Newport County includes Aquidneck, Conanicut and Prudence Islands, along with the easternmost portion of the state on the mainland. The towns include Jamestown, occupying all of Conanicut Island; Newport and Middletown on Aquidneck Island; Portsmouth, spanning Aquidneck and Prudence Island; and Tiverton and Little Compton over on the mainland.
Newport (the city, but more like a town with a population of under 25 thousand), is the main draw in the area. Best known for the summer “cottages” of the Gilded Age’s wealthy families like the Vanderbilts and Astors, several of these opulent mansions are open as museums, or have found new life for those with “new money”, like Hollywood stars and tech giants.
The city of Newport itself has a rich history predating the Gilded Age. A major trading seaport in the 18th century, the town’s streets are loaded with colonial and federal architecture. British occupation during the Revolutionary War caused damage to the local economy, and in the Antebellum period, bypassing industrialism, the area became a draw for artists and writers, which initiated its new life as a resort. The money soon flowed in along with the mansions and the New York Yacht Club, which brought the America’s Cup, where it stayed from 1930 to 1983.
It’s totally worth visiting the Breakers, Elms and other magnificent mansions that are preserved by the Newport Mansions Preservation Society, which should include a stroll along the breathtaking Cliff Walk. You’d be remiss if you didn’t. But that is not the only thing going on in Newport and the broader region of the same name.
The town itself is quite pretty – Thames Street, Broadway and Bowen’s Wharf offer galleries, shops, restaurants and inns. Goggle at the yachts in the harbor. Cruise along Ocean Drive for spectacular coastal scenery. Visit Fort Adams State Park, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Castle Hill Lighthouse and the many other attractions in the area. Get out on the water, swim the beaches, and enjoy the many festivals throughout the year.
Beyond Newport (the city), the county offers farms, wildlife refuges, parks, wineries, beaches and plenty of pretty scenery, including the picture perfect village center of Little Compton. And of course everywhere there are endless opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing and sailing – after all, 67% of the county is water.