Newport, Rhode Island has been America’s First Resort since the 16th century when Giovanni da Verrazano moored his ships for 2 weeks in Narragansett Bay. Like every visitor since, he took the time to relax and enjoy the epic beauty of this New England estuary with its natural harbor. Unlike Verrazano, however, today’s visitors have a wider-ranging selection of pastimes. Here are ten of the best things to do when visiting Newport, all of which are either on the water or have a view of the water.

Newport Harbor from the water

Gansett Cruises has been giving narrated harbor boat tours of Newport and Jamestown for nearly 2 decades, and Owner/Captain Zane Randall’s looking forward to more! The M/V Gansett, took a year to restore, but this 50-foot former lobster boat has been beautifully refitted to comfortably seat up to 49 passengers. Choose from a morning mimosa cruise, an afternoon cruise, or a sunset evening cruise. Amenities include cushioned seating, restrooms, cash bar, and complimentary tastes of Rhode Island. Try a coffee cabinet (Hint: it’s not what you think it is!!) or a stuffie (also not what you think!) while you glide in style over Narragansett Bay. The Gansett hosts corporate events and private parties, and the crew is always happy to work with planners and caterers. 

Location: 2 Bowen’s Landing | Phone: 401.619.1300 | Email:

Newport Harbor from the air

Gansett Cruises has teamed up with Newport Helicopter Tours to show you the best of Newport from the sky. Passengers can see the sights with a bird’s-eye view of historic Newport Harbor, Gilded Age mansions, lighthouses, and more. Combo packages are available through the website, and offer significant savings.

Fort Adams State Park celebrates 200 years

This imposing stone edifice at the mouth of Narragansett Bay was originally built in 1799 and has been dismantled, replaced, enlarged, and left to crumble in the elements over the past 2 centuries. The Fort Adams Trust has taken on restoration and preservation of the historic fort and offers daily tours. Also on-site are the Eisenhower House, Sail Newport, the Fort Adams Bay Walk, rugby, and of course, the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals.

The Cliff Walk

The Cliff Walk is one of Newport’s top attractions. This 3.5-mile public access walkway borders the shore line from high above the steep cliffs, and is New England’s first designated National Recreation Trail. The Cliff Walk meanders along the façades of such Gilded Age mansions like The Breakers and Marble House, heiress Doris Duke’s Rough Point, and sweeping Atlantic vistas. Some sections have detours due to erosion creating unsafe conditions. Try a kid-friendly scavenger hunt while you’re there. Wear your walking shoes and bring water because you’ll need both! 

NOTE: Enter at the west end of Easton’s Beach, then catch the free loop bus, #67, at Ledge Road @ Bellevue Avenue, conveniently located at the end of Cliff Walk.

Rail Explorers

Rail Explorers offers a unique opportunity to pedal along the 19th century Old Colony Railroad. The rails run alongside breathtaking Narragansett Bay with unique views of the Mount Hope Bridge, Hog Island Lighthouse, Jamestown, and lush coastal woodlands. Bring a picnic to enjoy midway through your ride!

Sachuest Point

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is an important winter stopover for migratory birds. Three miles of trails running between the rocky shoreline and a salt marsh make this a must-visit for birding enthusiasts. Bird-watching is easy year-round and it’s a favorite for photographers. See if you can spot the Snowy Owl, Harlequin Ducks, and the many raptors that call Sachuest home. This is also a local hot spot for salt-water fishing, and night permits are available.

Ocean Drive Historic District

Take in the huge homes, stunning wildlife habitats, and 10 miles of rough, rocky coastline with views of the open Atlantic Ocean. The southern end of Bellevue Avenue will lead you down the road to Newport’s natural beauty. Take care when driving on these twisty roads!

Brenton Point State Park

Along your cruise around Ocean Drive, at the southwestern tip of Aquidneck Island, you’ll find Brenton Point State Park, the former 89-acre site of one of Newport’s grandest estates, The Reef. An observation tower is all that’s left of the original estate; the stable building, aka The Bells, while still standing at the time of this writing, is slated to be demolished for safety reasons. Popular for fishing, picnicking, kites, and dog-walking; swimming is strongly discouraged due to the reefs and deadly currents. Restrooms available May-October. 

Naval War College Museum

For military history buffs, Newport has the U.S. Naval War College Museum, located at Naval Station Newport’s Coasters Harbor Island. Visitors must have base access; those who don’t must request a background check several days in advance. Per the website, “the Museum exhibits identify milestones in the evolutionary development of war at sea.” Facilities are accessible and there’s a gift shop operated by the Naval War College Foundation. The Museum is open weekdays, year-round, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Bowen’s Wharf

Bowen’s Wharf is the premier spot on the waterfront of Newport to see private yachts, vintage sailing vessels and of course the best Newport RI tour boat, the M/V Gansett. The wharf has many things to offer, such as different places to eat, events all year long, galleries, and shops. Every year, Bowen’s Wharf has festivals for oysters, chowder, and seafood, and also lights up a tree in December.

Book a Boat Tour

Connect with Gansett Cruises now to book a boat tour or sunset cruise. While aboard we will give you the skinny on the ins and outs of all of these waterfront experiences!