I had the pleasure of being in a destination wedding in Newport, RI in early October – a full year (and one day) later than originally planned due to COVID. Because of my lack of travel since the pandemic began, I took this trip as an opportunity to make a vacation out of it and stay a couple extra days to explore. After all, it was both my boyfriend’s and my first time in Newport, something that is somewhat rare for us in the U.S. Spoiler: We’re so glad we did because we adored Newport – it’s such a charming (and lucky!) spot to be invited to a destination wedding.
Things To Know Before You Go
These are some helpful things to consider before your trip to Newport, solely based on my experience visiting in October and during the pandemic. Other times of the year, specifically summer, may vary.
- Ubers & Lyfts
- There are limited Ubers and Lyfts, especially early in the morning or late at night when the prices can be more than double! This affected us and others in the bridal party when it came to rides to and from the airport. We also had the same driver twice in one day. From Castle Hill Inn, we had to wait almost 30 minutes for an Uber to arrive.
- Tip: Plan ahead and schedule your ride for any time-sensitive trips. There is a good amount of parking for rental cars but be wary of traffic during peak times and special events (see below).
- Weekend Crowds
- Even though it was the end of the busy summer season, the weekends still got pretty packed! Friday afternoon versus Saturday afternoon made a big difference. We were there during the Audrain Newport Concours and Motor Week and the traffic was pretty insane.
- Tip: Stay 3-4 days if you can. There’s plenty to do and enjoy. It’s a very walkable town for the most part except getting to/from Castle Hill Inn, going from one side (the wharfs) to the other (the mansions), and apparently the cliff walk gets a bit more rough farther down. Per my note above, plan ahead for any time you’ll need a ride somewhere. Lastly, make reservations in advance for popular restaurants or weekend dining.
- I was surprised by how warm it got by mid-afternoon and how quickly the temperature dropped at night. Generally I would say it was warm in the sun, cool in the breeze/shade, and drops at night. We love the 60s/70s weather so it was perfect for us!
- Tip: Pack layers!
- I found the accommodations to be the most expensive part of our visit because there aren’t many hotels to choose from in the central Newport area. To me personally it was worth it to be able to walk everywhere and take breaks mid-day to refresh/change for the evening because of its convenient, central location.
- Most restaurants were not as expensive as I expected (still higher city prices though), however one thing we could not find were happy hour oysters.
- Tip: If you stay at the Newport Marriott, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy credit card. With this link, choose any card and earn up to 3 free nights! You’ll receive extra points and can put the cost of the room towards the 3-month bonus offer (varies at the time of signing up). My thought process is if you have to/are going to spend the money, you might as well get any perks/points you can with it.
Where We Ate & Drank in Newport
Empire Tea & Coffee
This cute coffee shop has multiple locations but we walked from the Newport Marriott to the one on William Street (pictured) before heading over to the cliffs. It’s a very charming corner location in the neighborhood serving coffee, creative tea lattes and delicious pastries.
While I was getting ready in the mornings, my boyfriend went for walks and would bring me breakfast from Scratch Kitchen. Simple classics done well.
One of the top recommendations I read and heard about was Corner Cafe, so we decided to go our last morning before flying home. Fortunately we were able to get a table with only a short wait. It’s popular and they don’t take reservations but it is worth the hype, wow! The food is absolutely delicious, the service friendly, and the menu covering everything from your breakfast classics to more creative, ethnic dishes.
Tucked back in the Newport shipyard is Belle’s Cafe, another very popular, very highly-rated cafe in town. Despite having some indoor seating, plenty of outdoor tables, and being located off the beaten path, I’ve heard they still experience long waits at peak times. The bride’s dad picked up take-out for us while we were getting ready on her wedding day so I can’t personally speak to a sunny day brunch rush – we only walked by it on a rainy Monday morning because I wanted to see it.
Midtown Oyster Bar
Midtown Oyster Bar is the place to be for MA & RI oysters. We loved the Aquidneck Island (RI), Rocky Rhode (RI), Cuttyhunk (MA), and Island Cove (RI) the most but had so much fun trying almost the whole oyster menu. It’s also worth noting the great atmosphere, corner location, and cocktails. For example, they put Aperol in their G&T – genius!
Our favorite dish of the entire trip was the scallop chowder at The Mooring. Clam chowder is all the rage in Newport, but we were too intrigued by the scallop chowder on the menu to not give it a try. Wow, why don’t more places serve this?! It was absolutely delicious. The restaurant is massive with indoor and outdoor tables. Since we were hopping from place to place, we sat at their indoor wrap-around bar instead. I would definitely go back to try more.
