This post is my list of personal “port favorites” for any military wife who finds herself living in or visiting Newport. While there are many “must-see, must-do, must-eat” lists for a place like Newport, these are the places and experiences Jake and I remember and recommend the most from our time spent there (July 2012-May 2013).
Gooseberry Beach 130 Ocean Ave, Newport
Newport boasts multiple beaches, but Gooseberry Beach was my personal favorite. It is a private beach but it is open to the public from 9-5pm. What this means for you is that you’ll have to pay for parking if you don’t have a membership but if you are willing to walk you can park in the neighborhood about half a mile away (just keep your eyes peeled for signs about where you can and cannot park). The beach itself is quiet and beautiful with soft sand and gentle waves. Pictured above is the snack shack that sells surprisingly delicious food (they even sell frozen grapes!). I always found the bathrooms and changing rooms to be very clean.
Cliff Walk 19 Catherine Street, Newport
Cliff walk is about a 3 mile walk with the ocean/cliffs on one side and the gorgeous mansions Newport is known for on the other. While we did tour a few of the mansions themselves (I recommend The Breakers, especially at Christmas time) I always preferred doing cliff walk and seeing the mansions looming over the landscape and enjoying the breathtaking ocean setting. It’s not a strenuous walk– even while pregnant I had no problem– but watch out for runners on the narrower parts of the path. Near the end, keep your eyes peeled for otters diving between the rocks :)
Shopping & More on Thames Street /Waterfront
Thames Street alone could take days. Skip the tourist and corporate shops (except maybe Banana Republic and Gap: 10% military discount!), but don’t miss the charming little boutiques like Aqua (I love their unique postcards, candles, and even kid’s toys) and the old antique shops that have some incredible finds (Jake even found an old Navy uniform sword that could still be used). And, you know, nothing says charming like cobblestone streets…except when they are one way and impossible to navigate :) But in all seriousness, the old architecture is truly gorgeous. Watch out for parking signs, there are a lot of restrictions during tourist season but you’ll have no problem parking in the side streets in the off season. As touristy as it sounds, a harbor cruise is worth doing at least once, if only to see all the beauty the shoreline and cliffs have to offer and hear about Newport’s colorful pirate history.
The Jane Pickens Theater Washington Square, Newport
A beautiful old theater (self described as an “art house cinema”) that plays both old and new movies. You won’t catch them playing any new blockbusters, however, the new films tend to lean toward the indie spectrum. Their concession stand serves everything from popcorn and soda to champagne and chocolate. Check their website for fun and interesting events and full-sensory experiences like, “The screening of Dr Zhivago with free White Russians on a freezing cold winter night as a fundraiser for a heating system for the building…” On that note, if you go in the summer hoping to escape the heat, you will be disappointed to find that the only cooling system they provide is old-fashioned paper fan for each guest ;)
Near the officer’s club on base at Naval Station Newport is a dock house with dirt cheap rentals. Jake and I rented kayaks for $2 an hour and kayaked under the Newport Bridge and out to Goat Island. It’s a refreshing break and gives you a whole new view of the island. Take advantage of the beautiful summer weather and get out on the water! You most definitely will not regret it.
Providence / Water Fire
About a 45 minute drive from Newport is the city of Providence, one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been in. The more historical districts are beautiful and we had some amazing food here on multiple occasions (their ethnic food selection is a bit larger than Newport- I recommend trying the Indian food). They have a massive mall (Restoration Hardware, anyone? The one here is AMAZING) with panoramic views of the city. On certain summer nights, Providence does “Water Fire,” an incredible night festival where they play music and light pyres in the river on fire until the entirety of the water is glowing. The pyres are lit by people rowing boats, some with illuminated accents or costumes. The whole thing is very theatrical and hypnotic to watch. They also have food stands and all kinds of other amazing things to see, making it by far one of my favorite experiences in Rhode Island.
About an hour’s drive will take you to Boston if you need a change of scenery. Driving up to Little Italy became one of our favorite Sunday adventures. MILITARY CAN PARK FOR FREE ON THE COAST GUARD BASE just outside of Little Italy. When you see the parking prices there, you will want to kiss the gate guard giving you a free spot on base ;) Little Italy always seems to have fun festivals going on, opera singers in the parks, and incredible food everywhere (We love the pasta made in house at La Familia Georgio). Don’t miss paying a visit to Mike’s Pastry for a chocolate chip or plain cannoli, the line is worth braving, they are famously delicious. You can get a military discount at the New England Aquarium, but don’t attempt it on a weekend. Their 3D shows are dirt cheap if you have a military ID as well. Bop over to Quincy Market to see what all the fuss is about and get some fresh strawberries in the summer (you’ll smell them before you even see them).
***A note on my eating recommendations: There are a lot of amazing restaurants in Newport, especially near the water (TSK, Fluke, Tallulah on Thames). However, we were living in Newport on an Ensign budget and rarely found ourselves at those. The places I’ve listed below are the eateries that became our absolute favorites while we lived there, the ones that we returned to over and over, that defined the “flavor” of Newport for us. They are all in the $-$$ range, but for fancier recommendations check your Pink book (see the resources page on the sidebar menu) and look for the $$$ signs ;)
CORNER CAFE 110 Broadway, Newport
This was the very first place I ate at in Newport and after one visit I was already in love. Classy/cozy decor, super-friendly service, and delicious food with fresh ingredients. Hands down, favorite breakfast place in Newport. I even heard my favorite song “La Vie en Rose” by Louis Armstrong on their soundtrack multiple times :) I recommend their whole wheat pancakes with blueberries (so fresh!) or any of their egg scrambles especially. Just a warning, however: It gets super crowded on weekend mornings so be prepared to wait. It’s worth it!
