Newport, Rhode Island, is a little gem on the New England coast. It’s rich with history that dates back to the 17th century. Founded in 1639, Newport emerged as a key city in the American colonies, becoming an essential port known for its bustling seafaring and trading activities. I’m really not much of a history buff and generally don’t dig too deep into the places we visit, but I found this place fascinating. So, here’s just a few historical tidbits about Newport. 

During the Colonial era, its harbor was teeming with merchant ships, and the town quickly became a hub of commercial activity.

In the late 1800s, it was the summer playground for America’s wealthiest families, including the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Morgans. They built beautiful mansions along Bellevue Avenue, which are now fascinating museums that provide a peek into a bygone era of extravagance.

Over the years, Newport has managed to preserve much of its historic charm while evolving into a modern city. It’s now famous not just for its history and architecture but for its stunning coastal scenery, vibrant music festivals, and sumptuous seafood.

Warf in Newport RI
Ships in Harbor
Homes along a street in Newport, RI

Newport by Cruise Ship

We were on an MSC Canada-New England fall cruise, and Newport was our first stop. This was a tender stop, meaning the ship dropped anchor out in the harbor, and they used lifeboats or ferries to bring guests back and forth to the dock. The process was well organized, and the wait time was minimal.

We had not booked a shore excursion here as nothing offered appealed to us. Our research indicated there was plenty to see near the dock. Once on land, we found the local tourist office.  They were happy to share some interesting places nearby, and they gave us a free map.

A walk around Newport is like a step back in time, with every corner offering a story. It remains one of those quintessential New England getaways that feels both grand and intimate all at once.

Shop in Newport RI waterfront area
Hotel on the warf in Newport RI
Shop on the warf in Newport RI

The Waterfront

Close to the waterfront, we found a charming network of quaint little streets that make their way down to the marinas. Majestic boats line the docks alongside newer boats. These bustling streets are adorned with local boutiques, cozy eateries, and welcoming hotels.

As we wandered, weaving through these enchanting nooks and crannies, each shop offered unique items. We stopped at a coffee shop by the ocean for some caffeine and a freshly baked treat. We sat on a bench on the dock, just soaking up the atmosphere. It’s the kind of place that invites you to linger, mezmerized by the ebb and flow of the ocean. I could have sat on the bench all day.

Trinity Church in Newport RI
Cemetary next to Trinity Church in Newport RI

Trinity Episcopal Church

Right across from the waterfront, we stumbled upon this quaint church, Trinity Church, with its old cemetery out back. The church was founded in 1698 as the first outpost of the Church of England in the colony of Rhode Island. The structure was built in 1726 when the congregation outgrew its original home. Walking through was like stepping back in time with some headstones marking graves from the 1700s. Years of being so close to the ocean had taken their toll on them, though. many were worn to the point you couldn’t make out the names anymore. It was a humble reminder of the history that shapes this place.

Outdoor shopping mall
Statue near shopping area

After a quick pit stop at a small general store to grab some essentials, we wandered just a few blocks over and came across a small open-air shopping plaza. This place had its own collection of stores and even a couple of statues standing sentry among the shoppers and storefronts. We checked out the stores and then returned to the dock to catch the tender back to the ship.

Fort Adams & Sea Side Mansions

As our ship set sail, we waved goodbye to Fort Adams, which sits as a peaceful state park today. Historically it was a vigilant military base for many, many years until it was deeded to the state in 1965.

As we drifted towards the open ocean, we were treated to the sight of stunning homes and picturesque inns. Their elegant facades slowly shrinking on the horizon as we ventured into the deep blue sea.

It's Worth Another Visit

Newport was a great cruise stop, and someplace we would consider returning to when we had more time to explore.