Rhode Island: Spotlight on Bowen’s Wharf, Newport


For years, historic Newport, Rhode Island, was known as the vacation hotspot for New England’s upper crust. The region’s elite families would flock to their extravagant “cottages” on the East Coast — palatial mansions decked out in near-gaudy finery. Now, Newport still attracts a fair bit of wealth, but the average traveler can have an equally grand time in this seaside town.

One of the fantastic things about the Bowen’s Wharf neighborhood of Newport is its abundance of things to see, eat, drink and enjoy, all in one very condensed space.

Points of Interest

From coffee to maritime history to affordable lodging, you’ll find it all at the Seamen’s Church Institute (Photo: Seamen’s Church Institute)

Seamen’s Church Institute: Built in 1930, this Georgian-style structure is one of the very few on the Newport waterfront still used for its original purpose. Founded to assist those in the maritime industry, the Institute now hosts the newly-opened Discovery Deck, providing the public with education regarding both the industry and Newport’s history. The top floor offers bed-and-breakfast-style lodging with a nautical feel and views of the water. 

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Enjoy beautiful views of the sea and shore, from your very own yacht tour (Photo: Holly Riddle)

Gansett Cruises: It’s difficult to visit Bowen’s Wharf without spending a good part of your time enjoying the beautiful seaside scenery. With Narragansett Bay right there, you may be tempted to head out on the water. If that’s the case, Gansett Cruises takes travelers right there from the Bowen’s Wharf neighborhood to the open ocean, with narrated harbor boat tours and sunset cruises.

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Trinity Church: Just across the street, Trinity Church was built in 1726 and offers public tours for those intrigued by the structure’s history. Interesting fixtures include the original box pews (which are in differing shapes and sizes reflecting the individuals who paid for their pews and their various means) and the wine-glass pulpit, popular during colonial times. It’s the only center-aisle, freestanding, triple-decked pulpit left in America.

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Island Style Parasail: If your idea of a good time includes some high-adrenaline thrills rather than touring historic structures, Island Style Parasail may be more up your alley. This vendor takes off from the Bowen’s Wharf neighborhood and takes you out onto the bay for a birds-eye view of all the points of interest in the surrounding area.

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Shop for clothing, snacks and more at Bowen’s Wharf (Photo: Holly Riddle)

Soap & Water: For cozy gifts and all you need to stay your prettiest over the holiday season, Soap & Water has you covered. The boutique shop with big character provides luxurious bath and body products, all in one spot, from your favorite brands to newly discovered favorites.

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Anchor Toffee: You’ll want to stop by this local shop to pick up both some gifts and a healthy helping of toffee all for yourself. The family-owned business creates almond butter toffee from scratch, and you can choose from the chocolate-covered variety or the “naked” option. We’d always recommend the chocolate, though. The addictive treat will have you craving it long after you’ve left Newport. 

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Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen: Enjoy a casual, yet upscale space in which to try the local version of one of your favorite cocktails, alongside a selection of fresh and seasonal bites. The convenient location means you’re right near prime shopping, as well as several other restaurants and bars, so you can continue your tour of Newport’s dining and libations with ease. 

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Diego’s: You probably think of fine Mexican dining and think of quite a few other destinations before your mind floats to Newport, but you’ll discover just that at Diego’s. The Mexican-style menu includes some subtle twists on your classic favorites and the cocktail menu is equally deletable. 

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Sprinkles Ice Cream: Get your summer scoop at Sprinkles, where they say the sprinkles are always free. The small shop serves up New England-made ice cream in a variety of unique flavors, along with frozen yogurt, coffee and espresso.

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22 Bowen’s: For sophisticated, upscale tavern dining, look nowhere other than 22 Bowen’s. The convenient spot mixed with the indulgent menu makes for a smart pick for sure. Of course, you can expect plenty of seafood on the menu, along with lots of equally decadent options for the non-seafood-lover in your travel group.

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The Wharf Pub: One of our favorite reasons to visit this eatery, with its more traditional, pub-style food? It’s all about the tater tots. Yes, you read that right — the tater tots. The Wharf Pub has an extensive selection to choose from, ranging from more traditional to totally decadent, like the Big Country tots drowning in chorizo gravy.  

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Clarke Cooke House: For fresh seafood regardless of the time of year you visit, the Clarke Cooke House delivers. If you’re on a budget, try some of the more affordable lunch options, which are far from your plain-Jane salad and soup options. Instead, you’ll dine on delicious seafood salad, steamed mussels and more.

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The Cookie Jar: For breakfast, your coffee fix and just a treat any time of day, The Cookie Jar delivers. You serve your own coffee and then pick the pastry or sweet of your choice from a small display case. The tiny, quaint little hideaway is cozy and friendly. Just be sure to bring cash, as there’s a minimum purchase required for payment with credit card. 

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Newport Fruit & Smoothie Co.: If you’re still working on your beach body or just trying to stave off the holiday pounds, Newport Fruit & Smoothie Co. delivers dairy-free, vegan, no-added-sugar smoothies. Additionally, the seasonal shop offers fresh-squeezed lemonade and dessert crepes.

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By Holly Riddle