Portsmouth was a town we were especially looking forward to visiting, and we got up bright and early to be out of our house by 7:30 so that we would arrive in Portsmouth by 8:15am. Why, did we need to leave our cozy beds so early on a summer day? We had a reservation for the very popular Rail Explorers that we had booked over a month ago, and we couldn’t miss it. We had been looking forward to this day for quite awhile, and although the weather forecast threatened rain, we were thankfully presented with only cloudy skies and cool temperatures. It was perfect weather for our 1.5 hour “bike” ride on the railroad tracks. We took the southern route, which gave us plenty of beautiful views. Along the way we saw scenic views of Narragansett Bay, and glimpses of occasional osprey nests. On the ride out, Emy, Aoife and I shared the four-seater railroad bike, and from time to time we got it going pretty fast. Heidi and Tarynn came behind us in a two-seater railroad bike. At the end of our route, we were able to spend some time relaxing in a lovely area filled with Adirondack chairs and there was a gorgeous view of the Newport Bridge. There were also several fire pits throughout the area, so maybe on the evening rail explorer tours, there is time built in for relaxing by the fire. On the way back we had the bikes hitched together and we all worked at pedaling during the return trip. We were grateful for the cloudy skies, because if the weather had been hot and sunny, the pedaling would have seemed like a lot more work. The ride was really fun, and we would highly recommend Rail Explorers as a summer family activity.
We followed the Rail Explorers ride with a quick trip to see the wind turbine at Portsmouth Abbey School. Heidi worked in the library at Portsmouth Abbey while she was earning her MLIS degree, so she especially enjoyed stopping here for a trip down memory lane. She told us about the monk who used to escape to the top of the turbine to sit in solitude, and the drone video of him that went viral -- amazing!
We continued on to explore Portsmouth’s beachfront neighborhood of Island Park, complete with a model of Elvis on one of the porches. Walking around Island Park got us hungry, so we went to Flo’s Drive-In for clam cakes. These were some of the best clam cakes I’d ever had! We left a rock on the sea wall at Island Park.
Now to continue our journey of Aquidneck Island, we go to Middletown with Aemilia.
FREE THE WINDMILLS! FREE THE WINDMILLS!
Hello, now that I have your attention, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Aemilia, and I have found an important cause, that I believe we should all fight for. Windmill Liberation. But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about our Aquidneck Island day, specifically our trip to Middletown.
After doing our Portsmouth rail explorer trip and visiting other sites in Portsmouth, we visited Middletown, that is to say, the town in the middle of Aquidneck Island. Rhode Island has some really confusing areas, like Wyoming that is NOT real Wyoming, and Moscow that is NOT anything even close to the real Moscow, but you will be pleased to know that Middletown is not one of them. It’s right in the middle, like it tells you in the title. Not some weird little area PRETENDING that it’s a state or a foreign city. Looking at you, Carolina and Wyoming. But Middletown? Middletown is trustworthy. Look at that. Right in the middle. :)
What I’m about to say next might alarm you.
Middletown and Portsmouth have been holding windmills captive, all tied up so they can’t even move. I know, it’s hard to believe. You might need to take a minute to process this. It’s ok. It’s a lot to take in.
Allow me to share how I know this information, which I’m sure many people would consider to be classified and extremely dangerous. We visited, not one, but TWO locations with beautiful plants and flowers, and stunning windmills, only to see the windmills ROPED TO THE GROUND. I could not believe my eyes, as I was struck with anguish at how these poor windmills have one function, to spin around, and they aren’t even allowed to do that. The two places in question are Prescott Farm (this windmill is in Portsmouth) and Boyd’s Windmill (at Paradise Valley Park in Middletown), and while they were very nice to visit, my experience was ruined by the thought of the windmills being tied to the ground and unable to move. It was truly horrifying. So please #freethewindmills.
From there, we went to Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge where we walked along a trail to the point. It was a nice walk in a very beautiful place, and we left a rock there.
Also in the same general area, we visited Little Purgatory Chasm, which was nice, except for the fact that CERTAIN people like to go too close to the edge. I don’t think I even need to tell you who those people are. If you’re familiar with us, you probably already know.
Bye for now and remember to thank a windmill today,
Heidi’s turn - Now we are continuing along to Newport. True Rhode Islanders rarely visit Newport in the summertime as that is when this beautiful town is overrun with tourists. However, this year is the exception to the norm, and since we have a goal of visiting every town in Rhode Island, off to Newport we went, and although it was busy, the crowds were considerably smaller than in previous summers.
Our first stop in Newport was Touro Park to see the Newport Tower. This tower is the remains of a 17th century windmill, however, according to Atlas Obscura and several other website, there are mysteries surrounding this structure.
Next we drove through the shops on the wharves and along Thames Street. Normally, we would park and enjoy walking and browsing through the shops in this area. Due to COVID, however, we decided that there were too many people around for our comfort level, so a drive through tour was enough. Nearly everyone we saw walking was wearing a mask and giving those around them quite a bit of space, which earned Newport a grade of A+ for the social distancing we witnessed during our visit.
We then stopped at Fort Adams, a coastal fortification completed in 1857. Although we did not tour the fort this time, we did enjoy walking around the walls of the fort, and seeing the Oliver Hazard Perry Tall Ship which docks at Fort Adams.
We continued along Ocean Drive (also called 10 Mile Drive), marveling at the luxurious houses and exquisite ocean views. We stopped at Brenton Point to watch the waves crashing on the rocks, and also watch some kite fliers. There is always an ocean breeze at Brenton Point, which makes it the perfect location for the annual Newport Kite Festival. One of the oldest geocaches in Rhode Island is also hidden at Brenton Point, so be sure to search for it when you visit.
After finishing our ride along Ocean Drive, we met one of my lifelong friends, Fr. Scott, to explore the Cliff Walk. Fr. Scott is currently a chaplain at Salve Regina University, and he led us on a walk through the ocean side campus that includes several buildings from the Gilded Age. Further along Cliff Walk, we saw the sweeping lawn of The Breakers as well as Aoife’s dream house, which has a gazebo overlooking the ocean.
Fr. Scott brought us to see his church, St Joseph’s, which is very beautiful and is located in the Broadway section of Newport. In addition to serving as a chaplain at Salve, he has also recently been appointed the administrator of St. Joseph’s. There are several restaurants near St. Joseph’s, and Fr. Scott had made a reservation for an outdoor dinner at Malt. Featuring an assortment of whiskeys and draft beers, this casual restaurant was perfect for us after a long day of exploring on Aquidneck Island. We devoured flavorful burgers, Thai shrimp nachos. calamari, and falafel, and washed them down with some tasty cocktails & brews.
After saying goodbye to Fr. Scott, we had one more necessary stop to make before heading home: the original Newport Creamery. Newport Creamery has been a Rhode Island institution since 1928, and the Middletown shop is the original location. Perhaps most famous for its “Awful Awfuls” (thick milkshakes that are “Awful Big and Awful Good”), a trip to Newport Creamery is the perfect end to any Rhode Island summer day.
Other places we've enjoyed on Aquidneck Island:
We are a family who loves to travel and explore. Covid-19 has changed our plans for summer 2020, but we are making the best out of the situation by exploring our beautiful home state of Rhode Island. During the summer of 2020, we are hoping to visit every town in Rhode Island. Thank you for joining us on our journey!