Newport, Rhode Island may be small but its shores are packed with attractions. We fell under its spell on a hotel-finding road trip last month, and with two Smith-approved boutique hotels in Newport, you’re sure to be lured to its shores, too…
Just a few hours’ drive from buzzy New York, this lighthouses-for-landmarks land is the stir-crazy city slicker’s go-to getaway, with music festivals, fresh-off-the-boat seafood, smart beach hotels and all the other things you need to get shipshape in no time. (Just to clarify, we didn’t mean Newport in Wales.)
This is the place to gad about like Gatsby and his gal while watching the lights twinkle across the water – just as Robert Redford and Mia Farrow when they shot The Great Gatsby here in 1974 at the Marble House and Rosecliff mansions. Both these expansive estates are now stops on the popular (but fun) Newport mansion tours routes. We cruised along the 10-mile stretch of Ocean Drive, past Fort Adams State Park, where the Newport Jazz Festival is held each summer, imagining the soulfully soundtracked picnics we could have; followed perhaps by walking it off with a bracing amble along the rugged Cliff Walk.
If you want to experience life as unofficial New England royalty (or perhaps indulge your Mia Farrow fantasy a bit more), you’ll love our first Newport hotel find: Vanderbilt Grace on Mary Street (right, centre and below), is a storied property with a somewhat scandalous past – built by Alfred Vanderbilt in 1909, the mansion was allegedly a gift for his mistress. Plush, modern clean-lined interiors perfectly contrast with the stately red-brick exterior of this blue-blooded beauty: we loved the antiques-dotted study, and model yachts set a sweet maritime tone.
In the new Vanderbilt Grace restaurant, Muse (the latest venture by celebrated New England chef Jonathan Cartwright), we were also bowled over by the saffron risotto with chunks of well-seasoned squash.
Surrounded by sleek mega yachts, the classic clapboard style of marina-side Forty 1˚ North (named after its parallel of latitude) is a departure from the historical sites, where all the mod cons you’d expect are balanced with artful interiors. We loved the contemporary artwork with subtle nautical references (including Blott Kerr-Wilson’s The Mercury Sea, a mixed-media piece of abalone shells in plaster, which was commissioned specially by the hotel).
Retro 50s pics of bikini-clad girls line the walls at Christie’s restaurant (left, ahem, bottom), the more casual of the hotel’s two eateries, contributing to the fun, free-wheeling atmosphere. Upstairs, bedrooms are decidedly grown-up, with rich steel grey, tobacco yellow and chocolate brown colour schemes.
Before we left, we plotted our return trip (say it Arnie-style: I’ll be back) to try the unmissable things that we, well, missed. Top of the list? Sipping a coconut mojito in Salvation Café’s tiki lounge before tucking into one of their truffle oil-infused mac-n-cheese. We’ll also rise early for the summertime stretching sessions at Forty 1° North – Saturday mornings they provide yoga classes on the docks…