Newport, Rhode Island – Cliff Walk

Hi friends, welcome back to day two of our trip to Newport, Rhode Island! In case you missed part one you can check it out here. This trip was all about relaxing and not having each day tediously planned out, so we slept in on our first morning in Newport. Feeling very refreshed, we walked down to Drift to grab some coffee. I absolutely love starting my day walking to grab coffee, especially on vacation. Jon stuck with a cold brew and I ordered an iced latte.

From the coffee shop we walked a little over a mile to the start of the Cliff Walk at Memorial Boulevard. Walking the famous Cliff Walk was one of the activities I was looking forward to the most on this trip and it exceeded my expectations. A beautiful day, an ocean breeze, and stunning homes, what more can you ask for?


The 3.5 mile walk started pretty easy on a paved path, but as it went on, the path became pretty rocky. I would highly recommend wearing stable shoes if you’re going the whole path because you have to scramble from rock to rock, but as long as you’re careful it’s pretty safe.

One of the first sites along the Cliff Walk is Forty Steps. You can climb down from these stairs onto the rocks below to swim or fish, but we opted for the photo op instead. There are public restrooms at the top of the stairs and also a bus stop.

Salve Regina University is a liberal arts school nestled in among the Newport Gilded Age mansions. Over the years quite a few of the mansions have been converted into dorms, classrooms, and libraries. Ochre Court, now the main administrative building, was the first official building of Salve Regina University and home to the original fifty-eight students. The first floor was the cafeteria and lounge, second housed the classrooms, and the students lived on the third floor. This mansion was built in 1892 and is the second largest in Newport after The Breakers. The architect, Richard Morris Hunt, also built The Breakers, Marble House, and Chateau-sur-Mer in Newport. It was built by Ogden Goelet an heir to a real estate developer. Ogden was an avid yachtsman and died onboard his yacht in the Isle of Wight. The boat sailed back with his body and even hosted his funeral.

These pictures of the interior are from the Salve Regina University website.

McAuley Hall houses classrooms, faculty offices, and the spring commencement on the lawn with a stunning view of the ocean. This mansion used to be the summer home of tobacco heiress Catherine Lorillard Wolfe. Her father was one of the founders of the American Natural History Museum, but her mother was the partial inheritor of the Lorillard Tobacco (markets cigarettes under the names Newport, Maverick, and others) fortune. When Catherine’s parents died, she inherited $12 million (equivalent of $271 million dollars today) and could easily afford to have this home built. She never married or had children but did a lot of philanthropic work. A wing was named after her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after some very generous donations of money and paintings.

We had a great view of The Breakers, the summer home of the Vanderbilts, but we couldn’t see quite a few of the other famous Gilded Age Mansions from the path. Luckily we watched a YouTube video and knew ahead of time or I would’ve been quite surprised. I loved seeing glimpses of the mansions and wondering about the people that used to live there. I will have separate posts for the mansions we toured because I find them so fascinating, I hope you will too!

A lot of the houses looked partially obstructed like this one.

Rough Point is currently open as a 105 room museum by the Newport Restoration Foundation. It was originally built for Frederick William Vanderbilt, the sixth child of William Vanderbilt, and grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was so rich that Frederick Olmstead, the architect of Central Park and Mount Royal in Montreal, designed his backyard too. The home was sold and renovated quite a few times until James Buchanan Duke bought the home. His dad, Washington Duke, was the founder of the American Tobacco Company (they consolidated control with Lorillard and three other companies to own 90% of the tobacco industry until the Supreme Court disbanded it for antitrust violations) and who Duke University was named after. In addition to his tobacco company inheritance, James Buchanan Duke also created an electrical company now known as the Duke Energy Corporation. He created the Duke Endowment and gave the equivalent of $1.6 billion to it to support Duke University, Davidson College, a few hospitals, children’s homes, and rural United Methodist Churches in North Carolina. The other $1 billion (approx.) of his estate went to his daughter Doris, often referred to as “the richest girl in the world”. When her mother died she inherited an additional $250 million (approx.).

Doris is credited with preserving eighty Newport historic buildings and created the Newport Restoration Foundation. She appointed her good friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to be Vice President of the Foundation. There are rumors that Doris ran over and killed her art curator after he resigned and bribed the police and medical examiners afterwards to get away with it. The preservation society was created just a few months later, so people think she did it as a cover up so the city would turn a blind eye to her fit of rage. When Doris died, she was worth an estimated $1.2 billion that a majority of, after all the litigation concerning her will, went to charity. I somehow didn’t know this house was open for tours, so I’ll have to come back one day 🙂

There are also some newer homes that are privately owned along the walk.

Jon and I easily made it the full 3.5 miles to Reject Beach and then took the free Trolley back to town. We walked into the Corner Café for brunch and it was such a lovely place. I ordered some French Toast and Jon went with the Home Fry Fiesta. Compared to the French Toast I have had in NYC this was a little unimpressive, but I had to save room for dinner.

