The New York Yacht Club, which has a station in Newport at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court and has had a connection to Newport since 1844 when the founding members departed on a yachting cruise from New York Harbor to Newport.
Clarke’s Cook House, Newport, RI
Newport has a wonderful selection of restaurants available, ranging from those with laid-back atmospheres to those serving elegant suit-and-tie dinners. Enjoy a delicious casual lunch at Mission—a local comfort food burger joint. Their signature chile-cheese-dog is Instagram-worthy and a perfect bite to grab and go. For a delicious scoop of heaven, check out Sticks and Cones, possibly the best ice cream shop in town. Here, find an array of gelatos, soft serves, vegan ice cream, and warm waffles-on-a-stick to munch on. Flavors range from classic chocolate and vanilla to cotton candy, tiramisu, or s’mores.
For dinner, stop by Black Pearl for their world famous creamy clam chowder—a classic staple and cultural dish in Newport. Black Pearl is a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Newport, having been founded in the early 1920’s. Dinner can be served either in the nearly unchanged dining room or on the patio overlooking the gorgeous Newport Harbor. If a newer vibe interests you, check out Thames Street Kitchen’s Revolving Door. This elegant restaurant featuring guest top chefs is filled with inspiring dishes, one of the best cocktails in town, and was named the best new restaurant by Towne & Country.
For a late night bite and cocktail, check out Clarke Cooke House—where the see-and-be-seen crowds gather on a Saturday night. Crowds are usually dressed to the nines, with men in blazers and women in eye-catching summer dresses. Guests can usually be found on the dance floor of the Sky Bar, in one of the other three floors of the restaurant, or down for disco in the Boom Boom Room. The cuisine here is world-renowned; Clarke Cooke House has a reputation as the heartbeat of Newport.
There are a plethora of quaint boutiques and shops in Newport to browse. Bowen’s Wharf and Bannister’s Wharf are known as the Anchors of the Newport Waterfront. They offer a wonderful selection of shopping, art galleries, and restaurants. Shops are filled with art, jewelry, hats, and accessories. There is also a handful of marine-themed shops, as well as classic clothing boutiques. More shops are sprinkled throughout Newport, including Lower Thames Street for interesting boutiques, Spring Street for antique-hunters, and Bellevue Avenue for high-end shopping.
Newport is undoubtedly a wonderful ocean-side destination for a private yacht charter vacation. With its rich history, excellent sailing, wonderful eating, and shopping, you will, without a doubt, have a relaxing and unforgettable experience in Newport this summer. If staying away from the crowds sounds appealing, don’t forget, you can always stay aboard your private charter yacht for the duration of your trip, complete with your own personal chef and crew to make your vacation perfect and enjoy shoreside life from the decks of your private charter yacht. No matter the choice, Newport will be sure to “wow” you this summer on your private yacht charter.