The 12 best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island, from shopping and seeing history on Thames Street to surfing, bar-hopping, boat-cruising, and more!
Newport, Rhode Island, is one of the most charming cities in New England.
This bustling coastal city has all the best aspects of a New England city: historic buildings, rugged coastal walks, delicious seafood, and more.
Because Newport is so beautiful, it is also very expensive!
As a budget traveler, Newport wouldn’t have been my first choice for a place to visit.
But I spent a weekend here for a friend’s bachelorette party this summer, and I quickly fell in love with this stunning city.
From the beaches, to the nightlife, to the historic sights, to the salty ocean air, Newport is absolutely worth a visit!
Here is my list of the best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island!
12 Best Things To Do In Newport, Rhode Island
Whether you want to shop, dance, and drink cocktails, or you want to hike, surf, and explore nature, there are so many fun Newport activities!
1. Drive Along Bellevue Avenue
Easily one of the best things to do in Newport is driving along Bellevue Avenue.
Bellevue Avenue is the the main street that runs through Bellevue Avenue Historic District, a National Historic Landmark of Rhode Island.
This beautiful area is filled with gorgeous mansions, many of which come from the Gilded Age of the late 1800s.
Most of the land here is privately owned, though some of the mansions are open to the public as museums.
As a budget traveler, I always find it fun to sightsee in the affluent areas of a city. Newport is definitely a city for the rich, so it’s fascinating to see all the majestic mansions on Bellevue Avenue!
Read next: 50 Budget Travel Tips
2. Do the Cliff Walk
One of the best free things to do in Newport is walking along the Cliff Walk.
This stunning seaside track is a great way to soak in those classic coastal views of New England.
At 3.5 miles one way, the Cliff Walk is also an awesome way to get some exercise.
The Cliff Walk is a registered National Recreation Trail, and the first one in New England! Find more info about trail updates, repairs, maps, and more on this website.
3. Cruise Along Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive is one of Rhode Island’s most scenic driving routes. Make the most of your time in Newport by cruising along the Atlantic coastline on Ocean Drive.
The road stretches on for 10 miles and begins right at the southern end of the historic Bellevue Avenue.
Drive past lighthouses, state parks, beaches, mansions, monuments, and landmarks.
You can also ride a bike along Ocean Drive!
4. Explore Newport Historic District
Probably the coolest area of Newport is the Historic District.
This seaside area of downtown Newport dates back to the 17th Century when the first colonists established themselves in the area.
Many buildings in the Newport Historic District are still standing from the colonial era, though many more landmarks popped up throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Notable historic locations include Thames Street, Washington Square, Trinity Church, and Old Brick Market.
Also check out the Touro Synagogue, which was built in 1763 and is the oldest synagogue in the USA.
5. Go on a Historic Trolley Tour
One of the best ways to go sightseeing in Newport is on a historic trolley tour!
This 90-minute scenic tour starts at the Newport Visitor Center and takes you to all the best sights that I just listed.
This is a great way to see Newport if you’re traveling alone or if you don’t have your own car.
Hop aboard a historic trolley and drive through Downtown Newport, Bellevue Avenue, Ocean Drive, and more.
6. Go Bar-Hopping
Newport has an incredible nightlife scene, particularly in the summertime.
It’s a super popular city for bachelor and bachelorette parties, so there are lots of young people out partying and having a good time.
Here are some top spots for a night out in Newport:
- Brick Alley Pub – A Newport classic, one of the best bars and restaurants in town
- Smugglers – A fun bar with waterfront views, pool tables, and dartboards
- Newport Blues Cafe – A live music venue that focuses on rock and blues bands with a cafe upstairs
- One Pelham East – A lively nightclub with a DJ and dance floors as well as live music
- The Roof Deck at The Vanderbilt – Rooftop bar great for cocktails with a view
- Speakeasy Bar & Grill – A more chilled out bar with delicious food and live music
7. Head to Brenton Point State Park
Another one of the best things to do in Newport Rhode Island is spend some time at Brenton Point State Park.
Located on Ocean Drive, this outdoor recreation area is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Newport.
Head to Brenton Point State Park to have a picnic, go fishing, stroll along the beach, or just relax on the wide grassy lawn and admire the coastal views.
8. Get in the Water at Easton’s Beach
Easton’s Beach, often called First Beach by the locals, is the largest and most popular beach in Newport.
It is located on Memorial Drive right at the start of the Cliff Walk.
This long, flat stretch of sand is the perfect place for a beach day. Sunbathe, play volleyball, or get in the water!
Easton’s Beach is one of the top places for surfing in Newport. Or if the ocean is flat, you can also go stand up paddle boarding.
Check out this website for board and wetsuit rentals. Prices are around $20-$30 per hour for a surfboard or paddleboard.
9. Visit A Museum
Rhode Island has a rich a diverse history, from the Native American tribes, to the early beginning of the USA, to the growth of industry in the 1800s and 1900s.
There are some great museums in Newport where you can learn all about the history, art, and culture of the area.
The Museum of Newport History hosted by the Newport Historical Society is where you can dive into history.
Newport Art Museum has a wide array of art galleries and collections. The museum is located in a historic building on Bellevue Avenue.
10. Eat Fresh Seafood
New England is known for its incredible seafood.
From lobster rolls to clam chowder to everything in between, you can find so much delicious, fresh seafood in the region.
Newport has lots of top-rated seafood restaurants where you can indulge in the best catch.
Here are some seafood restaurants to check out in Newport, Rhode Island:
- The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar – Maybe the best, upscale seafood restaurant in town with waterfront views
- Midtown Oyster Bar – An amazing raw bar and craft cocktails
- The Lobster Bar – Busy restaurant on the historic Bowen’s Wharf
- Easton’s Beach Snack Bar – For cheap takeaway chowder and lobster rolls by the beach
- The Black Pearl – A cozy tavern with an outdoor patio and award-winning clam chowder
- Scales & Shells – An extensive seafood menu with a unique and health-conscious twist
- Clarke Cooke House – “The Heartbeat of Newport”, an upscale bistro with a candy store, set in a historic 18th Century building
11. Cruise through Narragansett Bay on a Boat Tour
Because Newport is a city on the water, one of the top activities is, of course, a boat cruise!
This scenic boat cruise takes you through Narragansett Bay so you can admire all the coastal scenery.
See clifftop lighthouses, seaside mansions, and classic New England fall foliage if you’re visiting in Autumn.
At just $36 USD, this boat tour isn’t even that expensive!
12. Go Shopping on Thames Street
Thames Street, the heart of downtown Newport, is the best place to go shopping in the city.
I’m personally not a huge shopping fan because I’m a minimalist and I don’t love buying things I don’t need (hence, a budget travel blog!).
But I do love window shopping, and Thames Street is packed with adorable and unique shops that are fun to browse.
Here were some of my favorite shops on Thames Street:
- The Spice & Tea Exchange: for unique spice mixtures and loose leaf teas
- A Christmas to Remember: The most beautiful and quirky Christmas decorations and trinkets
- Newport Fudgery: Delicious, local, hand-made fudge!
Thanks for reading my list of the best things to do in Newport, Rhode Island!
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