Whew! If you aren’t currently experiencing a heatwave, you’ve no doubt heard of the dangerous one we’re dealing with here on the East Coast. Waking up to a scorching, humid day, we decided to hit the coast and go North. When it’s too toasty to do much, it’s always a few degrees cooler near the ocean. Come take a farmgirl road trip with me to beautiful Newport, Rhode Island, one of my family’s favorite relaxing places!
From our suburban home in Connecticut, Newport, Rhode Island is not that far away for an away-for-the-day trip. Located on the Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay, Newport is one of the most picturesque places I’ve seen in New England. We like to exit the highway when we get to Rhode Island, and drive to Newport through the backroads. I love seeing the little farms and cute shops that dot the way. (We’ve seen some “Glamper-camps”, too…for future reference. My hubby and I have shared that dream since we first got married, and being in the farmgirl sisterhood has only fueled that dream!)
No matter how many times we drive up to Newport, we always get excited driving across the huge Newport bridge over the water.
The view of one side from the top of the Newport Bridge.
We usually arrive around lunchtime. There’s so many great places to grab a bite to eat, you can’t go wrong. We’ve eaten great barbeque, seafood, salads, and traditional New England fare.
A relaxing view…lunch by the water
Strolling around the main square of the seaport, there’s so much to experience. There’s lots of shops, little two-person motorcars to rent, and sailboats to take sailing out in the harbor.
The intense heat of the day made my daughter a bit “crabby”…yes, I know, it’s a lobster, but I couldn’t resist.
The city of Newport is also famous for its mansions, built by the super-wealthy of American society during the Gilded Age.
Vanderbilts, Astors, and other elite families built massive “summer homes” by the sea, many of which are now turned into museums open for touring. Some are maintained by the Newport Mansion Preservation Society (http://www.newportmansions.org/). Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy also loved to stay in Newport. On this particular trip, we decided to visit another historical site in Newport, national landmark Fort Adams.
The original fort at the site was built in 1799, and troops were stationed there during the War of 1812. The currently standing fort was started in 1824 and completed in 1857. Fort Adams is an impressive 871,200 square feet structure made of granite, shale, and brick, housed on 20 acres. Designed by Simon Bernard, who once served under Napolean, the fortress is giant, and was engineered to be resistant to invasion from all fronts: by air, by sea, by land, even underground. If you visit, I highly recommend a guided tour, which gives you access to behind locked gates and underground tunnels.
Ft. Adams actively housed troops until the fifties. During that time, five major wars occurred, including the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, Spanish-American War, and both World Wars. However, a shot was never fired from Ft. Adams in anger.
A view of a duct on the ceiling designed above where the cannons would sit
Walking through the massive structure, one realizes how brilliant the design is. No enemy could penetrate the fort without being detected and surrounded. Our tour guide took us up to the top portion, via very old, very steep stairs.
The stairwell was designed to let water drain down, to keep ice from forming on the steps. Imagine being a colonial soldier, carrying a cannonball up that stairwell, on a frosty, snowy New England day! Imagine how difficult such a massive structure as the fort itself was to build back in the 1800’s, in the heat or extreme cold, without modern tools! It makes me pause and think about what difficulties our forefathers endured. On top of the fort, while scenic and beautiful, on a hot day it was sizzling!
The view of Newport Bridge from Ft. Adams
Inside the old officer’s quarters the years of decay are evident, with crumbling plaster (the fort was left many years before becoming a tourist site or declared a National Landmark). One can still see the ornate moldings and rosettes that decorated the rooms.
While seeing the old cannons and hearing so much about our nation’s history was interesting, my favorite part of the tour had to be the underground listening tunnels, designed to keep enemies from tunneling under the walls to breach the fortress. These long tunnels were made of brick, and some had very low ceilings. My daughter and I kept looking back to make sure my very tall husband still had his head! Some say the fort, especially the tunnels, are haunted. I don’t know about that, but they were a little spooky!
We ended our day in jail…the Fort Adams jail cells constructed in 1867.
This fellow stands inside one of the cells in the Ft. Adams jail.
Beauty and decay mingled together…
While preservation has been started, there are is a great deal of decay that can be seen. It makes me sad that parts of our American history have crumbled, but I am glad to see when places such as Fort Adams are placed on the historic registry. There are so many interesting places to visit with historic significance, and by visiting them, we help to preserve our nation’s history.
Hope you enjoyed our little “road trip”! What historic places have you visited in recent years? I’d love to hear about them. Do you agree that museums and tourist sites are important parts of American history? Leave your thoughts in the comments section…
Until next time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole
Thanks for the mini tour. New England is definitely on my bucket list! We recently toured Custer’s battlefield, the Little Big Horn. What a beautiful, yet sobering place. So much history in our area of the west. Fort Laramie is very interesting too and they are working hard to restore and maintain it.
Hi Maureen! I’ve not been to your area, either, but that sounds like another interesting tour. One historic area, yet sobering like you describe, that I would like to re-visit would be Gettysburg. We went there when my daughter was only three or four, but I’d like to visit it again. It’s good that restoration has started on Ft. Laramie, as well. It was mentioned on the tour of Ft. Adams, too. Thanks for reading and commenting, and enjoy the rest of your summer! -Nicole
It sounds like you had a terrific day and Fort Adams reminds me of Fort Point here at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. I don’t know if our temps will make you feel cooler but since it’s July, the average high is 67 with foggy mornings. We’ll have our "heat wave" of 85-degree sunny days in September and October. You’ll be heading into fall and winter. I go by the ant philosophy: think winter all summer and prepare; think summer all winter and dream.
