Sipping champagne and noshing on freshly harvested local oysters against a backdrop of some of the country’s most glorious scenery may sound like heaven, but it’s exactly what attendees at Newport’s anxiously awaited annual celebration of all things oysters will experience. Bowen's Wharf, directly on the sparkling Newport waterfront, will host the Newport Oyster Festival May 18th - May 20th. But Newport’s connection with oysters is hardly limited to one weekend. Read on for a closer look at the city’s rich oyster history, along with how you can get in on the oyster action anytime of year.
A Delicious Past, Present and Future
Oysters and Rhode Island have a rich history which dates back centuries to the days when Native American tribes feasted on the bounty of native oysters harvested from the area’s salt ponds. While native oysters in abundance are now a thing of the past due to overfishing and altered habitats, local oyster farms picked up where the the salt ponds left off -- with a newfound commitment to supporting productive ecosystems and sustainable aquaculture.
An Oyster-riffic Experience
During the annual Newport Oyster Festival, local growers come together to offer a taste of their treasures under the tents accompanied by live music, Bloody Marys, shucking contests, appetizer size portions of “chef’s picks” -- oysters and otherwise -- from some of Newport’s most beloved eateries, and much more. They are joined by aquaculture and reef restoration educators to help raise awareness among festival-goers about Rhode Island’s fragile, yet vital habitats.
The festivities begin with the Opening Night Party sponsored by Moët to benefit the Ocean State Aquaculture Association, Nature Conservancy of RI and the Oliver Hazard Perry tall ship. Indulge in oysters and champagne directly overlooking Newport's busy waterfront. How about dessert? Desserts by Anchor Toffee and The Cookie Jar will be available. There will even wine pairings for those who do not enjoy champagne. Tickets are $125 and space is limited to the first 200 people who purchase tickets.
May 19th and 20th will feature freshly harvested local oysters, iconic champagnes, waterfront bars and a learning opportunity that proves you are helping our local ecosystem by eating oysters. You will support The Nature Conservancy's shell recycling and composting efforts. Tickets are $27 in advance for each day. Guests can choose from two time slots, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm or 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.
Getting Your Oyster On
Oysters can be celebrated any time of year in Newport. Many local oyster farms offer public tours, where you can get an up-close-and-personal look at how shellfish are cultivated in local waters while observing different species of shellfish at different stages of growth. Tours also provide information about how you can support local aquaculturists and farmers. We can think of no better way to follow up a tour than with chilled oysters for lunch at The Café or dinner at The Spiced Pear featuring sublime Oysters on the Half Shell with kumquat mignonette.