All's quiet on the waterfront. Or at least quieter than on a typical summer day in this sailing capital on Narragansett Bay. It's a matter of weeks before the last boats are pulled out of the water and covered for winter, and the Providence-Newport high-speed ferry ends its season today.
Yet Newport and the other towns that share Aquidneck Island, Portsmouth and Middletown, don't roll up the sidewalks and hibernate until spring. If there's a quiet month, it's January. That's the only time the monthly Newport Gallery Night takes a break.
To experience the city as the locals do -- say, sipping local wines at Le Bistro on Bowen's Wharf or listening to music at the Rhumbline, the Newport Blues Cafe, or Area Venue, among others -- a weekend stay is ideal, yet a lot can be experienced even in a day.
Ocean Drive - Although Newport is a great walking town, it's too big to cover on foot, so take advantage of public transportation trolleys that leave from the Visitors Center, 23 America's Cup Ave., or rent a bike. Ten Speed Spokes, a block from the Visitors Center, rents bicycles year round. Service manager Adam St. Germain said he often steers folks to fall rides along Ocean Drive.
Ten Speed Spokes 18 Elm St. 401-847-5609.
Newport Gallery Night - On the second Thursday of every month but January, 22 galleries welcome visitors for receptions from 5-8 p.m. (www.newportgalleries.org). Among the participants are the Newport Art Museum, glassblower Matthew Buechner's Thames Glass, Third & Elm Press, Ilse Nesbitt's printmaking studio; and Blink, where Alexander Nesbitt, son of the printmaker, shows color photographs from world travels.
Newport Art Museum 76 Bellevue Ave. 401-848-8200.
Thames Glass 688 Thames St. 401-846-0576.
Third & Elm Press 29 Elm St. 401-846-0228.
Blink 89 Thames St.401-847-4255.
The Point - This wonderful neighborhood has some of Newport's oldest homes and buildings. Bordered by Washington, Bridge, Thames, and Farewell streets and Van Zandt Avenue, it's a charming place to explore, read the historic house markers, and discover other galleries, among them Suydam + Diepenbrock. Jewelry designer Didi Suydam and her husband, metal sculptor Peter Diepenbrock, converted a vintage auto garage into a studio-gallery in 1999. Here, they work and exhibit their creations and that of four painters and six other jewelry designers. ''We do contemporary art, so there aren't any sailboat images here," Diepenbrock said.
Suydam + Diepenbrock 9 Bridge St. 401-848-9090.
International Yacht Restoration School - With Newport's history as a center of sailing, this school gives a good introduction to classic wooden yachts, said Anne Marie McLaughlin of the Newport Visitors Center. Housed in old waterfront buildings, the school has programs on maritime skills and vintage watercraft for students of all ages. Among events is an open house Saturday from 1-4 p.m., and a Tuesday night lecture series through Dec. 6.
IYRS 449 Thames St. 401-848-5777, www.iyrs.org.
Wineries - The grape harvest is synonymous with fall, and Newport County has three vineyards -- Sakonnet in Tiverton, Greenvale in Portsmouth, and Newport in Middletown. The largest and closest to town (three miles away) is Newport Vineyards. Daily tours are at 1 and 3 p.m. Co-owner John Nunes said harvests usually begin the third week of October and last until early November. Ten years ago, Nunes and his brother, Paul, bought the vineyard and expanded plantings to 50 acres, much of it on land their great-grandfather had bought in 1917. In three growing areas, they produce European-style reds and whites, among them chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, and Riesling.
Newport Vineyards 909 East Main Road, Route 138. 401-848-5161, www.newportvineyards.com.
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge - This is a spectacular setting on the 242-acre peninsula overlooking Rhode Island Sound, with hiking trails, bird-watching, and saltwater fishing. Snowy owls have been seen here the last few winters.
Sachuest Point Drive, Middletown. 401-847-5511, www.sachuestpoint.fws.gov.
Norman Bird Sanctuary - This 330-acre sanctuary is known for its diverse landscape. Rob Cardeiro, executive director, said the sanctuary has everything: grasslands, wetlands, forest, beach, rocky outcroppings, and 7 1/2 miles of marked trails. The sanctuary offers guided bird walks year-round (every other Sunday at 8 a.m.; next one is Oct. 30). In fall, birders focus on raptors.
583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown. 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org.
Dining - Everyone has a favorite eating spot in this town. Adam St. Germain of Ten Speed Spokes, for example, recommends Sapo Freaky Burrito for tacos and burritos. Peter Diepenbrock offered Salvation Cafe as a cheerful spot for lunch or dinner. His wife, Didi Suydam, loves the West Deck at this time of year because of the harbor views. She also frequents Boulangerie Obelix, a French bakery. Cardeiro of the Norman Bird Sanctuary advises stopping for coffee and pastries at Custom House Coffee, and picking up gourmet baked goods and sandwiches at the Market on the Boulevard, a short walk from First Beach.
Sapo Freaky Burrito 16 Broadway. 401-847-7276.
Salvation Cafe 140 Broadway. 401-847-2620.
West Deck 1 Waite's Wharf. 401-847-3610.
Boulangerie Obelix 382 Spring St. 401-846-3377.
Custom House Coffee 796 Aquidneck Ave. (Route 138A), Middletown. 401-842-0008.
Market on the Boulevard 43 Memorial Blvd. 401-848-2600.
Contact Jan Shepherd, a freelance writer in Boston, at email@example.com.