One of the most dramatic tourist attractions in New England is totally free: the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk in historic Newport, Rhode Island!
Just make sure, as this sign pictured to the left politely points out, not to hurtle off the “cliff” aspect of the whole “Cliff Walk” thing.
Here’s what makes the Cliff Walk so amazing: it’s a marriage of nature’s glory with the most opulent human-made mansions imaginable.
On one side, you have glistening blue water, kissed by grassy cliffs. On the other side, however, you pass by mansion after remarkable mansion.
It was in the 1800s that the ultra-rich first started building their giant “getaway homes” on this bay in Newport. Come cyber-walk with me now as we check out some of the gems you will pass on the Cliff Walk.
Above, gaze upon “The Breakers,” an extremely famous Vanderbilt family “summer home” mansion built in 1895 for twelve million dollars. You’ll be happy to know that “The Breakers” has 70 rooms. Think that would be big enough for YOUR family’s needs?
I’ve always liked tourist attractions with a touch of danger (such as the Tiger Temple in Thailand, or the alligator-filled Everglades in Florida), and the mix of danger and beauty is part of the Cliff Walk’s greatness. If you go, bring good walking shoes and plan your time well, because the path gets more and more rugged as you go along. By the final stretch, you’re literally scrabbling along unpaved boulders and spelunking through dark tunnels.
As you can see by these photos, the sun was setting as we started our walk, so Colin and I were not able to get as far along the path as I have in the past. Trust me, however, that (if you can even believe it) the views get even more spectacular as you go along.
Another fun tidbit: You can rent out some of the mansions for private functions (if you’re really rich)! Since Colin and I just got engaged (yay!), you know I was doing a bit of wild wedding imagining as we walked. We will not, however, be emptying our savings to get married in Newport. Sorry!
Newport’s Cliff Walk is customizable to fit all different types of tourists. Depending on your fitness level and amount of free time, you can walk all 3.5 miles, or just a small part. You can take it fast and get a workout, or you can take it slow. You can focus on the mansions or on the ocean… or both. All this, and it’s free, too!
Have you visited the Cliff Walk? If so, share your story! If not, consider taking the short 1.5-hour trip from Boston (or the perhaps-slightly-longer trip from wherever you are) to experience it soon!