Take a Drive to the Famous Newport Mansions

When you’re planning your next vacation to Rhode Island, you’re probably researching fun and interesting things to do in the area. Luckily, there’s an incredible attraction just moments away from our Rhode Island vacation rentals: the famous Newport Mansions! If you haven’t heard of them yet, don’t worry; you’re sure to recognize them once you arrive! These historic Newport homes have been featured in some of Hollywood’s biggest movies and have a fascinating story that you simply have to hear for yourself.


flower garden outside of mansion

It’s easy and quick to reach Newport from our houses for rent in Narragansett, RI. The trip from Narragansett to Newport is just 30 minutes, so you can easily fit this destination in with the rest of your itinerary. All you have to do is make your way to RI-138 E, then follow this road to RI-238 S in Newport. You’ll take the exit leading toward Downtown/Newport from RI-138E. Then, continue on RI-238 S and take America’s Cup Avenue to Court House Street to arrive in Newport!

Once you’re in town, there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, Newport is home to the mansions, but that’s not the only attraction. This city also has the Cliff Walk, which was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1975. You can also visit the Newport Art Museum, which dates all the way back to 1912, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

To get the best look at all of the Newport Mansions, you can embark on what is referred to as the “Ten Mile Drive.” This relaxing drive starts at The Elms and takes guests past other Mansions like The Breakers, Vineland, Beechwood, Rough Point, and others. If you’re looking to see all the mansions, this drive is a good option to spot them all before you head into one or two homes for a closer look. 


Once you arrive at the Newport Mansions, you’ll be stunned at the sheer size and fascinating history of these incredible homes. There are actually 10 different homes that are considered within the name “Newport Mansions,” and they each have their own background to learn about.

For instance, The Breakers is an incredible example of Newport’s summer “cottages” and is the former residence of the Vanderbilt family. The home was purchased in 1885 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt of railroad fame. The younger Vanderbilt purchased The Breakers and, 8 years later, commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design a new villa after the original was destroyed in a fire. The youngest Vanderbilt daughter, Gladys, inherited the home after her mother passed in 1934.

fountain in front of a mansion
Photo from Shutterstock

Chateau-sur-Mer was considered Newport’s most palatial residence from 1852 until the 1890s. This home was built for William Shepard Wetmore, a China trade merchant. The Italianate-style villa played host to some of the most lavish and largest parties Newport had ever seen and helped to usher in the area’s Gilded Age. Some of the celebrations here included Fete Champetre, a huge 1857 picnic with more than 2,000 guests, and the 1889 debutante ball for Miss Edith Wetmore, William’s granddaughter. 

Another home with a truly fascinating history is The Elms. This mansion served as the summer residence for Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind, who earned their fortune through the coal industry. The house was designed by Horace Trumbauer and was modeled after the French chateau d’Asnieres, which itself was built around 1750. The Elms was completed in 1901 and cost around $1.4 million to build. Within, the Berwinds kept Renaissance ceramics, Oriental jades, and Vetetian and French paintings from the 18th century.

Homes Featured in Hollywood Movies

While you might think you don’t know much about the Newport Mansions, you may have actually seen a few of them before! Because of their stunning designs and sheer size, these homes have been featured in several big-name Hollywood movies.

Perhaps the best example of the Newport Mansions showing up in a Hollywood film is the 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby, portrayed by Robert Redford, hosts his extravagant parties within Rosecliff. The Marble House mansion is another that’s featured in the film, this one during the scene where Gatsby puts on his old army uniform and asks Daisy Buchanan for a dance. 

rosecliff mansion

You might also recognize Rosecliff from the 1997 Steven Spielberg film Amistad. This iconic movie stars Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, and Anthony Hopkins, and the majority of the film was shot right here in Newport. If you’ve ever seen True Lies starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, then you’ve seen the inside of Rosecliff, as it’s featured as the “Swiss chateau.” 

This is just a small sampling of where you may have seen the Newport Mansions before. These historic houses have also been featured in such films as 27 Dresses, The Betsy, From Russia With Love, and others. 

Tours and Tickets

view of mansion from yard

Before you start planning your trip to the Newport Mansions, you’ll want some information about the tickets and available tours you can participate in. Tickets can be purchased in person, as advanced reservations are not required. You can also purchase your tickets online by visiting the Newport Mansions website. Not all of the Mansions are available for touring all the time; for instance, only The Breakers, The Elms, and the Green Animals Topiary Garden are available for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking a tour of the Mansions is easier than ever thanks to the free Newport Mansions app! The app can be downloaded on Apple and Android devices and is completely free to access. It’s recommended to download the app before you arrive, so you can simply select your tour once you’re ready. The app contains unique audio tours (with transcripts available) of The Elms and The Breakers. Be sure to bring headphones with you!

You can also be taken through the Mansions with a guide on either a Personal Tour or a Servant Life Tour. The Personal Tours are small group sessions that will guide you throughout The Elms or The Breakers and teach you about the people and historical events that shaped these iconic homes. Personal Tours are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. For 1-5 people, tours cost $500, and for 6-10 people, tours cost $850.

The Servant Life Tour available at The Elms is an interesting way to discover the inner workings of the home in its prime. You’ll learn about the butler, cook, maids, and more, as well as information about employment, labor disputes, and immigration throughout the beginning of the 20th century. Note that you will be required to climb several flights of stairs during this tour, and advance recommendations are recommended. 

Plan Your Next Vacation

When you’re exploring historical sites around Narragansett such as Judith Point Lighthouse, Smith’s Castle, and the Rough Point Museum, be sure to schedule a day trip to Newport to explore the Newport Mansions. A visit to the Mansions is sure to be a fun-filled day for the entire family! After you’re done embarking on the historical tours and learning about the unbelievable past of the area, you can head back to our Rhode Island vacation rentals to relax with your loved ones and reminisce on the incredible sights you’ve seen. Contact us today to learn more about our rental properties!

Durkin Cottage Realty

815 Pt. Judith Rd.
Narragansett, RI 02882

Phone: 401-789-6659
Fax: 401-789-6705

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