Known as “the City by the Sea”, Newport, Rhode Island, isalso known for its Gilded Age mansions that were the “summer cottages” of business tycoons of the early 1900s. Today, visitors can tour many of the mansions, learn about the rich history of the area in local museums, and sample a wide variety of cuisine with hundreds of shopping and dinning options. My family is fortunate to live within a day trip’s drive and we often visit Newport for the day and for long weekends. You can read our City Guide from a couple of years ago (we’ll be updating it soon) and our post featuring holiday fun in Newport.
I recently returned to Newport for two separate trips with friends and we took advantage of the nice weather and so many beautiful views. While most visitors walk popular Thames Street and for shopping and dining, I prefer to head to other spots for some daily exercise. (I hesitate to use the “hiking”, as these spots have marked trails, very easy terrain, and in some cases, are in commercialized areas). Most of these locations have plenty of free parking and restroom facilities on site (but check online to confirm logistics).
10 Family Friendly Outdoor Spots to Enjoy the Newport Area:
- Fort Adams, the largest fort in America and the only fort never attacked, was built in the mid 1800s and is named for John Adams, the second US president. The entire complex is a state park and open to the public free of charge (although we highly recommend taking the guided tour- read our full post featuring the tour here). There are beautiful views of both Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. The Bay Walk is a 2.5 mile loop around the perimeter of the park.
Trail map here.
- Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown (15 minutes away from downtown Newport) is located across the water from Fort Adams State Park. The 61 acre park is located on Conanicut Island and was first used as a defense battery and training camp, but is now used year round for scuba diving clubs. Guests can also boat, fish, bike, and hike the park. The main trail around the fort is just over one mile and is rugged with dirt paths that traverse over the 100 foot cliffs, offering beautiful views of the shoreline. Unfortunately much of the structural remains of the fort are now covered in graffiti.
No distinct trail map- explore on your own and look for the worn down path.
- Beavertail State Park in nearby Jamestown is home to the 3rd oldest lighthouse in America, a museum and small aquarium. The 153 acre park is located on Conanicut Island and has beautiful views of Narragansett Bay. The Naturalist Program has plenty of family friendly activities during the peak season and the lighthouse, built in 1856, is also open for tours during the peak season. Information on operations for the lighthouse, aquarium, and programming can be found here. There is one main 1.5 mile loop trail throughout the park and additional add ons with well marked with color coded indicators.
- Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown includes seven miles of hiking trails on its 325 acres. There is also an education center, tons of kid friendly programming like summer camps and after school programs, and natural history walks and workshops. There’s even an 18th century renovated Paradise Farmhouse that can be booked for overnight stays! All trails are under two miles, are clearly marked, and include features like boardwalks, footbridges, and views of Nelson Pond, Gardiner Pond, and Sakoonet River.
Trail map here. Note: there is a per person trail fee. More information here.
- The Cliff Walk is probably the most famous place to go for a walk in Newport. The 3.5 mile path follows the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the path, with views of the many Gilded Age mansions on the other side. There are several entry points, and most of them have small parking areas (pay attention to signs!). The area from Memorial Boulevard to Belmont Beach is the easiest to follow with paved pathways; the Belmont Beach to Reject’s Beach portion is more rugged with some rock climbing and very uneven terrain (not good for children and definitely not stroller friendly). Keep an eye out for the 16 trail makers that describe points of interests and have QR codes for more historical background.
Note for spring 2022: Portions of the Cliff Walk have fallen into the ocean and the section between Narragansett Avenue and Webster Street are currently closed for repair.
Trail map here.
- Easton Beach and Second Beach in Newport are adjacent beaches (that also connect to “Third Beach” and Sachuest Point). Easton Beach is the more popular spot with plenty of facilities and amenities (including the Save the Bay Aquarium and a carousel) but is smaller- just about ¾ of a mile. Second Beach (also known as Sachuest Beach) is a mile long beach with facilities and amenities. Both spots have soft sand, easy for walking.
- Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge (one of five National Wildlife Refuges in Rhode Island) covers over 240 acres of land directly overlooking “Third Beach” and the Atlantic Ocean in Middletown. The refuge is a popular fishing spot and guests can actually hunt deer during certain times of year, and with a permit.An education Center is open on weekends and children will love the interactive exhibits, as well as the chance to borrow a backpack filled with supplies. The hiking trails (there are three) are fairly flat and easy to navigate; two of the trails are about 1.5 miles each and one “trail” is actually a short overlook. Be sure to stay on the path to avoid poison ivy and lots of tics in the bushes.
Trail map here.
- Colt State Park, a 464 acre park in Bristol (30 minutes from downtown Newport) is one of the most popular parks in the entire state. Next door to the Coggeshall Farm Museum, the park includes areas for boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, biking, and hiking. Part of the bike trail connects to the popular East Bay Bike Path, which extends all the way to Providence. Most of the walking paths at Colt State Park are paved and clearly marked- the main loop is just under two miles.
Trail map here.
- Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium in Bristol is part of the Claire D. McIntosh Wildlife Refuge. There is a natural history museum with interactive exhibits including a 33-foot life size model of the North Atlantic Right Whale, a pollinator garden, hiking trails, and tons of family friendly programs and special events. The walking trail includes a boardwalk over the freshwater and saltwater marshes, and great views of the bay.
Trail map here. Note: there is an admission fee- more information here
- Newport Harbor Walk is a four mile path along the waterfront, with two distinct sections. The “South” section runs from King Park to Newport Shipyard, a two mile, one way stretch. The “north” path starts at Goat Island and runs for about 2.5 miles to the Point Section, mainly staying on Thames Street and many of the popular shops and restaurants. It would be a stretch to call this a hike, as the path follows paved roads and the busy hubbub of shopping and dining along Thames Street and America’s Cup Avenue in downtown Newport, but it is a great way to get some exercise and support local business
South map here and North map here.
For more fun in Newport, check out our full City Guide and Discover Newport’s website which is FULL of every type of fun! And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.