A Summer Family Road Trip from NYC to Newport

boats in Rhode Island harbor - best family road trips

Why take a family road trip to Rhode Island?

For me, summertime on the east coast means lobster rolls, fresh squeezed lemonade, hydrangea flowers in full bloom, and weekend escapes to the beach.  While many Manhattan-ites flock to Montauk or the Hamptons, I suggest avoiding the crowded LIE.  Instead, head to Rhode Island for your summer road trip! 

It’s 3.5 hours from the city, which means it’s long enough for nap time, but won’t drag on for ages.  While I-95 may not be the most scenic drive in the world, there are countless charming towns to stop and check out along the way.  Greenwich, Westport, Mystic, and Watch Hill to name a few.  You can easily complete the whole drive to Newport in one-go, or spend time exploring a few of these towns while en route.  I suggest the latter: spend a few hours in Mystic, a few days in Watch Hill at the Ocean House, and just when they kids start saying, “are we there yet, “ you’ll pull into Newport’s happy harbor.  It’s the perfect summer family road trip that culminates in a destination filled with crispy white sailboats, pristine beaches, and plenty of family friendly activities. 

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Best Family Friendly stops along the way to Newport:

Stop 1: Where to stay, eat, and play in Mystic, CT

  • Check this out: The seaport town of Mystic, CT is a perfect quick “stretch your legs” stop. Stroll the downtown Main Street, and reserve tickets to take the kids to the Mystic Aquarium.  
  • Eat: Bravo Bravo is an Italian eatery that features fresh takes on classic recipes.
  • Stay: If you decide to stay the night, the Whaler’s Inn is a popular historic inn right on Main Street.
girl looking at a while mystic aquarium

Stop 2: Where to stay, eat and play in the Westerly/Watch Hill area

  • Stay Option 1: The Ocean House is a luxury resort that has a beautiful kid friendly beach, and wide open grassy lawns.  Order lobster rolls on your beach chair, splash in the waves, play a round of croquet, and have a family shuffleboard tournament.  Spend a few days relaxing at the hotel and exploring the area
  • Stay Option 2: Watch Hill Inn – a sister hotel to The Ocean House, the inn features larger luxury suites ideal for families looking for more space.  It’s a 5-10 minute walk to the Ocean House beach, but it’s conveniently located just seconds from downtown Watch Hill.  
  • Stay Option 3: Weekapaug Inn – Weekpaug is also a sister hotel to the above 2 properties, but has access to a separate beach, private pool, and the added bonus of boat rides around Quonochontaug Pond. 
the ocean house sideview
The Ocean House, Rhode Island
girl playing in sand ocean house
pool at Weekapaug
Weekapaug Inn, RI
girl and dad playing shuffleboard
walkway at Weekapaug Inn
  • Check this out:  The charming area of Westerly includes the quaint town called Watch Hill.  You can easily spend 20 minutes on Main Street and you will have seen it all, or you can get lost in each store and hours will pass.  Watch Hill is “little town famous” for its oldest continuously operating merry-go-round in the country, ice cream at St. Clair Annex, and stunning summertime sunsets.
  • On your way out of town the next day, take a quick detour to Manifredi Farms.  The little kids will love feeding the ducks and donkeys.  They also sell their own organic produce, jams, and homemade pies.
town of watch hill - summer family road trip
sunset view at watch hill
girl feeding farm animals - manifredi farms summer road trip series
  • Eat: Sea Room –  I can still taste the homemade red pepper pasta with summer veggies!  Located, in the Weekapaug Inn, this restaurant easily caters to families, but also delivers fresh five-star food.  
pasta dish at Weekapaug Inn summer road trip series

Your final destination: Where to stay, eat and play in Newport

  • Check this out: Once you arrive in Newport, take a few days to explore this charming oceanside town filled with sailboats, famous Gilded Age mansions, boutique shops lining brick sidewalks, and plenty of stunning beaches.  Easton Beach and Sachuest Beach are quite popular, but Peabody beach is perfect for the little kids seeking little waves.  Don’t miss walking along the famous Cliff Walk, featuring “summer cottages” of the Vanderbilts and Roosevelt’s, nestled on top of the coastal bluffs. 
downtown Newport Rhode Island - summer road trip series
  • Eat: The Mooring – Your first food experience should be at The Mooring.  The Moording has, hands down, the best clam chowder I’ve had!  I licked the bowl and ordered a second one.  The dockside restaurant also features lobster rolls, fish and chips, and just about anything you think of when envisioning a New England summer nights.  Other popular Newport restaurants include: Clarke Cooke House, The Black Pearl, and Flo’s Clam Shack.
  • Stay: There are plenty of luxury resorts in Newport. The Auberge Vanderbilt is located in downtown Newport, has its own private pool, outdoor garden patio, and rooftop deck overlooking the town. Another option is Gurney’s Newport, which has beautiful 360 degree views of the marina, plenty of restaurants on site, private pool, and even welcomes pets. Lastly, Castle Hill Inn is famous for its beautiful water views, luxurious accommodations, and wide open lawn where you’ll want to curl up in an Adirondack chair all day.  I’ll be headed to Newport this summer and will report back with an updated review of the accomodations!

I hope this article has inspired some ideas for your own summer family road trip to Newport, RI. Stay tuned next week for Part 3 of the Best Family Road Trips Series.  If you have any questions, or your own travel tips, please leave them in the comments below.  Also, don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter, packed with travel tips, upcoming news, and access to FREE destination itineraries.

a boat house in watch hill - summer road trip series
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