The Black Pearl
The most famous place in Newport for clam chowder is The Black Pearl, so obviously we had to try it! It’s so popular that they keep a giant pot of it behind the host stand! We had a funny experience because our chowder was super smoky tasting…in an amazing but unexpected way. When we mentioned it to the bartender, since we sat at the bar, he said he had never heard that before but maybe we got the bottom of the pot. Turns out it was a fluke because my boyfriend went back for another and it wasn’t nearly as smoky. For the record, I’m not opposed to smoked clam chowder…just like our new discovery of scallop chowder. Surprisingly fantastic.
Clarke Cooke House
For the rehearsal lunch, we had an outdoor section upstairs to ourselves with a gorgeous view (pictured above). The lobster roll was excellent! I would definitely go back to try more.
Thames Street Kitchen
On our food hop, we ordered a few small plates and cocktails at Thames Street Kitchen. They focus on seasonal ingredients and had a quaint patio for outdoor seating. It was enjoyable but not as memorable as some of the other spots on this list.
I loved the idea of this modern Italian-inspired small plates restaurant. We ordered the Chinato sour cocktail, which I was obsessed with, the baked clams pomodoro with extra bread for dipping (yum), and a prosciutto, fig and arugula pizza that they serve with shears to cut – a first for me.
On the same block as Bar ‘Cino was Stoneacre Brasserie. We went here multiple times because the atmosphere at the bar was great. We loved the Jane Pickens cocktail, lobster arancini, charred octopus, and super creamy smoked trout deviled eggs.
Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant
In this bright yellow building is Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant. We met another couple at the bar here who recommended drinks and food to us. It was a fun time! I wouldn’t consider it to be a must but if you’re looking for a casual vibe it’s a good spot.
The Fastnet Pub
This was our favorite local pub we went to a few times because of the outdoor patio with plenty of seating to accommodate groups, as well as outdoor ping pong. Indoors it was more of a college bar vibe (been there, done that…no thanks!).
White Horse Tavern
One of the few reservations we made prior to our trip was for dinner at White Horse Tavern, America’s oldest tavern that dates back to 1673 It’s a perfect special occasion or date night spot with the most cozy dim lighting and wood interiors. The temperatures had really dropped this night so we went all-in with a warm, hearty and satisfying meal. We ordered a hot toddy for me, smoked old fashioned for him, duck Scotch egg (with duck sausage and a duck egg, which is not always the case), and the famous beef Wellington that we made a surf & turf with regional scallops. Wow, so delicious! We literally rolled out of here so full and exhausted but it was worth every second and every penny. Highly recommend.
The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn
Last but certainly not least, for the most quintessential Newport experience, look no further than Castle Hill Inn – a historic, luxurious hotel situated on a 40-acre estate on the southwest corner of the island. The setting is absolutely gorgeous! Unless you are staying there or going for a wedding or event, the best way to visit is by going to The Lawn. It’s about a 10-20 minute drive from both downtown or the mansions, and is not approachable by walking, so you will need to drive/Uber/Lyft there. If you drive, there’s valet.
Open seasonally, you can grab a drink at the bar and bring it out to one of the Adirondack chairs facing the Narragansett Bay or dine at one of their outdoor tables. Since there is no service on the lawn itself, we sat at the bar and enjoyed some crab dip then took our cocktails out to the lawn after we closed out. It was the perfect break from walking around all morning.
While Castle Hill Inn is 100% worth a visit, there are a few things to be aware of:
- Call ahead to ensure The Lawn is open, as there are many weddings and events that take place on property.
- Getting an Uber/Lyft to go there may not be difficult, but it is for going back since the surrounding area is very residential. Plan about 30 minutes ahead of time by checking the app wait time or scheduling a pick up in advance.
- It’s one of the more high end places to go in Newport, so the menu prices reflect that.
What To Do in Newport
These are some of the things we did between eating, drinking and wedding festivities that we’d recommend.
Take in the views at Forty Steps & The Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile stretch along the picturesque coastline of Newport. Parts of the trail are paved and easily walkable while other parts are rugged and rocky shoreline. I recommend starting at Forty Steps, a landmark along the trail, and walking down towards the mansions. I hear it’s also amazing at sunrise if you’re an early bird!
