Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.
No visit to Newport, Rhode Island, would be complete without experiencing its stunning Cliff Walk. This 3.5-mile path that hugs the rocky shoreline offers exceptional views of Easton Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and affords a peek at a few of Newport’s stately mansions, most notably the Breakers. It’s a great way to get a little exercise, take in some amazing coastal scenery, and get a look at some of Newport’s most famous homes.
The walk starts on Memorial Drive at the eastern end of Easton Beach, otherwise known as First Beach. You can access the Cliff Walk at numerous other points and I would recommend using the end of Narragansett Avenue as a convenient starting point. Three and a half miles long, the path concludes at Bailey’s Beach, which is located at the very southern end of Bellevue Avenue. Along the route, you will experience a variety of terrain from a smooth asphalt path to outright boulders and rocks. Come prepared for all conditions, especially if you plan to hike the entire length.
If you started the Cliff Walk at Memorial Drive and Easton Beach, the first 2/3 of a mile limits the scenery to views of Easton Bay. Beautiful, yes, but this section of the Cliff Walk does not offer much in the way of peeks at some of the stunning homes that line the coast. There are numerous benches along the way if you need a break, but this section of the walk is fairly easy with all paved paths. You will notice the beautiful hotel located here above the beach, The Chanler, and its finely-manicured grounds make for a nice photo opportunity.
At about 2/3 of a mile into the walk, you will come to what’s known as the “Forty Steps.“ This is located at the end of Narragansett Avenue and as I mentioned earlier it’s my recommended point to jump on the Cliff Walk. At this location, there is ample parking on both sides of Narragansett Avenue although you do have to pay to park here and it does fill up during peak hours. The rate is $1.25 per hour and the Kiosk is located near the restrooms, which is another reason to use this as a starting/ending point. Also, there are bicycle racks here and this comes in handy as biking is one of the best ways to experience Newport. You can also take the Trolley, and this is another great way to get around Newport. We rode our bikes and didn’t have to worry about parking or paying.
The Forty Steps location is appropriately named because, yes, there are 40 granite steps here that will take you down to a small landing area and some large boulders. It’s below the Cliff Walk and gives you a little different perspective of the coastal scenery. It’s a great spot for a picture without other walkers getting in the way. From this point, it’s only about another 1/3 of a mile until you get your first glimpse of the beautiful Breakers Mansion. Before you get to the Breakers you will pass a few other stunning buildings that are all part of the Salve Regina Campus. This has got to be one of the most beautiful college settings that one can imagine. It’s right on the ocean and the views are as good as it gets.
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Shortly after viewing the Breakers, considered Newport's finest mansion, the path will change abruptly to rocks and boulders. They have done a commendable job of trying to place the boulders to form a path but never-the-less, use extreme caution if you want to cross this section of the walk. You’re now about 1.3 miles from the start at Easton Beach and many visitors use this point to turn around as the rocks and boulders can look like a daunting task. If you take your time and use caution you can traverse this section and if you do, more great views and mansions await you.
If you’re still going, next up is a series of three of Newport’s most desirable addresses: Rosecliff Mansion, Beechwood, and the Marble House with its distinctive Tea House sitting prominently above the shore. This section of the walk is considered an unpaved path so it’s not as easy as the paved path but definitely much easier to handle than the rocks and boulders. The hedges that separate the path from the mansion backyards are a little higher here, so you don’t get the nice unobstructed view that you get of the Breakers. The Cliff Walk actually passes right under the Tea House and shortly after you will come to Sheep Point, which is about 2.1 miles into the walk. Here the path once again changes to rocks and boulders and stays this way past Rough Point, Land’s End, and The Waves, three more of the stunning homes that line the coast and are near the southern end of the Cliff Walk.
This marks the southern-most point of the Cliff Walk and from here it’s not far on better terrain to Bailey’s Beach. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’ve hiked the entire length of the Cliff Walk. If you retrace your steps back to Easton Beach, you’ll have covered 7 miles, a pretty good effort I would say. Of course, most people don’t do the entire walk out and back. Most visitors will do just a portion of the walk and you can customize your visit to suit your available time, fitness level, and interest. You can also do the walk one-way and take the Trolley back to where you started. There are countless possibilities.
A Few Important Things to be Aware of When Hiking the Cliff Walk.
- The shrubs that line the fence to keep people from falling into the ocean contain poison ivy so be careful, we noticed it in many locations.
- Wear appropriate footwear. I can’t tell you how many people we saw wearing flip-flops while trying to get over the rocks and boulders.
- Consider going early in the day or early evening. The crowds are fewer, and the sun will not be as strong. There is very little shade on the walk so bring a hat and water.
- Consider biking or taking the Trolley to one of the Cliff Walk entrances to avoid having to park.
- The Cliff Walk is a great spot for a morning run before it gets crowded. The views don’t get much better than this. Bicycles are not allowed on the Cliff Walk.
- Dogs are allowed if they are on a leash, and please pick up after them.
There are numerous major entry points that you can take to access the Cliff Walk. They are Memorial Blvd. near Easton Beach, Narragansett Ave., Webster Ave., Sheppard Ave., Ruggles Ave., Marine Ave., Ledge Road, and Bailey’s Beach which is located at the end of Bellevue Ave. We like Narragansett Avenue because we stayed close to this point, there are bike racks and restrooms, and the Breakers and Salve Regina are very close to this entrance spot. I would consider the portion of the Cliff Walk between Forty Steps and the Tea House to be the most scenic stretch as it offers exceptional coastal views and a peek at the mansions.
Enjoy your journey on one of the most scenic walks that you can take. Newport has a lot to offer visitors, but you will regret leaving if you have not experienced its breathtaking Cliff Walk.
© 2021 Bill De Giulio