Adrienne, I love your ant philosophy! That’s adorable. Your temps sound really nice. I’ve not been to California or that area of the USA yet…yet! Someday. On the up-side, we’ve been able to enjoy swimming and our raspberries are very, very abundant this year! Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole
yes, that was very interesting to see and learn about it.
Thanks, Denise! I thought it was a really interesting place to visit, and was glad my husband came up with the idea to tour it. Also, it wasn’t expensive to get in to Fort Adams and our tour guide was so interesting. -Nicole
Hello Nicole, Another great article from you. Thanks for taking us all on your mini road trip. I have never been to RI, it is on my list of places to see. As you know all three of my kids are homeschooled and what better way to learn history than getting out and about in this beautiful country we live in. I have decided last year that this year all 3 ages 16, 15 and 10 will do American History being we are surrounded by history.
On another note-you better have Bonnie guard those raspberries because they look yummy.
Farmgirl hugs to you my friend.
Thanks, Barb! Since Audrey is an only child, I did not homeschool her (though I really thought about it) but I love teaching her still at home, things like history especially. I’ve been some great places if you need any ideas. Hopefully we will see you all here soon!
As for our raspberries, it wasn’t Bonnie who stole some already… it was Mittens! That cat climbed up on the counter and was noshing away! I was afraid what the litter box situation would be in the coming days, happy to report it was fine. But boy was I mad at that naughty kitty! -Nicole
We just got back from a 3 week vacation in the northeast. We spent the 4th of July in Newport and just loved it. I recognize some of the places in your pictures. I live in Arizona, so the seafood was a special treat for me. I also drove on highway 15 in Connecticut. What a pretty highway!
Hi Mindy! I am so glad you enjoyed your vacation in my neck of the woods! I do love it here, especially this time of year. Isn’t Newport a neat place? We love it. Another great stop is Mystic, CT; it’s not too far from Newport.
Merritt Parkway, or Route 15 is really pretty, and is famous for its scenery. Did you know that no commercial vehicles are allowed to drive there? I still love driving on back roads the best, though.
I have been in Arizona, and loved it. We have good friends that used to live behind us. They went on vacation there, fell in love with the state, and soon moved there permanently. I thought it was a great state to visit. Very scenic, too, just a different kind of scenery. I really loved seeing the tall cacti everywhere.
If you ever get a chance, visit New England again in the fall. The folliage is breathtaking. Happy Summer, Nicole
Nicole, Thank you for a wonderful respite. Am at work and decided to check my email, your pictures and descriptions are certainly appreciated. Live in central Florida and there is a thunderstorm out there right now…am happy to be enjoying your article!
Hi Marcia! I’m glad you enjoyed our "visit". We’ve had some thunderstorms the last few days, too, but it’s been mostly hot and humid, with nice sun. Hope your storm is just a passing one! Have a great summer! Thanks for the comment. -Nicole
Thank you so much for the day trip, so very interesting and beautiful even with the decay and yes saving our history is so very important. Thanks for showing your daughter such history and all the other wonderful things you did. God Bless
Hi Joan! Thank you! I agree, I think preserving our history is very important, and it really saddens me when I see museums closing…even little ones. History was always my favorite subject in school. Thank you for your comment! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole
I lived in Newport for a couple of years during the mid-sixties. Unfortunately I haven’t been back, so it was nice to see your photos. My thing, when I lived there was the Cliff Walk, which I probably did every week, rain or shine, except when it was icy. It was reputed to be six miles long, but I never had any way to verify that. The Cliff Walk wasn’t the only thing I loved. I loved the beaches, the architecture, several of the churches, and the US Navy, (including several O.C.s, one of whom I married).
Thank you so much.
Kristy, How cool that you lived there. It would be interesting to see if you think it has changed a whole lot. In the last decade-plus that we have been going, I think it did get busier and a lot of big "commercial" stores opened like Gap, Yankee Candle, etc., but it has always retained its charm. I feel so lucky that it is within distance to be a "day trip" for us. Haven’t done the Cliff Walk yet…thanks so much for the suggestion! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole
Thanks for the informative blog on Newport! I toured the mansions many times, but never knew about Fort Adams. I miss the charm, history, and beaches of the New England states. I love to visit local museums and tourist attractions while on vacation. I love history and learning!
I finally saw "The Bean" and "Buckingham Fountain" in my hometown of Chicago. You inspired me to research the history of fountain.
Looks like you had a nice visit and day with your family!
Hi Rose! Glad you enjoyed our "tour"! I’d love to visit Chicago, as well, as see the sites you mentioned! Big hugs, Nicole
I think your blog is my favorite of all of them through MaryJane’s farm because I love your pictures and stories. It’s like looking through a scrap book. I’ve always wanted to get into scrap booking, but have not invested in the materials yet. Your blog has inspired me to take a scrap booking class and get started with something I would love to do. Ft Pickens is 40 minutes from my home and I visit it and the seashore as much as I can. I have lots of fun pictures and memories to get started with. Cheers to you and yours and thanks for the inspiration!
Tina, thank you, what a nice compliment! I’m so happy that I have inspired you! Please check back and let us know how your class and new hobby is going! Good luck! I’m sure it will be great! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole
I grew up in Western MA and I remember going to most of the places you visited as a little girl.It sure is beautiful there. Thanks for bringing back memories
Sharon, I’m so glad I stirred up happy memories for you. It is such a beautiful area. Thank you for commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole