Though hardly deserted, Newport’s  beaches are rocky, salty wonders. The majority are public and well-kept, and small to medium in size. King Park (Wellington Ave., 401/846-1398, free) is the easiest to access off of Thames Street; it attracts swimmers, sunbathers, and picnickers alike.
A short stroll from the main entrance to the Cliff Walk  is larger Easton’s Beach, a magnet for surfers and sunbathers. You’ll find little peace and quiet here, but it offers convenient parking, food, and a fun carousel nearby.
Just off of Ocean Drive and on the edge of Newport Harbor lies Fort Adams State Park (Harrison Ave., off Rte. 138, 401/847-2400, www.riparks.com/fortadams.htm , sunrise–sunset daily, free), 100-plus acres of manicured lawns, picnic spots, beaches, soccer fields, and boating and camping areas. Each year it’s home to the area’s folk and jazz festivals, as well as a plenitude of private clambakes.
The Sakonnet Peninsula  also has a number of attractive beaches with considerably smaller crowds. Grinnell’s Beach (Main Rd. at Old Stone Bridge) is a sandy crescent at the head of the Sakonnet River, popular with surf fishers; it has a lifeguard and changing rooms.
On the southeast tip of the peninsula, Goosewing Beach Preserve (off S. Shore Rd., Little Compton, 401/331-7110, www.nature.org ) is a spectacular expanse of sandy barrier beach that narrowly divides the sea from a series of pristine coastal ponds.
Just north of Newport , bird-watchers flock to Norman Bird Sanctuary (583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 401/846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $5 adults, $2 children 4–13, free children under 4). Its 450 acres encompass plenty of forest and farmlands, and offer great views of several nearby beaches.
On the Sakonnet Peninsula , the Emilie Ruecker Wildlife Refuge (Seapowet Ave., Tiverton, 401/949-5454, www.asri.org ) has some 50 acres of marsh environment crisscrossed by trails. Bird-watching blinds offer a chance to see snowy egrets, glossy ibis, and a breeding pair of ospreys.
No town can call itself a seaside resort without a plethora of ways to get in, at, and near the ocean, and Newport  doesn’t disappoint. Foremost, however, the town is a center for boating, and that’s evident in its many marinas and wharfs. Charter a tiny sailboat or a gargantuan yacht through the Newport Yacht Charter Association (401/841-8686, www.newportcharters.com , $25–75 for a 2-hour sail), or strike out in solitary style, renting from the Newport Kayak Company (18 Elm St., 401-849-7404).