7 Wonders of Newport, Rhode Island

VIDEO: Take a trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Newport, Road Island.
ABCNEWS.com

The New England coastal town of Newport, R.I., represents life the way it should be.

But what makes Newport stand out as a "Good Morning America Most Beautiful Place in America?

How about breathtaking shorelines, gorgeous sunsets, sparkling waters, gilded mansions, fresh seafood, world-renowned sailing and a rich history, just to name a few?

Newport begins with three-and-a-half miles of elevated footpaths, providing the perfect view between the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean and 350 years of living history, including some of the grandest homes ever built in America. Just a few miles away, the town's picturesque harbor, known as "the sailing capital of the world," is home to America's Cup sailboats, yachts and everything in between.

Whether you are visiting with family and friends or escaping for a romantic getaway, you'll find unparalleled beauty, an endless amount of sights and sounds, and endless amounts of ways to discover it all. Don't be surprised in Newport to see people traveling by car, by bike, by boat, of course, and even by Scoot Coupes, two-passenger scooters that let you see the town's scenery and sights at your own pace.

Head for Thames Street to do some shopping; listen to live bands while you eat fresh-from-the-ocean seafood at Bowen's Wharf; view the memorabilia of tennis legends, watch a sunset aboard the Weatherly sailboat; view the mansions of American royalty like the Vanderbilts, or just sit in an Adirondack chair on the lawn of the luxurious Castle Inn and soak it all in, Newport has something for everyone.

Newport's sheer beauty, and relaxing atmosphere is a simple reminder of what living really means. It's safe to say you have not experienced life's pleasures until you've made a trip to this treasure-by-the-sea.

PHOTO: The International Tennis Hall of Fame is one of the many destinations that make Newport, R.I., one of the most beautiful places in America.
Cassandra Arsenault/ABC News
International Tennis Hall of Fame
The International Tennis Hall of Fame is one of the many destinations that make Newport, R.I., one of the most desirable places in America.

The Hall of Fame is dedicated to preserving the history of tennis and fostering a place of competitive play for tennis enthusiasts worldwide.

The institution's plain, sidewalk-facing entrance gives no indication to the rich history and wondrous tennis secrets that lay inside. Built in 1880, the museum inside the Hall of Fame chronicles the history of tennis through interactive exhibits, videos, popular memorabilia from champions of both the past and today, as well as the names and faces of players inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame itself.

Outside the museum's walls, the Hall of Fame's property also includes several grass tennis courts surrounded by Victorian-shingle style architecture.

It is a must while you're in Newport to visit and play on these grass-courts but, be warned, you will find the game a bit tougher since the ball bounces a lot less on this playing surface!

Nowhere else in the world can you play a game, set, match, and then talk a walk through the ages of tennis history!

PHOTO: "Good Morning America's" Lara Spencer strolls with a friend along Cliff Walk, the 3.5 mile loop along the shoreline of Newport, R.I., that is one of the town's top attractions.
Cassandra Arsenault/ABC News
Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk along Newport's eastern shore is not only considered the town's top attraction, but is world famous for combining the beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport's gilded age.

The Walk was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1975, making it the 65th in the nation and the first in New England to achieve such a designation.

A stroll along the 3.5 miles of the Cliff's untouched, dirt roads will allow you to hear the soothing sounds of the ocean waves breaking against the enormous cliff rocks. Some spots of the path place you just a few feet from drops of over 70 feet into the ocean, while others allow you to stop and enjoy being in the midst of the best of New England's wildflowers, birds and geology.

Adding to its famous scenery and allure, the cliff is lined by Newport's famous mansions whose size, opulence and beauty will make you stop and gasp out loud. The Breakers, once owned by the Vanderbilt family and now considered the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages," is just one of the mansions that will draw your eyes away from the beauty of the natural surroundings.

The enthralling combination, highlighted by the trails of Cliff Walk, of a gorgeous beach shoreline with stunning architectural history is just another aspect that makes Newport utterly desirable.

PHOTO: Newport's famed Bowen's Wharf district is one of the town's premier seaside shopping, restaurant, maritime and all-around entertainment destinations.
Cassandra Arsenault/ABC News
Bowen's Wharf
Brick and cobblestone walkways welcome visitors to Bowen's Wharf, a shopping and eating mecca that represents the heart of Newport's commerce and cultural roots.

The Wharf's granite quays and 18th century commercial buildings remind visitors of Newport's thriving seaport beginnings. Today the Wharf, filled year-round with tourists and natives alike, is home to modern-day restaurants and an eclectic mix of stores and galleries.

The Wharf also serves as the town's cultural center, hosting festivals and events throughout the year such as a Christmas tree lighting, boat show and seafood festival.

While tourists flock to the shopping and good eats, you're more likely to spot a Newport native having a meal just as the sun sets, or enjoying cocktails with friends on the deck of their yacht or sailboat.

One thing everyone agrees is a must-do at the Wharf is taking in the best and freshest seafood the New England harbor has to offer. Lobster rolls, clam chowder, a raw seafood bar selection just plain lobster fresh from the sea are among the dishes that will not disappoint your tastebuds.

