June 10, 2015
Newport Cliff Walk
A Cure for the Common Sunday
By Cissy Yu
The Newport Cliff Walk opens at sunrise and closes at sunset, though it wouldn’t surprise me if generations of Newport high school seniors have been sneaking out here to party after dark. It’s that kind of place. Three-and-a-half miles of shoreline trails, hugging the back lawns of mansions to your right and a sheer rocky drop to your left, where you can watch the sea rolling up, turning white and, suddenly ended, breaking on the rocks. A lot of couples come here – to nest like plovers in the rocky alcoves hidden from the main trail – and families, too, and once in a while a jogger or someone out alone for a morning walk.
I visited Cliff Walk on a Sunday afternoon. Not cold, but not sunny either – the kind of day a weather professional or a photographer might call “brisk,” or “windless.” Actually, there was a wedding photographer on the Cliff Walk, with her bride and groom and chatty bridesmaids. They posed in a line on a stone staircase that led down to the rocks. People leaned from the railings to see them get photographed, and one little boy shouted congratulations from the stairway.
The first stretch of the Cliff Walk is well-paved and well-swept, and it was this stretch that also had the most walkers. For the first half mile, you could hear from across the bay the sound of a bass beat from a party on Easton Beach. I remember this beat, plus the sound of the ocean and the funny smell of sea water closer to the beach. Most mansions were hedged off from the path, or behind black fences (the sterner sort added barbed wire), but a few had open turfs that people could walk through. The mansions looked properly extravagant. Some had marble lion statues in the grass, or benches for the mansion guests to sit and watch the sea, along with the procession of ordinary people walking the Cliff Walk.
In the second and third miles, the path turns rocky. One section called Rough Point leads through a long patch of sandy, slabby rocks (every point of interest has a QR code on a wood post). This and other parts might be slippery in wet weather.
(And speaking of rocks, if you like geology, I did read that the rocks along this walk are very old and rarely found. They seemed good-looking to me, but I’m not a specialist.)
Walkers can leave the trail at any of the seven or so stops where a street leads away from the walk. At the Cliff Walk’s end there’s a sandy lot (QR code: “Reject’s Beach”) where the trail finally flattens out to the level of the sea. If you’re tired, you can rest there for a while. And if you like, you can photograph the beach, or the sun setting, or the shorebird floating on the sea, or the strange golden retriever who’s just run up to sniff your welcome.
Newport Cliff Walk, cliffwalk.com