Ocean Drive: Start in Newport for Daytripping to Boston and Beyond
Newport’s many attractions include historic mansions, great beaches, the shops and sights along Thames Street, sailing on Narragansett Bay, and so much more that the thought of leaving might seem odd. Yet Newport also is ideally situated for a road trip when you want to explore the city and coastal charms of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Providence, Cape Cod, Mystic, and Boston are among the destinations that are easily reached in a day trip from the Hotel Viking — or follow this itinerary to create a “Grand Tour” of the best of southern New England:
Fuel up for your journey with breakfast at One Bellevue, Hotel Viking’s restaurant, before driving north on Aquidneck Island, following Route 138 past the coastal farms of Middletown and Jamestown to Route 24 and towards Fall River, Massachusetts. Look to your left as you pass over the Braga Bridge on Interstate 195 and you’ll catch a glimpse of the masts of the U.S.S. Massachusetts, the World War 2 veteran battleship now preserved as a museum and open for tours.
Spend a few hours exploring Battleship Cove and “Big Mamie,” which was built in nearby Quincy and saw action in both the European and Pacific theaters during the war. You can also tour the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the submarine USS Lionfish, the Russian-built missile corvette Hiddensee and a museum devoted to patrol torpedo boats like PT 109, which future President John F. Kennedy served on during the war.
Continuing east on I-195 will bring you to the fishing port of New Bedford, where you can visit the famous New Bedford Whaling Museum and walk the streets that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. If you have a taste for the macabre, book a night at the Lizzy Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum, site of an infamous 19th-century murder.
Cape Cod is a hook-shaped peninsula reaching 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from Bourne to Provincetown, separating from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal. With coasts strung with historic New England villages, the Cape is your gateway for whale-watching tours, summer beach fun (more than 550 miles of coastline includes the Cape Cod National Seashore), and sports fishing. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, a paved, off-road bike and recreation path, runs for 22 miles through the lower and middle Cape, while the famous artist’s commune of Provincetown (a.k.a. “P-town”) sits at the very tip of the Cape — a mecca of gay culture that also boasts fabulous beaches, shopping, and endless options for seaside lodging.
Leave your car in Provincetown and take the fast ferry to Boston. Not only will you be thankful not to have to drive the city’s infamously congested streets, but the ferry will deposit you right in the heart of downtown, within easy walking distance of the Revolutionary War historic sites along the Freedom Trail, including the Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, Bunker Hill, and the USS Constitution. Fenway Park, Cambridge and Harvard, art and science museums, and Boston’s lively Irish bars will tempt you to stay the night.
After ferrying back to Provincetown, take the time to explore the small towns of Brewster, Dennis, and Yarmouth along the “slow road” of Route 6A before making your way back to I-195, which will take you west to Providence, Rhode Island’s creative and culinary capital. Spend some time walking through the city’s Venetian-inspired Waterplace Park, visit the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, explore the “Mile of History” on Benefit Street — one of the best preserved Colonial streets in America — and indulge in Rhode Island’s rich dining scene on Federal Hill.
About an hour south of Providence on Interstate 95 you’ll find Mystic, Connecticut, which has a bustling main street bisected by a picturesque drawbridge. Mystic is home to two world-class educational museums: the Mystic Aquarium has exhibits and animal shows, including the largest outdoor beluga whale habitat in the U.S., as well as a 4-D theater screening interactive marine-related films. At Mystic Seaport you can tour America’ last surviving wooden whaling ship, the Charles B. Morgan, learn about the art of shipbuilding, see exhibits on figurehead carving, and stroll through a working shipyard.
New England’s historic Post Road, Route 1, runs north from Mystic back into Rhode Island, crossing the state line in downtown Westerly, a charming riverfront town with a Harry Potter-esque bookstore, coffee shops and restaurants, and art galleries, most clustered around lovingly landscaped Wilcox Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Just a short detour to the shore will take you to Watch Hill, a classic New England beach town with a famous “flying horse” carousel just steps from the sand.
Want even more time by the shore?
Proceed north on Route 1 and you’ll drive past the access points for all of South County’s best beaches, from family friendly Misquamicut to Matunuck — home of the intimate Theatre by the Sea — and finally Narragansett, where you can watch surfers test the offshore break from the town’s picturesque seawall. Just a few miles further you’ll reconnect with Route 138, which you can take east across Narragansett Bay, first to Jamestown (the side trip to the Beavertail Lighthouse is highly recommended) and then across the Newport Bridge, returning to the City by the Sea and the comforts of the Hotel Viking.
Written by Bob Curley
Map design by Feathered Heart Prints