Rose Island Lighthouse
The Rose Island Lighthouse is not only a Newport landmark but also a must-see destination for visitors and Newport natives alike.

The Lighthouse sits on one of the two islands that compose Rose Island, an 18.5 acre property just off the coast of Newport that was used during World Wars I and II as a Navy Torpedo Station where explosives were stored.

Today, the island is open to visitors year-round as a travel destination, accessible only by boat.

The Lighthouse itself was operated until 1970 but fell to abandonment and vandalization before being bought and restored by The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation in 1984 on behalf of the city of Newport.

Visitors can tour Rose Island for the day, or take on the ultimate experience by staying at its famous lighthouse overnight as a guest, or for as long as a week as an actual lighthouse keeper, complete with all the regular chores and responsibilities that job entails.

Although there are plenty of people around the island during the summer months, visitors during Newport's harsh winters may find themselves totally isolated on the island.

If you are a lighthouse admirer, or just a fan of the sea and adventure, a visit to the Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport is an experience you can't miss!

PHOTO: The yacht Weatherly
Courtesy Americas Cup Charters
Weatherly Sailboat
Newport is often hailed as one of the top sailing venues in the U.S., just one reason the town was selected by the New York Yacht Club to host the prestigious America's Cup sailing competition from 1930-2003.

The races in Newport during those years were followed closely by the likes of President and Mrs. Kennedy, none more so than the closely battled 1962 America's Cup, ultimately won by the Weatherly Sailboat.

As one of only three surviving wooden America's Cup Defenders in the world today, the Weatherly is known by boat lovers as a legend in American sailing history. The sailboat's dramatic, 1962 victory off the shores of Newport made it synonymous with the town itself, where locals and tourists alike can, today, charter the boat for an experience of their own.

The Weatherly is a stunning sight when its sails are raised and in full force. An experience on the Weatherly, according to those lucky enough to have done so, is one that will stay cemented into your mind for years to come.

The peacefulness of the water, along side the champagne sunsets atop the Wetherly is one of the best ways to start a relaxing evening in Newport. As the hot sun deceases below the horizon, the oranges, reds, and yellows that reflect off the water is one sight you cannot miss.

PHOTO: Once a summer home for a Harvard University professor, Newport's Castle Hill Inn is now a luxury hotel that provides Newport's visitors the warmth and quiet of 19th century seacoast life.
Cassandra Arsenault/ABC News
Castle Hill Inn
One of the most relaxing and picture-perfect landmarks of Newport is Castle Hill Inn, a luxury hotel that once served as the summer house for renowned scientist and explorer Alexander Agassiz.

Agassiz recognized the location, on a small peninsula where the Atlantic meets Narragansett Bay, as a perfect place from which to observe marine mammals and so had a sprawling home built there for him in 1874.

Long since put into service as a luxury hotel, what was once Agassiz's Victorian mansion has not lost its charm. One step onto the property takes you back into the warmth and quiet of 19th century, seacoast life.

The Inn today features nine guests rooms and suites, the most luxurious of which features a 360-degree ocean view and soaking tub overlooking the sea.

The Inn's large, green grass backyard overlooking the sparkling ocean allows for guests to lounge around, take a quiet walk along the shoreline or enjoy a great view of the sailboats passing by while sipping on cocktails for an early happy hour.

If that wasn't enough, the Castle Hill property also includes a lighthouse that has long been one of Newport's most charming landmarks.

White Horse Tavern
On the corner of Farewell and Marlborough streets in Newport sits the White House Tavern, a Newport landmark known as much for its good food as its haunted past.

The Tavern is the oldest tavern in America and was originally constructed before 1673 as the two-room, two story residence of Francis Brinley. After changing hands and opening as a restaurant, the Tavern, in 1708, became "birthplace of the businessman's lunch" as city councilors came to eat, and charged their meals to the government.

In the 1980s, stewardship of the Tavern was turned over to Paul Hogan, a Newport native and only the Tavern's sixth owner in three hundred and fifty years. The White Horse Tavern still today encompasses classic colonial Newport style with its clapboard walls, gambrel roof and plain doors on the outside, and giant beams, small stairway, tiny front hall and cavernous fireplaces in the interior.

The real mystique, or draw for ghost lovers, behind the Tavern, however, is the fact a stop there may lead you to discover more than one kind of spirit at this, America's oldest tavern.

The Tavern's famous, haunted tale goes that two travelers arrived there late one night in the 1720s. The next morning, one of the men was gone and the other man was dead, found laying by the fireplace in his room with no sign of struggle. The mystery was never solved, and so the tales of being able to see a ghost at the right-hand side of the fireplace continue to this day.

Nearly every member of the Tavern's staff will say they've had some kind of encounter, from reports of being tapped on the shoulder, being told to lock up even though it's not closing time or hearing footsteps in the other room.

The mysterious aura makes the Tavern a frequent stop on Newport's ghost and candlelight tours, and a must-stop destination for any visitor to Newport.

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