Tour The Breakers Mansion
If you’re only going to visit one mansion like we did, my research led me to start with the famous Breakers mansion. It was a summer residence for the Vanderbilt family built between 1893 and 1895. The Italian Renaissance architecture and design and the incredible backyard facing the ocean were stunning. Tours are self-guided either by simply walking through for sightseeing purposes, or using the free Newport Mansions app’s audio tour. If you’re interested in the history, bring your earbuds and download the app before your visit! If you want to visit multiple mansions including the popular Marble House Mansion, they sell group tickets.
Browse & Dine in the Wharfs
Walk through Bowen’s Wharf and Bannister’s Wharf before/after dining at one of its many popular restaurants, i.e. The Black Pearl, Clarke Cooke House, 22 Bowen’s, etc. I would skip most of the shops here as it’s quite touristy.
Sightsee & Shop on Bellevue Avenue
On our way to Empire Tea & Coffee, we walked down Bellevue Avenue, passing mansions, Hotel Viking, the Newport Art Museum, local shops, and St. Mary’s church where the Kennedy’s were married in 1953.
Shop on Thames Street
For more cute local shops and boutiques, Thames Street seems to be a great spot! After going to The Lawn at Castle Hill, we had our Uber driver drop us off near the end of Thames so we could walk our way back to the Newport Marriott, stopping along the way.
Other Places To Consider
We did not make it to any of these places but they are on my list to consider checking out next time.
My personal top 5:
- Fluke – Seasonal modern American dishes (particularly savory snacks & local seafood), plus harbor views.
- Giusto – Chic Italian eatery featuring pasta, meat plates & seafood, plus cocktails, wine & water views.
- 22 Bowen’s – Steak and fresh, local seafood in a classy nautical-themed dining room with waterfront views.
- Flo’s Clam Shack (open seasonally) – A no-frills stop for New England seafood since the ’30s, with counter service & an upstairs raw bar.
- International Tennis Hall of Fame – It honors both players and other contributors to the sport of tennis. The complex, the former Newport Casino, includes a museum, grass tennis courts, and an indoor tennis facility.
- Gary’s Handy Lunch – 50s-style counter-&-booth eatery serving traditional American breakfast & lunch dishes.
- Franklin’s Spa – Open for morning & midday meals, this corner joint plates hearty classics from eggs to sandwiches.
- Cru Cafe – Cozy, BYOB eatery offering coffee, baked goods, all-day breakfast & hearty comfort food classics.
- Nitro Bar – Coffee shop serving craft coffees + teas and locally sourced breakfast and lunch.
- Newport Lobster Shack (open seasonally) – Mellow dockside joint serving lobster dinners, rolls & bisque on outdoor picnic tables.
- Del’s – Long-standing chain selling frozen lemonade, plus other iced drinks in various fruit flavors.
- Perro Solado – Locally inspired Mexican dishes, from gourmet tacos to moles, & tequila flights in a festive space.
- Diego’s – Relaxed cocina turning out modern, West Coast-style Mexican food & a long list of specialty drinks.
- Pasta Beach – Intimate place for pastas dressed with homemade sauces, gourmet thin-crust pies & focaccia panini.
- Stoneacre Garden – Sprawling destination featuring international cuisine, a garden & a courtyard, plus a rooftop bar.
- One Bellevue – Refined hotel eatery featuring steaks & New England seafood dishes plus daily afternoon tea.
- Bouchard Inn + Restaurant
- Showfish or Scarpetta at Gurney’s
- Surf Club
- The Chanler at Cliff Walk
- Rooftop at Vanderbilt
- Rooftop at Hotel Viking
- Ocean Drive
- Audrain’s Auto Museum
- Marble House Mansion
- Elms Mansion
- Rough Point Mansion
- Sachuest Point
- Newport Vineyards
- Sakonnet Vinyards in Little Compton
- Greenvale Vineyards
- Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.
- First “Easton’s” Beach and Sachuest “Second” Beach
- Taproot Brewing Co.
- Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill
In Case You Missed It
- Boston Travel Guide
- Breckenridge Ski Trip Guide
- Bachelorette Weekend in Scottsdale, AZ
- A Day Trip to Amelia Island, FL
- Charleston City Guide
Special thanks to Alexa and George for bringing us to Newport for your beautiful wedding!
Amazingly comprehensive as always. Just added this are to our travel list!
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and fully support you planning a trip to Newport – I think you and Kim would love it!