We did a little shopping in town and then freshened up for dinner. Washing off all my sticky sun tan lotion always feels so good! We walked to dinner at Jo’s American Bistro for our 6pm reservation. We started off with some strong drinks and perfectly crispy fried chicken for appetizers. They also had a lobster and duck quesadilla we were debating on, but we didn’t want to completely spoil our dinner.

I ordered the burger and it tasted perfect!

Jon went with the fish and chips and said it was the best he’s had. I tried a bit and would agree! It just melted in your mouth and was so flavorful.

For dessert we got the peach bread pudding and it was the perfect end to a delicious meal! I’d definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re visiting Newport.

I hope you enjoyed following along on the Cliff Walk! It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon, we had such a relaxing time. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole when researching the owners of these fabulous mansions, they’re just so fascinating! I hope you enjoyed them because I have the most famous Gilded Age mansions on deck starting with The Breakers.

40 thoughts on “Newport, Rhode Island – Cliff Walk

  1. There is something delicious about being on vacation with no real fixed agenda, just letting your feet take you anywhere, even if it is just for coffee. The walk looks great and what can I say about the summer homes/mansions of the rich and famous? The first place we saw summer homes and cottages that would rival anything the common man lived in all year was in Bar Harbour. At that time our home was more like one of their gatehouses. Looks like plenty of good food options and having fish and chips near where it is caught fresh is always a good choice. Happy Monday Lyssy. Allan

    1. I agree, it’s refreshing to have a vacation that actually feels like a vacation and not a sight seeing marathon every once in a while. It sure is interesting to see how the rich and famous live! I think one of the Cliff Walk owners had a house in Bar Harbor too, but I can’t remember which one. Lots of good places to eat in Newport for sure!

  2. I really enjoyed this post. We loved visiting Newport but it has been many years. I have a friend that graduated from Salve Regina but had no idea how elaborate the campus was. We are getting ready for a 6 week road trip in February. I will miss the water and trees but anxious to visit the National Parks we have not seen yet.

    1. So glad you enjoyed this post! It would be interesting to have such a unique campus. Can’t wait to see pictures from your trip!

  3. Great post, Lyssy! It is so hard to imagine that kind of wealth – especially that long ago! The mansions are just spectacular as are the scenic views of the surrounding water and beaches. I am looking forward to your posts covering the mansion tours.

    1. It is hard to imagine having that kind of wealth and living in these massive homes only 6 weeks a year! I can’t blame them, those waterfront views are spectacular.

  4. We’ve only walked the cliff walk a time or two (and only large portions of it at that) but it is always a fun day. I’ll have to keep that restaurant in mind for our next trip! I can’t wait to see what mansions you toured; we’ve toured several of them (a few of them we’ve toured a couple of times– during the regular season and decorated for Christmas).

    1. It’s a nice way to get some fresh air and the views can’t be beat! We ate very well this trip 🙂 I would love to see them again decorated for Christmas, maybe one day I can convince Jon to go back with me.

    1. Definitely cost a fortune! Would be incredible to wake up to that view though, it’s so pretty!

  5. Pat and I went to Newport in the winter. The cliff walk looks so different in the summer! I couldn’t believe how luxurious everything is. We didn’t go inside any mansions so I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts about those tours!

    1. I think you need to go back for a weekend in the summer, then you’ll like it a lot more. The homes are so luxurious and to only spend 6 weeks there a year is mind boggling!

    1. That fresh, ocean breeze was amazing! It would have been cool to be a fly on the wall and see what life was like back then for these people.

  6. We hiked along the Cliff Walk a few years ago when we visited Newport. It’s a lovely walk with views of the coastline on one side and views of extravagant mansions on the other. Looks like you had fabulous weather to soak in all the sights.

    1. It is a lovely walk and the perfect day made it even better! It wasn’t super crowded when we went too so we could go at our own pace.

  7. The Cliff Walk looks amazing, I understand why you were looking forward to it so much! I also love looking at beautiful houses and mansions, and their history is also fascinating! I can’t imagine going to university in such beautiful buildings ahah holidays with no fixed plans are great because you end up savouring every moment of it without rushing from one thing to another, and they are also more relaxing! Thanks for sharing this beautiful second day!

    1. It was so beautiful! The homes along the way are so gorgeous and it would be cool to have them on your campus! It is nice having no plans, then you leave without feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation.

  8. So the best fish and chips are in Newport? That seems fitting. I didn’t realize the Cliff Walk included some rock-hopping – good to know. And the very first mansion photo suggests you could just walk up those stairs to the front door, although I’m sure that’s not the case. Most of the fencing looks effective in keeping people out. but you have to wonder how many have scaled those fences for a closer look? The mansions, both historic and modern, are stunning. Looking forward to your upcoming posts about them.

    1. We saw people with poor footwear struggling near the end of the train and zipped right by. The first one is a fancy hotel, so you could go up but wouldn’t get too far. I’m sure quite a few people were bold and scaled the fences. Touring the mansions was awesome!

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