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Home » New England » Rhode Island Scenic Drives and Road Trips

Ocean Drive

The Newport Loop

Mileage9 miles (14 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.22 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.All Seasons
RoadwaysBellevue Drive, Carroll Ave, Harrison Ave, Narragansett Ave, Ocean Ave, Ridge Road, and Thames Street
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, pharmacies, etc.Cold Spring Beach, RI, Jamestown, RI, Middletown, RI, Newport, RI, North Kingstown, RI, Wakefield, RI, Narragansett Beach, RI, Portsmouth, RI, more...Saunderstown, RI, and Kingston, RI
3.5 average from 33 votes
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Just 4 hours from Manhattan, Newport, Rhode Island feels like a world away. Immerse yourself in the salty breeze of seaside air, crashing waves and extravagant, historic mansions on this spectacular scenic drive which loops around the island’s rugged Atlantic Ocean coast. Relax and enjoy fresh seafood, leisurely boat watching and quaint local shops.

Vanderbilt summer home, The Breakers
Vanderbilt summer home, The Breakers

To reach Newport, take RI-138 east or RI-114 south and follow the signs for RI-138A/Memorial Boulevard. Turn right on Bellevue Drive (heading south) where our scenic drive begins. Consider a stop at the Newport Visitor Information Center (I1) located at 23 America’s Cup Avenue before heading out.

If you love cars, the Audrain Automobile Museum (M5) features a stunning collection of over 160 vehicles. The cars are not all on display at the same time, but rotated in themed exhibitions such as Speed Machines, American Muscle and a Pre-War Collection which change every four months. Learn about each car from interactive ipads and knowledgeable staff. There is an entrance fee.

Newport is famous for its opulent mansions built between 1865-1914. Known as America’s Gilded Age, these extravagant homes and chateaus were the summer residences of the social and financial elite of the era. Ten estates are open for tours. Among them are The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance style palazzo built 1893 by the Vanderbilt family and The Elms, a dazzling home modeled after a mid-18th century French chateau. Stroll the Classical revival gardens which include marble and bronze sculptures, fountains and pavilions. Each of the lavish homes is unique, and exemplifies the finest in American architecture, decorative arts and landscape design spanning the Colonial era to the Gilded Age. For a touch of whimsy, don’t miss the Green Animal Topiary Garden. Overlooking the stunning Narragansett Bay, the small estate once belonging to Thomas E. Brayton features more than 80 topiary animals and geometric designs created by gardener Joseph Carreiro between 1905-1945 and continued later by his son-in-law George Menonca. The Newport Mansions (M1) are protected by the Preservation Society of Newport County and a variety of packages and tours are offered. Open hours vary so please check their website before heading out. As this scenic drive is a loop, the homes can be explored either at the beginning or end.

Continuing the drive, turn right onto Narragansett Avenue, left on Thames Street Avenue, and then right onto Harrison Avenue where at the end, you will see Fort Adams (H1) on your right. Here you can tour the Officer’s Quarters, museum, explore the tunnel system and climb the bastions. If you’re traveling mid-July don’t miss the fascinating Civil War Living History weekend which features reenactments, period displays and infantry and artillery drills. Open seasonally from May — October, there is a fee to enter.

On the same peninsula you’ll also see the Eisenhower House — the “Summer White House” of President Eisenhower which is now hosts public and private events. Fort Adams (H1) State Park offers outstanding views, swimming, fishing and boating and is well-known for its summer jazz festival and folk festival which draws thousands of music lovers and big name musicians. Check the website for lineup and ticket info. Yacht lovers will want to explore the Museum of Yachting. Exhibits include the Coronet, whose ongoing restoration is a link to the Golden Age of yachting history, the legacy of The America’s Cup, a selection of small craft for work and leisure and more.

Back on Harrison, turn left onto Ridge Road, left on Castle Hill Road and then left onto the aptly named Ocean Ave. Castle Hill Light was built in 1890, and still aids navigation though it now automated. The lighthouse is not open to the public but do feel free to stroll the grounds. Here you will find many vista points overlooking the rocky Rhode Island Coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Stop at Brenton Point State Park (H2) located where the Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic to enjoy walking trails, gardens and a stone tower, a remnant of an estate that once stood here. Have a picnic, dip your toes in the cool water, go fishing, relax amid stunning views and delight in the dance of kites in the air. Ocean breezes make this an awesome and popular spot for kite flying.

Continuing west on Ocean Drive, the road hugs the ocean coast, offering expansive views of both water and mansions. Many of the beaches here are private though there is public access to Gooseberry Beach (W1). Set into a cove the waters are calmer here, making this a great beach for small children. There is a parking fee. At the end of the road, turn right onto Coggeshall Avenue and you will soon be back on Bellevue Avenue.

Back “in town” don’t miss the Cliff Walk (H3). The 3.5 mile pathway begins at the western end of Easton’s Beach (Newport’s largest beach and recreation area) and travels to the east end of Bailey’s Beach. Of course it can be done in either direction, and it is not necessary to complete the entire route to enjoy the opulent homes on one side and beautiful views of the ocean on the other. The northern section of the trail is paved and as you head further south, the trail and scenery becomes more natural and rugged, as you scramble over rocks and literally hang over the cliff. Bring a picnic and good shoes. If you don’t feel up to the long walk back, consider a return trip on the trolley.

Easton’s Beach (W3), also known as First Beach, is Newport’s only ocean beach and is a popular stop for tourists and locals alike. A full-service destination, here you will find rentals for cabanas, beach chairs, boogie boards etc. as well as a children’s playground, skateboard park, snack bar, free summer concerts, restrooms and showers. Learn about the surrounding environment at Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium (A3). Touch tanks allow gentle hands-on exploration of sea cucumbers and sea stars, and delightful exhibits of moon jellies, lobster and horseshoe crabs. The interactive marine science learning center offers educational programs and seasonal seal watching boat cruises.

There are many other cultural and fascinating destinations. Built in 1763, the simple but architecturally-striking Touro Synagogue (A2) is the oldest in the United States and a fascinating look at back on Colonial life and religious freedom in Rhode island no matter what your faith. There is a fee to enter which includes a 1/2 hour tour and access to the Loeb Visitor Center which features an orientation film and interactive exhibits.

St. Mary’s Church (A4) is a stunning example of second period Gothic architecture. Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John F. Kennedy were married here in 1953.

Savor the ambiance of art, architecture and gardens at the National Museum of American Illustration (M3). Housed in Vernon Court, a mansion built in 1898, peruse illustrations from Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame (M4) honors the legends of tennis, showcases the history and important artifacts of the sport. Bring your racquet to play on the infamous grass courts — where many champions have played.

From here, consider heading north on RI-114 then east on RI-138 for Rhode Island 77.

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