Sun, 31 Oct 2010 21:37:06By TOM MEADE
Journal Staff Writer
The International Yacht Restoration School is one of the sights along Newport’s Harbor Walk North tour.
AP / Michael Dwyer
NEWPORT — For more than 300 years, Newport Harbor has been one of the most important seaports on the east coast of America. The harbor has experienced several incarnations, many still visible on the Newport Harbor Walk.
Friends of The Waterfront, a nonprofit group, has mapped the harbor walk; it complements Newport’s famous Cliff Walk and Ten Mile Drive.
“It’s a fantastic idea whose time is long overdue,” says Evan Smith, president of the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It gives visitors a sense of how majestic Newport Harbor is.”
On the harbor tour, walkers encounter historic buildings, a working waterfront, tourist attractions and a lot of boats, including world-class racing sailboats, restored antiques, luxury yachts and working fishing boats.
The harbor walk is divided into two parts. Harbor Walk North meanders through the city’s historic Point Section, the original Colonial center of the waterfront. Harbor Walk South takes visitors along today’s working waterfront.
The British destroyed Newport’s Colonial waterfront by breaking up and burning wooden docks for heat during the American Revolution, but the Point Section of the city still has many 18th-century buildings as well as some lovely Victorian houses.
The “driftways” to the water in the Point Section once led to the wooden docks for tall ships. Today, they are public rights of way to the water, open to everyone.
Peek into the yards here to discover some stunning hidden gardens.
The walk includes Newport Shipyard, where visitors may see some of the world’s elite racing yachts as well as some lavish cruisers, depending on who is in port. Next door is the state fishing pier, where lobstermen and commercial fishermen are on the job. The contrast between the shipyard and the state pier is remarkable.
The full Harbor Walk North tour, starting at Perrotti Park, is just under three miles. It’s really a stroll, rather than a brisk walk, so plan on spending some extra time.
The shipyard and fishing pier provide a preview of what lies ahead in Harbor Walk South, which winds through today’s working harbor front.
It includes a lot of T-shirt and souvenir places, restaurants, bars and boutiques, but behind them are working fishing boats, water taxis, tour boats and marinas that provide working wages for hundreds of people.
Along the way, the International Yacht Restoration School, is teaching future workers essential skills for jobs in the marine trades. At the dock behind the school, look for beautifully restored wooden vessels.
Harbor Walk South is about two miles from the Stone Pier at King Park to Perrotti Park, but because of all the interesting stops, it takes a spell to complete.
“What a wonderful visitor attraction!” says Evan Smith. “The harbor walk really enhances the visitor experience.”
Maps and a guide to the Newport Harbor Walk are available online at newportharborwalk.com. The site also includes links to the Cliff Walk and Ten Mile Drive. More information about things to do in Newport is available online at gonewport.com.