Newport’s Cliff Walk is one of my all-time favorite places. What’s not to like? It’s a 3.5 mile public access walkway that skirts the ocean, offering phenomenal views of not only the sea but many of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions as well. It wasn’t always like this, of course. Historians suspect that the original path was outlined by local deer centuries ago, then further defined by the Narragansett tribe. Colonials used it to access the shoreline. It wasn’t until the last half of the 1800s that wealthy summer visitors spread from Newport’s harbor area out to the coast, situating their enormous “summer cottages” smack in front of panoramas of the Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Cliff Walk begins benignly enough at Memorial Boulevard and Easton’s Beach, where it looks like this:
But while much of Cliff Walk is paved, there are many portions of it that are not as easy to navigate, and walkers are advised to take caution should they choose to follow the Walk to its end. There are spots along the way where the cliffs have drops of over 70 feet. In case you don’t believe the written warnings, this picture helps drive the point home:
The dangers were even more apparent after Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into Newport on October 29, 2012. Sandy devastated Cliff Walk. Parts of the walkway washed away. Retaining walls caved in. Tangled fencing littered the paths. Cliff Walk did not completely reopen until June 24, 2014.
…which didn’t mean that SOME people (*ahem*) didn’t slip past the warning gates and chains to see the damage for themselves. As always, the views were wild and wonderful, this time edged with the reminder that no matter how developed, the coast is always vulnerable to the whims and ravages of nature.
I last walked the Cliff Walk at the end of April 2015. Because I didn’t have to worry as much about falling off as I did in October 2013, I was able to observe a little more. There are new trail markers along the Walk now, sixteen of them placed at various points of interest along the way, each including a QR code that visitors can scan with their smart phones to learn more about what they are seeing.
The views, as always, were spectacular in every direction. But I also noticed this:
That’s right: random padlocks on any length of chain link fence along the way. These are love locks, which started popping up throughout Europe in the early 2000s and spread globally. According to legend, couples write their names or initials on the padlock, lock it, and then throw away the key, symbolically locking their love for eternity. It’s said that if both of the lovers are not present as the lock locks, their love is forever jinxed. It might be a better idea for these couples to figure out what it means if the locks get cut off, as is now happening at various bridges across the globe when the weight of these padlocks begins to cause structural damage to the bridges themselves. Will true love be any safer along the Cliff Walk?
There’s so much to experience along the Cliff Walk, and I plan to write more about it at a later date. For today, though, I’ll leave you with a few images to enjoy. If you try really hard, maybe you’ll feel the sea breeze on your face. Better still, plan a trip. You won’t be disappointed!
This looks so beautiful. I never knew that was there and I can’t wait to hear more about your finds and travels.
Michelle, you would love it!
A high school friend, Danielle Hayward Schaaf, posted about your book on Facebook. I love your description of Newport. When will the book be available for the public?
Hi, Belinda! It’s nice to hear from you. NEWPORT’s pub date is July 7th. So … SOON!
Can’t wait to read this. I know your mother would be so excited and would be first in line to get her copy.
I’d have loved to have shared it with her.
Love the Cliff Walk and touring the mansions of Newport. . My mind goes on a journey everytime I go there of what life was like during the high season during the era of when the homes were built. I am sure your book will give a great glimpse into the life style. Look forward to reading it.
I was intriqued to see your other books are set in Baltimore – my place of birth and growing up.
It’s so interesting how many Maryland natives I meet! Where in Baltimore did you grow up, Sue?
I love the Cliff Walk, too. The ocean inspires me.