Despite living in the shadow of Newport, 5 miles away, this community is comfortable in its skin. Consider these: The town is in Newport County. The Newport Polo Series is held in Portsmouth, at the town-owned Glen Farm. Robert G. Driscoll, the town administrator, says residents accept the association. "We also like that we have access to all that Newport offers, but at the end of the day we can come home to Portsmouth."
Settled in 1638 by Anne Hutchinson, Portsmouth was the second settlement in what is now Rhode Island, and the first community in the New World founded by a woman. One of three towns on Aquidneck Island, which it shares with Middletown and Newport, Portsmouth boasts 56 miles of shoreline, five marinas, a winery, a topiary garden, several golf courses, and on Prudence Island, the only operating one-room schoolhouse in the state.
In summer, swim at Sandy Point Beach (off Sandy Point Road), where there are lifeguards, restrooms, and parking.
In autumn, let the kids get lost in an 8-acre maze of corn at Escobar's Highland Farm (133 and 251 Middle Road, escobarshighlandfarm.com, 401-683-1444), take a hay ride through the farm, or pick out this year's jack-o'-lantern.
Eagles Nest Antiques (3101 East Main Road, 401-683-3500) is a cooperative shop, brimming with antiques from 100 dealers who rent space. You'll find furniture, glassware, artwork, and more. The shop is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 Sunday.
Garden lovers should head to the Gift Shop at Green Animals Topiary Garden where gardening tools, books, ceramic pots, travel games, and other unique gifts are sold.
For the dinner table, load up on heirloom tomatoes, native corn, and all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and flowers at Mello's Farm and Flower Center (444 Boyd's Lane, 401-683-6262).
Or, follow the locals to Cindy's Country Cafe (1324 West Main Road, 401-683-5134, $5-$15), for homemade breakfast, lunch, and Friday dinners.
Sakonnet Fish Co. (657 Park Ave., 401-683-1180, $12-$25), serving lunch and dinner in Island Park, has an oyster bar, an extensive seafood menu, and a beautiful view of the water.
Melville Grille (One Lagoon Road, 401-683-4400, $7-$15), overlooking a marina, serves lunch and dinner in a nautical dining room, offering dishes such as General Tsao's calamari, crab cakes, and shrimp pizza.
The Newport International Polo Series at Glen Farm Equestrian Center (163 Glen Farm Road, glenfarm.com, 401-846-0200) offers matches every Saturday, with the final matches this coming weekend. Even if you don't know the game, you'll enjoy the stunning grounds and family-oriented crowds that gather. Bring a picnic and tailgate on the lawn. Tickets (adults $10, under 15 free) go on sale 90 minutes before the match (September chukkers start at 4 p.m.).
Stroll through Green Animals Topiary Garden (380 Corey's Lane, tickets.newportmansions.org/mansion.aspx?id=1003, 401-847-1000; adults $11; children 6-17, $4), where 80 topiaries, including 21 shaped liked animals and birds, adorn the gardens of historic Brayton House.
Fish, swim, bird-watch, or hike the 4-mile trail at Melville Pond Nature Preserve (181 Bradford Ave., 401-682-2424), a town-operated park of 150 acres, with walking access to Narragansett Bay.
For visitors with more time, spend part of a day on Prudence Island, where the Narragansett
Or, motor down in your RV or pitch a tent at Melville Ponds Campground (181 Bradford St., portsmouthri.com/MelvilleCampground.htm, 401-682-2424, tent site $22 a night, RV site $35. Fees are based on a family of four. Open through October.)
Or, take in a concert at Common Fence Music (Common Fence Point Community Hall, 933 Anthony Road, 401-683-5085, commonfencemusic.org). An exciting slate of folk and jazz artists is scheduled at this 1950s-style dance hall between now and May. Next up is Boston's favorite jazz and hillbilly band, Tarbox Ramblers, on Oct. 6. Tickets average $20. Bring your own beverages and picnic supper.