THE FASTNET PUB 1 Broadway, Newport
With live music every Monday night and the best fish and chips in Newport, Fastnet Pub is definitely worth a visit (and another…and another…). It’s in a great location to walk around and while we never brought our son with us at night, we took him with us for fish and chip lunches many times and there were always other kids and families there despite it being a “pub.” Their draft beer is a good complement, and the prices are very decent. Seriously, I can’t even think about their fish and chips without….Too late. Mouth….already…watering.
PASTA BEACH 7 Memorial Blvd, Newport
Only eat here if you want amazing and authentic Italian food. One bite of their pizza and I almost thought I was back at Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. In addition to their delicious pizza, their bread is fresh daily and their pasta is incredible (the Mushroom Tagliatelle was my favorite but I also loved their Carbonara). The place itself is adorable, with a counter that stretches the length of the restaurant (a great spot to sit if you want to socialize or want a view of the chefs at work) and the rest of Pasta Beach is filled with charming white bistro style tables. We loved this place for date nights especially.
BOSSMAN BURGER 510 East Main Road, Middletown
Picture this: It is 20 degrees outside and snow is falling. Because of said snow, you decided to forgo driving on icy roads to go grocery shopping at the commissary with a bundled up newborn. ENS. Husband will be home any minute and your own stomach is growling after nursing your voracious newborn all day. The answer to all of the above for me was: Call Bossman. Not only does Bossman make incredible burgers with farm fresh ingredients (Or, you know, grilled onions and a fried egg….*drool*), but they also DELIVER and are super reasonably priced. People, we are now back in the state that has IN-N-OUT and I still miss having a good Bossman Burger every once in a while! Also: Military discount alert :)
MOKKA COFFEHOUSE 476 Thames Street, Newport
There is something about finding your local coffee shop that can make you feel “rooted” in a new location. No matter what craziness is going on, you know where you’re getting your coffee. Mokka was mine. The owner is passionate about his coffee and makes the syrups that go into the flavored lattes himself (his fall flavor experiments were delicious). He also boasts an incredible lemonade that takes days to make and is definitely worth trying. He brings in pastries from places like the Mad Hatter and they are always delicious (the pumpkin pie was especially memorable). Despite being on the busy street of Thames, this coffee shop is quiet and charming, and its elevated property lends some charming views. If you stop by, ask the owner if he’s working on any new recipes, he just might let you try one :) Warning: CASH ONLY!
GRAYS ICE CREAM 16 East Road, Tiverton
Open every single day, this homemade ice cream shop is worth the scenic drive. Their flavors change with the seasons (eggnog ice cream, anyone?) and there is always a small crowd gathered no matter what time of year. They’ve been around for 91 years, so you know they must be doing something right ;)
The Officer’s Club has some of the best views of the bridge and water when they are seating outside (summer months). Perro Salado is a bit more expensive but if you’re craving/missing Mexican food they have a decent menu and delicious margaritas, with a fun atmosphere to drink them in. The White Horse Tavern is expensive but it is one of the oldest taverns in the US and its history alone is worth a visit, although their food is delicious as well. The Red Parrot on Thames catches a lot of tourists but it has a huge menu with a lot of the seafood Newport is known for and my hubby was a fan of their epic lobster nachos. Cindy’s Country Cafe is the place to go if you love french toast: Tiramisu french toast, Banana Bread french toast, Raspberry Stuffed Portuguese French Toast. It’s a taste of sugar-coma heaven.
A Few More Favorites
Off The Record AKA “The Pink Book.”
If you are living in Newport, this is an incredible resource for literally anything you could need in the area. Visit my resources page under the nautical menu to learn more about it, but whether you have to buy, borrow, or steal (okay maybe not steal), get your hands on one of these as soon as you PCS to Newport!
Candace at Natural Creations Salon 540 Thames Street, Newport
PCS excuses aside, a girl can only go so long without having her roots done. Am I the only one that is terrified every time they try someone new? I read yelp reviews about Candace/Natural Creations and they did not let me down. She is a total sweetheart and a genius at highlights, if you want gorgeous hair, see Candace. The salon itself is in the perfect location to do a little post-salon shopping and snacking.
Farmer’s Market Every Wednesday at Memorial Blvd & Chapel St, Newport
Even if you don’t buy your produce there, take a visit to the Farmer’s Market where you can see what all the local farms and vendors have to offer. In addition to fresh produce, you’ll find everything from bread, to cheese, to grass-fed meats and CSA sign ups (there are an abundance to choose from). If Tallulah on Thames’ pricey menu has kept you from visiting them for dinner, you can sample their flavor for cheap at their Tallulah’s Tacos stand at the same farmer’s market. Afterwards, wander down Bellevue for more cute boutiques and stop by La Maison de Coco for a fresh fruit-infused-chocolate crepe.
Hey Girls! What was your favorite thing about living in Newport?
Sailing. [My husband] took some sailing classes on base and we rented a boat a few times and went sailing :)
The feel of a small town, city, and ocean in one small area. If you experience Newport during the winter the restaurant deals are amazing. During the summer the same thing would be triple the amount. If you have time the mansion tours are amazing. The biggest holidays there are St. Patty’s Day and New Year’s Day.
Coffee houses (Custom coffee house!), beautiful sunsets, great walking trails, and good seafood (once us preggos could finally eat it!). Oh and Rhode Island Clam Chowder- not to be confused with New England Clam Chowder- from Anthony’s or Landings…YUM!!!
And Lastly…For all you West Coasters Like Us…
Buy a Snow Shovel
You’re going to need it!