Move cursor over image to locate downtown Newport attractions
Almost every cruise has a turning point, and eventually most of us have to head back home. Whether it's the farthest waypoint from our home port or the date that marks a vacation as half over, that U-turn signal can be a real letdown. Sitting in Tenants Harbor, Maine, during our East Coast virtual cruise, we instead feel exhilarated. While we're turning around and heading south, we still have eight more months of exploring.
Discovering new towns, anchorages and passages is one of the main attractions of cruising, but so is revisiting past favorites. For us, Newport, Rhode Island, is one of them. Regardless of how many times we've made the approach to this iconic city by the sea, we still feel goose bumps as the first mansions on the cliffs come into view. As we approach Newport Harbor, we see the vast mooring field peppered with yachts from a bygone era, matching the visual splendor of the magnificent mansions.
From Tenants Harbor, we retraced part of our earlier route, making overnight stops in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, before taking a detour through Woods Hole and running out to Martha‚Äôs Vineyard for a couple of days. Arriving just after Labor Day during the middle of the week, we are able to get a mooring in Edgartown, Massachusetts, for $40 a night. When we first discovered Edgartown 25 years ago, it was still legal to anchor in beautiful Katama Bay. A popular clamming area, its waters are now strictly protected against pollution. Far more tourists roam the streets today, but this quintessential New England town has not lost its wonderful charm. We're glad we went out of our way and stopped here, our memories will definitely continue to be good ones.
Newport is less than 50 nautical miles from Edgartown, and we arrive in the early afternoon just days before the opening of the Newport International Boat Show. Knowing the downtown marinas (Newport Yachting Center, Bannister's Wharf and Bowen's Wharf) would be hosting the show, we had already reserved a slip at Goat Island Marina, located just across the harbor on its western side. From here, we can take a water shuttle to downtown, and the view of the harbor and city skyline is spectacular.
Downtown is bustling with pre-boat-show activities, and while many vacationing tourists have disappeared because of the time of year, the shops and restaurants are busy with visiting boatbuilders, dealers, industry sales reps and, like us, boating enthusiasts waiting to see the newest boats and gear. Indeed, the Newport show is known for getting the fall boating juices flowing on the East Coast, because it precedes the big shows in Annapolis, Maryland, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
We have a couple of days to explore Newport before the show opens, so we decide to take a tour of the mansions. A variety of tour packages are sold online, and we choose the "Newport Mansions Experience" that offers self-guided audio tours of four properties including the popular Breakers and Elms. We like the flexibility of this package because we can spend as much or as little time on each property as we want, and we can even split the tour into multiple days. As we walk through these extravagant homes, we feel as if we are visiting the Crawley family of Downton Abbey. Oh, the days before income tax!
After touring two mansions in four hours, we need a break from so much opulence, and we return to the waterfront for lunch at our old, familiar favorite, the Black Pearl. As always, a cup of chowder and a cold brew hit the spot, and we are soon ready for an afternoon of yachting history.