Newport, Rhode Island: The Sailing Capital of the World
Open waters, near-constant breezes, centuries of nautical history, a hotbed of international racing (America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race), and a scenic and accessible waterfront — you can’t deny that Newport, Rhode Island is the sailing capital of the world.
- Where to go sailing in Newport
- Best time of year to go sailing in Newport
- Things to do in Newport
You’re next sailing adventure is in Newport. Continue reading for an in-depth scope of this destination.
Where to Go Sailing in Newport
Newport is on Aquidneck Island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay, a sprawling body of water that has hundreds of nooks and crannies to explore. Seafarers have been plying the waters of Narragansett Bay since before the 1600s, and Newport has hung onto much of its nautical history, so it has a vibe sailors love.
This natural deep-water harbor provides plenty of protected sailing but also quick and direct access to the ocean past Castle Hill Lighthouse. For over six months of the year, Newport is the place to be for sailors and landlubbers alike, and it’s close to both Boston and New York, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway and some time under sail.
You can’t miss sailing under the Newport Bridge along with many local classic vessels that make the Bay seem like a floating museum. You can have a tacking duel up to Portsmouth and Bristol or circumnavigate Conanicut or Prudence Islands. Whether racing or leisurely cruising, there are many ways to experience the waters around Newport.
Best Time of Year to Go Sailing in Newport
Newport has a relatively mild climate for a northeastern destination due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream that comes from Florida. This helps make the sailing season fairly long, from April until October, when you can wear a light jacket or fleece.
Balmy weather greets sailors with 70+ degree water throughout most of the summer, but only “frostbiters” raise sail in early spring or winter.
Things to Do in Newport
Newport is a year-round land and sea destination.
- Newport Bermuda Race takes place in June every other year, a serious 600+ mile regatta that tests offshore skills. It’s the oldest, regularly scheduled international race that takes crews out of sight of land for the better part of a week, so it requires experience. Other yachting events include the Candy Store Cup, the J Class Championships, and the Newport Yacht Show.
- Work up a good appetite after a morning of tacking and visit one of the many waterfront restaurants, including the casual Deck at Waite’s Wharf or the local favorite Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf. For a fun meal in a working boatyard, try Belle’s Café at the Newport Shipyard or tuck into a lobster roll at Newport Lobster Shack. Finally, don’t miss the historic White Horse Tavern serving customers for over 350 years, or plan your visit to coincide with the Newport Oyster and Chowder Festival in May.
- Newport has a healthy amount of dockage options at small private docks, large marinas with guest facilities, and even on mooring balls throughout the harbor so you can park and enjoy the town’s many shoreside attractions like the awesome Newport Mansions that were “summer cottages” of the extremely wealthy a century ago. Most mansions are open as museums and are managed by the Preservation Society of Newport.
- For history as well as great views, check out Fort Adams State Park or have a cocktail on the lawn of the Ocean Cliff Hotel and survey where all you have or could still sail. Don’t forget the Sailing Museum, which is home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame that honors legends of the sport.
If you plan to rent a self-sail boat, check out Rhode Island’s boating safety certification requirements.
It’s not unusual to see Newport’s population turn out in the streets in their foul weather gear during inclement weather. That’s how you know you’re in a sailor’s town. If you like to raise sails, don’t miss this magical place.
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Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin.
A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide.
Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico.