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Mansions and Danger at the Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I.

Don't fall off the cliff in Newport's Cliff Walk!
Don’t fall off the cliff in Newport’s Cliff Walk!

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 Newport 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.

"The Breakers," the uber-famous Vanderbilt family "summer home" mansion.
“The Breakers,” the uber-famous Vanderbilt family “summer home” mansion.

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?

Keep walking! There are many more mansions ahead!
Keep walking! There are dozens and dozens more mansions to see before the sun sets!

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.

Another rather impressive building along the Cliff Walk.
Another rather impressive building along the Cliff Walk.

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.

Stairs from the cliff walk down to the ocean. Dramatic!
Stairs from the cliff walk down to the ocean. Dramatic!

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!

The Cliff Walk is a perfect free family outing. Just don't let your kids jump off the cliff!
The Cliff Walk is a perfect, free family outing. Just don’t let your kids jump off the cliff.

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!

The Cliff Walk in Newport is a romantic activity for all ages! So sweet!
The Cliff Walk in Newport is a romantic activity for all ages. So sweet!

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!

Enjoyed this article? Consider using the following easy affiliate links to search Newport hotel deals, or browse Newport vacation home rentals, as it will support this site with a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks, and happy travels!


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Wednesday 20th of November 2013

This is absolutely gorgeous, thanks for sharing this tip! Definitely putting the "stroll and mansions"-walk on my list now. I'll try not to jump off the cliff ;-)


Monday 9th of September 2013

I just returned home from vacation. I walked The Cliff Walk. It is as beautiful as everyone mentioned. Some comments above mentioned they would feel safer with railings. There are not only railings, but there are also very large stone/rock walls. So there are many secured places to ensure you don't go over the edge. Someone mentioned it is not dangerous. I have to disagree. If you anyone doesn't use common sense, it could be extremely dangerous...even deadly. I say that because although, as I mentioned, there are railings and high stone/rock walls, there are also areas with patches of bushes. I saw a number of people foolishly sitting on the rocks below. I even saw two college men/boys who decided to take a swim. Use caution and common sense when visiting places like this.

Other than that it was a beautiful walk that ends at a beach. Thank you for posting these pictures. I had no idea the brown house was not apart of the university. Most of the homes are well hidden behind bushes/trees, etc. It is a must see if you can.

As far as the Breaker is concerned, there are tours to visit multiple mansions for a variety of fees. If you are a student, there is a discount. So, don't forget to pack your student ID. And get there before 4pm as the close at 5pm. I arrived too late to take advantage of the multi-mansion tour. But, have placed it on my top to-do during my next visit to this town.


Tuesday 10th of September 2013

Wonderful advice. Thanks for sharing!

Dawn Casey-Rowe

Saturday 29th of December 2012

The signs are there because someone fell and there was a suit, but it's really not dangerous. It's a great jog/run, and I highly recommend seeing a mansion or two--they're not cheap--$20ish each, but if you haven't been to Newport, it's wroth it.

Also, the area around Thames St. is not to be missed, and Touro Synagogue is the first synagogue in the nation.

Nice article!!


Saturday 29th of December 2012

We're headed back to Newport in January so we'll take your great suggestions then!

Elizabeth D.

Tuesday 12th of June 2012

The cliff walk looks peaceful but scary at the same time. You can enjoy the beauty, but you could fall right into the water and drown. I would feel a lot safer if there were hand rails.

Shannon D

Saturday 25th of February 2012

I go to the college that is along the Cliff Walk, Salve Regina University, and I have to say, the "Danger Cliffs" sign is hilarious! They just put it up a few months ago! Not to be missed is the "Keep off the Grass. Bad Dog," sign in front of one of the manor houses.If you ever in the New England area, Newport and Cliff Walk are worth it! I dread the day I graduate, and can no longer jog every day on Cliff Walk. Also, and this is important, Wear Approprate Footwear on Cliff Walk! You wouldn't believe how many times I've seen women wearing heels!


Saturday 25th of February 2012

Love this insider view! Thanks for sharing! :)

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