A beautiful seaside city, the Port of Newport is famous for its mansions, scenery, and shopping opportunities. Tourist-oriented downtown streets are lined with cobblestone and brick sidewalks where visitors find art galleries, find restaurants, and many unique shops. Located at the south end of Aquidneck Island, the Port of Newport has several great beaches, picturesque rocky cliffs, and many historic sites.
The Port of Newport has a humid continental climate with warm humid summers that can be hot and occasionally severe winters. Temperatures in the Port of Newport range from an average high of about 22°C (72°F) in July and August to an average low of -1°C (30°F) in January and February. Precipitation peaks in March at 11.4 centimeters (4.5 inches) and reaches its lowest point in July at 7.6 centimeters (three inches). Humidity levels range from 82% in September to 70% in April. Snow comes to the Port of Newport from October until April, peaking in January and February at 25.4 centimeters (10 inches).
The Port of Newport's Fort Adams is the biggest coastal fortress in the United States. Open for seasonal guided tours, visitors can tour the soldier's quarters, see the Naval War College Museum Exhibit, and enjoy fantastic views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. The fort's parade fields and lawns are home to several festivals and events like Family Day, George Wein's Folk Festival, McGrath's Public Clambake, and George Wein's Jazz Festival. The Civil War Living History Weekend brings together actors with authentic uniforms and weapons that replay battles that took place here. Admission to the fort is $8 for adults and $5 for youths aged six to 17. Children under six are admitted free.
The Port of Newport's Cliff Walk is a 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) public walkway that runs adjacent to the famous mansions and offers beautiful views and plentiful wildlife. The Forty Steps is a staircase that leads from the top of the cliffs to the ocean. When wealthy party-goers enjoyed events at the mansions, their servants gathered here for dances.
Most of the Port of Newport's visitors want to see the famous Newport Mansions. The most famous of these is The Breakers, a National Historic Landmark built in 1895 for railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a 70-room summer cottage. The Breakers is the Port of Newport's most opulent mansion, and it is often very crowded with people taking the audio tour. The Breakers features the original furnishings still owned by the Vanderbilt family. Open throughout the year, it is the most popular attraction in the State of Rhode Island with about 300 thousand visitors a year.
The Elms was built in 1901 for Edward Berwind, a coal mogul from Philadelphia. In the French chateau style, this Port of Newport "summer cottage" offers a self-guided audio tour covering the house and ten acres of restored grounds in the 18th Century French style. The Elms was one of the first United States homes to be wired for electricity, and it had one of the first electric ice makers.
Marble House was built in 1892 for William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius. Perhaps more opulent than The Breakers, Marble House is one of the most popular of the Bellevue Avenue mansions, so it can be crowded. The appearance of Marble House marked the beginning of the Port of Newport's transformation from a relaxed summer get-away to a legendary resort for the wealthy. One distinctive feature of Marble House is the Chinese Tea House overlooking the sea.
Belcourt Castle was built in 1894 for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, a socialite and US Representative from New York. While its eccentric interior does not inspire everyone, this Port of Newport mansion has a collection of art and furnishings from over 30 countries. Belcourt Castle is also the site of "ghost tours" on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Chateau-sur-Mer was the most lavish mansion in the Port of Newport until the Vanderbilt homes appeared in the 1890s. Built in 1852 for William Shepard Wetmore, a successful merchant in the China trade, in the high-Victorian style, complete with an elaborate grand staircase and one of the most beautiful grounds in the Port of Newport. Chateau-Sur-Mer is open for tours for six months of the year.
Rosecliff has been a location for several movies, including The Great Gatsby and Amistad. Built in 1902 for Theresa Fair Oelrichs, silver heiress to one of Nevada's Comstock Lode, the home was modeled on Grand Trianon in Versailles. Oelrich's was one of the Port of Newport's busiest hostesses. Open six months each year, Rosecliff House is a popular place to visit and can be crowded.
Rough Point was built in 1889 and was home to tobacco heiress Doris Duke until her death in 1993. Built in the English manor style, Rough Point is the most contemporary of the Bellevue Avenue Gilded Age mansions. Today, it is a public museum open six months per year. Access to the mansion is limited to a shuttle from the downtown Port of Newport Visitors' Information Center and by the high cost of admission. Every year a new exhibit is on display showing items like clothing, jewelry, furniture, and silver.
Built in 1860 for Edmund Schermerhorn as a summer home, Chepstow is an Italianate villa with a wonderful collection of landscape paintings created by Hudson River School artists. Open for only three months each year, Chepstow's interior is not as grand as other Port of Newport mansions.
While it is not located on Bellevue Avenue with the 19th Century mansions, the 1748 Hunter House was built for colonial Deputy Governor Jonathan Nichols Jr. in the Georgian Colonial style. Open just three months a year, the Port of Newport's Hunter House is on a smaller scale than the other mansions, but it contains a marvelous collection of colonial furniture created by early Newport's best artisans.
The Isaac Bell House was built in 1883 for the cotton merchant Isaac Bell in the shingle Victorian style. The home has a mix of influences from early England, Continental Europe, and Asia. Open just three months a year, the Bell House is not as grand as other homes on Bellevue Avenue, but it does offer an interesting peek of the restoration process.
The 1839 Kingscote is one of the first summer "cottages" in the Port of Newport. Built for George Noble Jones, a Georgia plantation owner, Kingscote's is the now rare Gothic Revival style. Kingscote contains one of the earliest installations of Tiffany glass. It is open only three months a year.