Shops in and around Newport  cover the spectrum of quality and uniqueness; you’ll find everything here from upscale, independent clothing boutiques and supply stores for serious sailors to Banana Republic and Helly Hansen. Some of the most unique souvenirs you’ll find are, unsurprisingly, nautical in nature—from artwork and crafts to clothing and the yachts themselves, sold during the town’s many boat shows.
From lithographs of J-class sloops to oil paintings of Newport beaches, Arnold Art (210 Thames St., 800/352-2234, www.arnoldart.com ) brings together marine artists like Keith Reynolds and Helena Sturtevant—some of the area’s most respected.
Before hitting the surf, hit the shelves and racks of Helly Hansen (154 Thames St., 877/666-8742, www.hellyengland.com , 9 a.m.–9 p.m. daily). The boating gear selection ranges from base layers to keep you warm on windy sails to fully waterproof parkas and snuggly soft shell jackets.
Home to an excellent selection of stained-glass artwork, Aardvark Antiques (9 JT Connell Hwy., 401/849-7233, www.aardvarkantiques.com , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., by appt. Sun.) is also where you’ll find garden statues and fountains like nowhere else outside a Roman square: Giant gargoyles and ceramic fish squat next to structures festooned with mermaids and gods.
Artwork on the opposite end of the size scale is found at Newport Scrimshanders (14 Bowen’s Wharf, 401/849-5680, www.scrimshanders.com , 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily summer; 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily winter), where artist and owner Brian Kiracofe creates and peddles carved whale ivory (acquiring ivory from whales is illegal these days; Kiracofe gets all of his from estate sales and auctions).
Not quite as rare, but arguably just as pretty, are the blown-glass gifts at Thames Glass (688 Thames St., 401/846-0576, www.thamesglass.com , 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon–Sat.; noon–5 p.m. Sun.). Stop in and watch as the vases, glasses, paperweights, and fish bowls are created. Many of the town’s high-end clothing stores are either slavishly nautical in theme or more Palm Beach prepfest than fashion-forward.
The exception is Mandarine (16 Bannister’s Wharf, 401/848-9360, www.shopmandarine.com , 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Thu.; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat.; 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun.). Full of young, chic pieces by the international likes of Catherine Malandrino and Rozae Nichols, the shop also spotlights a solid selection of accessories—lingerie by FleurT, jewelry by Lanula, and handwoven shawls by Pret a Porter.