The resort town of Newport was a popular vacation spot for Gilded Age millionaires, who built spectacular mansions along the shore. The most well-known of these opulent palaces is The Breakers, built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1893 and 1895. The 70-room home was inspired by palazzos of the Italian Renaissance. Cornelius' younger brother William K. Vanderbilt built Marble House between 1888 and 1892 and named it for the 500,000 cubic feet of marble used in its construction. Both theses houses and several others are open for tours.
Fort Adams, also in Newport, is one of largest coastal forts in the United States. Citizens of Newport built an earthwork fortification in 1776 to defend themselves against the British, but it didn't work—the British took the town anyway. The fort was built up over the next decades and named after President John Adams in 1799. The current structure housed American servicemen from 1824 to 1950, and today it is the site of military reenactments and music festivals.
Rhode Island's rocky coast made lighthouses vital until the advent of modern navigation. Today, many lighthouses have been preserved for their historic and picturesque value. Rose Island Lighthouse was kept lit from 1870 until 1971, when it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Today, the beacon has been relit and the lighthouse keeper's home is a museum. Rustic guest rooms allow lighthouse enthusiasts to step back in time and reenact a lighthouse keeper's life—chores and all.