An Ode to Middletown

The middle child of Aquidneck Island has a textured history of its own.
Photography by Chris Vaccaro

Great places for foodies

Ida’s Restaurant
With homemade pasta as a starting point, the mac and cheese here is to die for. But if that doesn’t catch your fancy, you can also try one of its many other dishes like the Mr. Art’s Nighttime Burger (short rib, Monterey jack cheese, sambal chili mayonnaise and pickles on a brioche roll). 21 Valley Rd., Middletown, 849-3377,

Flo’s Clam Shack
It would be wrong to be so close to the ocean without having some fresh seafood. Flo’s Clam Shack has been a classic spot since 1936 and is famous for, you guessed it, its clams. If that doesn’t suit your tastes, Flo’s Fiery Stuffed Quahog is another great choice; it’s bound to please your taste buds and fill you up. 4 Wave Ave., Middletown, 847-8141,

A Short Drive Away
Rocco’s Little Italy
If you’re looking for a New York-style pizza that kicks it up a notch, this is the place to go. Order traditional cheese and pepperoni or the special lasagna pizza (Italian sausage, meatballs, ricotta, marinara and Romano cheese). No matter how you slice it the options are endless. 880 East Main Rd., Portsmouth, 682-1777,

Keenwah Super Food Eatery
This is the quintessential spot for gourmet, healthy food that doesn’t cost a fortune. Grab a smoothie, like the Anti-Establish Mint (organic kale, avocado, banana, mint and agave) and pair it with a build-your-own sandwich for an amazing combo that won’t disappoint. 311 Broadway, Newport, 619-5266,

Great places to shop

The Saltwater Edge
Lovers of saltwater fishing can be sure to stop here for all of their angling needs. There’s everything from lures and rods to gear to wear while you’re reeling them in. The staff is always happy to help fix and find whatever you may need. 1037 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown, 842-0062,

Island Books
Centrally located in Wyatt Square, this locally owned, independent bookstore has the perfect choice for your next spring read. While they offer a wide variety of books, they also hold signings and monthly book discussions. 575 East Main Rd., Middletown, 849-2665,

A Short Drive Away
Cory Farms Past and Presents
Looking to get someone an unusual gift? Look no more. With beautiful home decor, gifts and holiday treasures made in both the United States and Scandinavia, you might just end up buying more for yourself than for your family and friends. 3124 East Main Rd., Portsmouth, 683-3124,

Great places to explore

Norman Bird Sanctuary
With seven miles of hiking trails, this nature preserve offers plenty to see. Depending on the season, there’s the chance to view the many types of birds that call this habitat their home, from loons and swans to plovers and falcons, so bring a pair of binoculars. 583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 846-2577,

Purgatory Chasm
Purgatory Chasm not only has a hiking trail that leads to breathtaking views, but legend has it that long ago a young man once leaped across the opening to escape a malevolent lover. Right by the beaches, this is a quick stop that will add a little intrigue and adventure to an outing. Tuckerman Avenue, Middletown.

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
One of only five national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island, Sachuest Point was used for farming from the mid-1600s to the early 1900s. Nowadays, at 242 acres, the park acts as an important stopover for migratory birds and bird watchers alike. Grab a trail map from the website and hike up to the Ocean View Loop for the best views. 769 Sachuest Point Rd., Middletown, 847-5511,

A Short Drive Away
Green Animals Topiary Gardens
Overlooking Narragansett Bay, Green Animals is one of the oldest topiary gardens in the United States and is open through the summer until the end of October for tours. Spend the afternoon exploring the house and grounds. The kids will love taking pictures next to all of the giant green animals. 380 Corys Ln., Portsmouth, 683-1267,

Newport in name, Middletown in address

Newport Creamery Yes, the iconic dairy-based restaurants can be found all over the state, but Newport Creamery’s official headquarters are actually situated one town over from their namesake. The flagship location originally began as a “milk bar,” but today it serves everything from fluffy buttermilk pancakes to creamy Awful Awfuls. 208 West Main Rd., Middletown, 846-2767,

Newport Vineyards Its taglines may say “Bringing the Napa Experience to Newport” and “A Winery that is Quintessentially Newport,” but this gorgeous stretch of property is technically laid out in Middletown. Still, the vineyards, which were originally planted in 1977, provide an incomparable view of the Rhode Island Sound and yield even better wine flavors. 909 East Main Rd., Middletown, 848-5161,

Newport State Airport and Skydive Newport That’s right, if you fly into Newport State Airport you’ll be touching down on Middletown runways (granted they aren’t far from downtown Newport). The airport not only accommodates tourists, aviation enthusiasts and members of the Army National Guard, but also is home to Skydive Newport, the state’s premier tandem skydiving center. 211 Airport Access Rd., Middletown, 846-9400,; 845-0393,

Newport Cooks Who wouldn’t love to whip up recipes like the ones you’d taste at a fine-dining restaurant in Newport? Classes with Newport Cooks are your chance to learn how — but you’ll actually be chopping onions in Middletown. The culinary school aims to teach the world kitchen skills one good cook at a time, offering lessons for adults and children alike. 796 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown, 293-0740,

Newport Equestrian The city of Newport may get all the polo buzz, but it’s Middletown that discovers and nurtures the talented riders with Newport Equestrian. Owners and mother-daughter team Suzanne Hourihan and Kamala Duffy work with horse lovers of all experiences, from casual trail riders to advanced show jumpers. Don’t miss the chance to experience Second Beach from a new perspective with a sunset horseback ride. 287 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 837-4188,

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