Historic Newport Embodies New England Boating

Newport, Rhode Island, is the heart of New England’s boating scene.

Castle Hill Lighthouse
Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay are as quintessential to this region as lobster is to Maine. Solepsizm/Shutterstock

Few chairs are as simple as the Adirondack, which (at least some experts say) a man built from 11 planks of wood after becoming frustrated by uncomfortable lakefront furniture in the early 1900s. The chair soon became a staple along waterfronts from New York to New England, where it could be left outside in scenic spots for watching boats cruise past.

Even today, that kind of simplicity is still relaxing, especially in places like Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, a boater’s paradise where summer regattas put on a fantastic show. Few of life’s pleasures are as easily accessible as sitting in an Adirondack chair high above the shore and watching a heck of a lot of great boats go by.

The most famous harbor on Narragansett Bay is the one at Newport, a city that dates to the 1600s and the New England whaling industry. Today, Newport is as much a tourist town as it is a seafarer city, with world-class marinas and services within walking distance of restaurants, shops, music clubs and more.

Cruising here is great on your own boat—or on a rental that can give you a taste of the city’s storied sailing history. Many of the classic America’s Cup 12 Meters that raced here years ago are now available for charter, either through daily ticket purchases or by way of custom bookings. You can get a feel for the action with a two- or three-hour sail, or book a whole boat for one of the harbor’s special events, such as Fourth of July fireworks.

Many boaters like to cruise to Newport in July for the annual Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival, both staged at Fort Adams State Park. The park is on the waterfront, which means boats can anchor out and hear the music without ever stepping ashore. There’s usually serious talent on stage; over the years, musicians such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Muddy Waters have performed.

And, if you have a foldable Adirondack-style chair on board, feel free to position it on deck and enjoy the view too.

The Boaters’ Bay

Narragansett Bay is at the north end of Rhode Island Sound, which hosted America’s Cup Races from 1930 to 1983. Today, all kinds of boats cruise and race here, making for on-water fun and a great spectator sport. It’s not unusual to see J Boats or classic Herreshoff Designs take to the bay en masse for regattas, or to see Downeast powerboats strutting with style across the local waters. The Herreshoff Marine Museum borders Narragansett Bay in Bristol, and has transient dockage and moorings available from mid-May through the middle of October. The America’s Cup Hall of Fame is on-site, with half-hull models on display.

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