The Best (and Queerest) Guide to Newport, Rhode Island

From legendary cruising spots to a rare LGBTQ bookstore, this coastal village is the place to be when P-town and Fire Island get overrun.

The charming seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island, is known for its outlandish mansions, scenic Cliff Walk, and iconic folk festival. For an LGBTQ-friendly escape with numerous queer-owned businesses, take a drive over the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge to this quieter coastal village when P-town and Fire Island get overrun.

Where to Stay

Cliffside Inn
Cliffside Inn.

Visitors will find a wide variety of options for all price points when it comes to accommodations on this small island measuring just 11.4 square miles. Those options include everything from beachy Airbnb cottages to Victorian B&Bs to LGBTQ-friendly hotels like Hotel Viking, which boasts chic, spacious guest rooms and Newport’s best rooftop bar. Centrally located in Downtown Newport, it has fantastic views of the harbor and is a short walk to premiere nightlife and restaurants.

Just remember, summertime in Newport means weddings every weekend, so if you’re looking to stay at The Chanler at Cliff Walk or the fancy Cliffside Inn, be sure to book in advance.

Where to Eat and Drink

Salvation Cafe
Salvation Cafe.

Located in the Historic District is Tavern on Broadway, a 200-year-old colonial house that offers Newport’s best craft beer selection, local oysters, and a killer brunch. Nearby, Parlor Bar & Kitchen has you covered for late-night food, Newport’s best live music, open-mic night, and drag brunch with a must-order prosciutto poached egg pizza.

Just a two-minute walk away is Salvation Cafe. While its quirky vibe and matching decor is inviting, the mojito bar, outdoor patio, and tiki-inspired cocktails is why you stay. Try the Passionate Mule or the Salvation Sangria for a delightfully boozy twist on the classics. For Newport’s best views from above—and a delicious dirty martini—head to Top of Newport Bar & Kitchen at Hotel Viking. They have cocktail deals Sunday through Wednesday, but Tuesdays’ Tacos and Tequila—three tacos and a margarita for $15!—stands above the rest.

What to Do

Discover Newport
Cliff Walk.

On the Cliff Walk, NewportOut Creative Director Daniel Cano Restrepo spills the tea on the largely unknown LGBTQ history behind this picturesque stroll, which was Newport’s main spot for cruising or a secretive walk with a closeted lover.

You also can’t miss the gaudy mansions belonging to American royalty: the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. Get to any of them by foot, public bus, or car. If you only have time for one, make it the Breakers; home to the Vanderbilts, this national historic landmark is the most over-the-top summer “cottage,” with opulent gold and chandeliers everywhere.

John W. Corbett
Marble House.

If you’ve got more time, check out Rough Point, the home of philanthropist ally Doris Duke, which has an incredible display of artwork; the Elms, which was modeled after a French chateau; and Marble House which, you guessed it, is made of marble and cost $11 million to build. Rosecliff, the setting of many Hollywood movies and Gilded Age parties, is also the ideal place for an LGBTQ wedding.

Newport may be small, but it that doesn’t mean it’s vineyard-less! Newport Vineyards is the Napa of New England, and visitors can book daily tours and wine-tastings. If the locale is crowded, opt for a bottle and a cheese plate at its restaurant Brix.

Marianne Lee
Newport Vineyards.

Rainy day? Head to the Jane Pickens Theater and Event Center, showing cult-classics, theater, and live concerts in a grand, historic building.

Where to Shop

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Bring your window-shopping A-game to Newport. Small art galleries, upscale boutiques, and a host of cute cafes on shopping streets like Thames Street, Spring Street, Broadway, and Bowen’s Wharf are all within walking distance. On quaint Spring Street, the Drawing Room offers books and memorabilia related to LGBTQ culture and history, while Soap and Water on Bowen’s Wharf sells the best luxury bath products, fragrances, and home goods.

Nearby, mother-daughter-owned Picklee on Spring contains rare antique gems and colorful upholstery, and is just around the bend from Sail Loft Clothing, where you can satisfy all your preppy clothing needs for a perfect Newport getaway.

Katie Lockhart is an Asia-based travel and food journalist writing for Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, and Harper's Bazaar.
@fndyrhappyplate