Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898 | SUBSCRIBE

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

New England Regional

Newport, Rhode Island

By boat, bus, bike and--a little more effort--train

July-August 2009

Sailboats in Newport Harbor

Sailboats in Newport Harbor

Courtesy of Newport Convention & Visitors Bureau

One of the most beautiful warm-weather routes to Newport is the hourlong water-taxi ride from Providence, which docks at Perrotti Park. From there, visitors can walk, rent bikes, hail a pedicab, or hop on a city bus to explore pretty much all of this summertime hotspot. For totally car-free travel, you can also take Amtrak to Providence and a shuttle bus or taxi to the ferry.

Because Newport is congested with cars in the summer, parking is tight and officials actually encourage non-car travel. The most popular tourist sites--the mansions, the Cliff Walk, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame--are easy to get to, as are other recommended attractions, such as Rough Point, Doris Duke’s home (rotating exhibits include the current Shop Like an Heiress, featuring a collection of haute couture), the historic Touro Synagogue (the oldest in the United States), and the International Yacht Restoration School, where visitors can see expert shipwrights return vessels to their glory days. The august Newport Historical Society also offers richly narrated walking tours of all kinds, including “Newport’s Buried History: Slavery and Freedom” and “Tastes of the Working Waterfront.”

Also outdoors, numerous beaches beckon (Gooseberry is well-kept, with calm waters, while Second Beach, technically in next-door Middletown, offers a little more wave action. Both are bikeable; at Gooseberry you save the car-parking fee.) Or go farther afield to the stunning oceanfront Brenton Point State Park, favored by joggers, picnickers, and kite-fliers of all ages. The Fort Adams State Park offers a swimming beach, fort tours, and the unusual Museum of Yachting, with new exhibits on the art of scale models, the history of the America’s Cup, and an in-depth look at the 1885 Coronet (being restored at the yacht school).

At the park, visitors can board a separate ferry that tours the bay, stopping at Rose Island and Jamestown, or they can go back to downtown Newport to get yet another ferry to Block Island. (All the ferries take bikes, as do the local buses.) So accessible is summertime Newport without a car that during the high season a pedicab company transports people (on weekends until 2 a.m., for those engaged in the town’s heralded nightlife). After all this, if you crave an alternative route home, opt for the Peter Pan bus line to a range of destinations, including Boston--only $24 one way.