Be it as a stepping stone for those heading further afield, or a permanent base, be it racing or cruising, big boats or dinghies, Newport has it all, afloat and ashore. Along with the beautiful and varied cruising grounds that surround it, this New England city in Narragansett Bay has a distinctive buzz born out of its long and historic association with the sailing world. Famous for it’s racing scene, Newport Rhode Island is perhaps best known for hosting the America’s Cup from 1930 until the memorable and historic day in 1983 when the Australians broke the longest winning streak in sporting history as they wrestled the Cup from the hosts after 132 years.
But this popular and picturesque setting also provides endless opportunities to live life at a more relaxed pace as you drop anchor, sit back, relax and take it all in. Famous for the elegant and immaculately kept mansions, it’s historic museums and of course the exclusive New York Yacht Club, the city has enough to make it a destination in itself, yet the wider Newport area has even more to offer.
As easy to reach from abroad as it is easy to base yourself here for the long term, Newport RI is a popular base for the locals, as it is for the many that come from outside the territory. It is why we maintain our Oyster USA base here where, with the help of our highly experienced staff we can offer everything you might need from fit out to advice on where to cruise. For many, Newport is a home from home, no matter how far they have travelled.
Whether you’ve based yourself here or are just passing through, ‘The City by the Sea,’ is famous for its mansions, the spectacular beauty of the three-mile coastal hugging Cliff Walk on the west side, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and many restaurants and bars. The ‘must do’ restaurant is The Clarke Cooke House situated on Bannister’s Wharf. Among the places to stay, Newport Shipyard is the most central and closest to town, and where Oyster USA is based. Goat Island is a little further out, low key and quieter. While it is further to walk into town it does have a marina café/bar providing a casual place to have a drink and a snack. There is also Gurney’s Resort, a restaurant with an outdoor pool/bar area and the best views of the Newport Bridge.
Just 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island and to the south west of Newport is quaint, quiet Block Island. Within its 25 square miles there are 17 miles of pristine beaches, a varied terrain of hills, hundreds of freshwater ponds, 2,000 miles of stone walls and a unique variety of flora and fauna. After lunch aboard, explore the island by bike. Alternatively, take lunch ashore at The Oar which is located at the Boat Basin in New Harbour on the Great Salt Pond. This is the main area for visitors, often referred to as New Harbour to differentiate it from the original commercial harbour on the east side of the island. The Block Island Boat Basin moorings are popular here and are available on a first-come, first-served basis but beware, during the height of the summer it’s busy.
This small island to the east of Newport is just one mile long and three quarters of a mile wide. A favourite for many local sailors, half of the island is a nature reserve. A great destination for a walk after a relaxed lunch aboard. In particular, take a hike to the island’s highest point for a spectacular view of the eastward-running archipelago, its surrounding waters and the distinctive cliffs of Martha's Vineyard to the southeast. For those looking to stay overnight, Cuttyhunk Pond is the main attraction for many where there are around 50 moorings available on a first come first served basis. In calm weather it is possible to anchor in the outer harbour between Cuttyhunk and Nashawena Island to the east, but it is exposed from northwest to northeast.
In the morning depart for the elegant port of Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. The harbour has both moorings and dockside space available but is very popular during the season and it’s easy to see why. From strolling down the cobblestone streets or the beaches of famous Chappaquiddick Point there’s plenty to do here. Have lunch ashore at a dockside bistro and then rent bikes to explore the rest of the island which has plenty of bicycle route and lanes.
Atria and L’Etoile are just two of many popular restaurants, but if you’re willing to travel a bit further take a cab to the Chilmark Tavern, one of the best restaurants on the island, towards the south western tip. Menemsha Bight is a special place to sit at anchor and watch the sunset as you dine on the fresh lobster you bought on the quayside. Bear in mind that it can be a rolly place to anchor in anything but calm conditions, especially as it is exposed from the northeast round to the west. There are a number of moorings outside Menemsha harbour and just two moorings inside the mooring basin which can be reserved via the harbour master. There is no room to anchor inside the breakwater and Menemsha Pond is not a place for large keelboats.
Cruise Tip: Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard is a very popular place with berths often booked a year in advance. While you can anchor outside, you are not as close to the town. So while Martha’s Vineyard is well worth a visit, you have to plan ahead for this one.
It’s a short sail from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, home to fashionable summer residents, itinerant yachtsmen, and the seasonal scallop and cranberry industries. Nantucket’s harbour has over 100 moorings and does accept reservations but require a 2 or 3 night booking. Out of season you can get an unreserved mooring on a first come first served basis. Moorings can be a distance from the town but there is a launch service available. It is possible to anchor in the harbour but this will be further out than the moorings. Nantucket has plenty to offer from water sports, sightseeing and relaxation. After lunch on board take a tour of the whaling museum and the cranberry bogs. When it comes to dining there is a huge range of great restaurants and bars to choose from, simply walk ashore and take your pick.
Dick Hammill, original owner - Oyster 575 ‘Spirit’
“We bounced back and forth between the Caribbean and Newport for over three years. There was always something about heading into Narragansett Bay and on into Newport that was magical - maybe all the yachts, maybe the charm of this beautiful New England town, maybe the people.“
Greg White, owner - Oyster 625 ‘Latitude’
“Anchoring the tender off Fort Adams for the Newport Jazz or Folk Festivals is a unique and highly recommended Newport experience. As much to see among the partying neighbours as there is on stage.”
John McTigue, owner - Oyster 625 ‘Irish Blessing’
“It’s a sailing paradise! Tons of great bays, places to visit, and Irish pubs all over as a bonus. For a shorter haul pick up a mooring in Newport, call the tender and head to town. Tons of shopping and restaurants. Go see the Onne van der Wall nautical photography gallery, one of the best yacht photographers in the world. By then you’re parched so head to my favourite pub the Fastnet. Great Guinness and on Sundays they have live Irish music.”
These cruise guides are intended as food for thought only based on the experiences of those who have been there and do not form a definitive guide. The locations should always be studied using the appropriate pilots and charts.
Pilot book suggestions:
In most cases there are many useful pilot books and guides that are available and should be consulted before and during the trip. Among those that come highly recommended are:
South West Ireland Sailing Guide