An Ocean State Gem: Old World Charm and New World Fun in Newport, R.I.
Like many historic New England sea towns, Newport, Rhode Island came of age in a time when tall clipper ships sailed the world, bringing back exotic cargoes of spices, whale oil and other treasures from oceans away.
Today, you can still find those glimpses of the past in a fun and laid back present day environment. Newport isn’t some stuffy old yacht town, it’s a vibrant city blending seafaring history with a dynamic view toward the future. And it’s easy to spend a weekend — or several weeks — exploring its charms.
A view of the endless sea
High on the hill, overlooking the Cliff Walk, a three-mile stretch of walking path offers stunning views of the Atlantic on one side and the beauty of Newport on the other. Here you’ll find the absolutely beautiful The Chanler at Cliff Walk Hotel. This is the only address you need for your seaside stay.
The historic Victorian mansion is now a 20-room boutique hotel, where Old World charm is seamlessly combined with service and every modern amenity. Each of the hotel’s rooms has its own personality, and all but three have breathtaking views of the ocean.
You’ll feel the vibe the minute you walk through the doors into lobby; a sense of: “Let your worries fall away; this is a whole other world.” And it is. In fact, you’ll feel you’re a whole world away from the ordinary here.
Up at the top of the stairs on the second floor is the room you want: the Renaissance room. A huge king size bed, panoramic views of the water and Easton’s Beach, a sunken Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, a fireplace and sitting area and three flat-panel TVs are only the beginning of its charm. French doors lead out to a semi-private, simply huge balcony where you can sit for hours watching the waves.
Want something more intimate for a romantic weekend away? Ask for the Martha’s Vineyard room, a cozy enclave off the ground floor of the main house, complete with a Jacuzzi on the deck. This is a room where quintessential New England charm reigns supreme: white wood furnishings, lovely fireplace. It’s routinely used as a honeymoon suite.
The Chanler is also home to The Spiced Pear restaurant, where old New England cuisine gets a modern kick. Live jazz happens every Friday in the bar, and you’ll love the extensive — and terrifically priced — wine offerings.
Exploring the town
Newport has something for every taste and activity. Since you’re on the water, you can laze at the beach or grab a charter and sail the waves.
Some of the best golf in the country is at Newport National Golf Course , which spans more than 200 acres and offers stunning views of The Sakonnet Passage, Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay. Tennis fans will be equally impressed at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where you can see not only the history of the sport, but also reserve time on the court.
A visit to Newport is incomplete without a visit to the Newport mansions. Built in the 1860s through the early 1900s, these were the summer homes to the likes of the Rockerfellers and Vanderbilts. All the New York industrial magnates once had summer homes here and, today, nearly a dozen of these “cottages” are open to the public. Don’t let the term cottage confuse you; homes like The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms (and all the other beautiful homes) are mirrors of gilded splendor. Huge, gold leaf adorned ballrooms, dining rooms with rich mahogany tables seating two dozen, music rooms with views of the sea, sweeping lawns leading to the ocean await you behind those doors.
The mansions are located in the basic vicinity of Bellevue Avenue, one of Newport’s main drags. The other main roads are Thames Street and America’s Cup Avenue. All along Thames, you’ll find several wharves. Formerly housing shipping company offices and warehouses, the wharves now are a mecca for shops and restaurants. From big names to small boutiques with New England flair, whether you’re shopping for antiques, clothing or the perfect reminder of your New England stay, you’ll find it along the wharves.
And as for food, Newport is a culinary jewel in New England’s culinary crown. The historic White Horse Tavern has been in operation since the 1700s and still serves up fantastic New England fare. If you want a more contemporary twist, visit The Mooring in Sayers Wharf, where executive chef Brian Mansfield and his team serve seasonal delights made with the freshest of local ingredients. (Specifically check out the Hawaiian fish of the day; flown in from the waters around the Aloha State, it’s always paired with New England herbs and accompaniments; you’ll talk about it for days.)
You can’t fly directly into Newport, but Rhode Island’s main airport, T.F. Green, is about 25 miles north in Warwick (the airport is called Providence of PVD by the rest of the country). A car rental is almost a must, but every major service has an outlet at the airport. From there, you’ll head south and enjoy gorgeous water views over the bridges taking you into Newport.
For additional information on Newport activities and calendars of events, visit www.GoNewport.com.
Photo credit: Onne van der wal / www.vanderwal.com.