Location: Newport, Rhode Island, a seaside city on Aquidneck Island. Approximately 30 miles from the state capital, Providence, and 75 miles south of Boston.
Military population: NAVSTA Newport: 2,200 permanent active duty and approximately 17,000 students annually. U.S. Coast Guard Station Castle Hill: 40 active duty.
Newport was the first duty station I moved to after marrying my husband (a Navy pilot). Maybe it’s the nostalgia of newlywed life or New England’s idyllic charm, but this city by the sea is undoubtedly my favorite place in the world. Whether you’re lucky enough to be stationed here or just come for a visit, I hope you love it as much as I do.
What to do
Cliff Walk: Choose to walk just a few hundred yards or hike the entire 3.5 miles as you take in gorgeous ocean views and see some of Newport’s famous Gilded Age mansions. Heads up: the second half of the walk is partially unpaved and a bit more challenging.
Tour the mansions: In the 19th century, Newport was where America’s wealthy class came to “summer.” They built mansions, where many families lived just six weeks out of the year.
If you only have time to tour one mansion, I’d recommend The Breakers, the grandest of the Newport mansions. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, The Breakers boasts 70 rooms on five floors. The self-guided audio tour is fascinating and takes about an hour, depending on your pace.
Another favorite –– Rosecliff. You might recognize it –– completed in 1902, its ballroom was used to film scenes for the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby” (with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow).
Take in a polo match: If you find yourself in Newport on a Saturday in the summer/fall, watching polo is a must-do. My only experience with the sport was what I’d seen in “Pretty Woman.” And honestly, that portrayal isn’t far off. The Newport International Polo Series features Team USA in matches against teams from around the world. When it comes to attire, anything goes. You’ll see people in athleisure wear and folks decked out in seersucker suits, Lilly Pulitzer dresses and big hats. And yes, expect to “stomp the divots” at halftime.
Mimosa Cruise on Adirondack II: Newport is a sailing town, home to sailing’s most famous race, America’s Cup. This sail around Narragansett Bay on an 80-foot schooner provides entertaining stories about Newport’s history and bayside views of Fort Adams (a 19th-century military fort), old lighthouses, the mansions and even Hammersmith Farm — the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Where to eat
Newport offers no shortage of fantastic food options — especially if you’re a fan of seafood.
My favorite dinner spots are Midtown Oyster Bar and Perro Salado (a Mexican restaurant housed in the historic Decatur House –– and a great choice if you’re not in the mood for seafood.) If you’re willing to take a trip off the Aquidneck Island to dine, Matunuck Oyster Bar is worth the short drive (about 30 minutes).
Where to stay
For a budget-friendly option, try the Navy Lodge on Naval Station Newport. Check out Hammett’s Hotel if you want to stay in the heart of downtown. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can play lighthouse keeper for a night, two or even a week and stay at the Rose Island Lighthouse, a restored keeper’s lighthouse built in 1870, just a 15-minute boat ride from Newport. My husband and I did this for a night and were the only two people on the entire island. It was rustic, romantic and fun.