Exterior View - Castle Hill Inn, Newport, New England

Castle Hill Inn

The fabulous shingled mansion that presides over the westernmost point of Newport was built in 1874 for a marine biologist who clearly appreciated the incredible spot overlooking the opening of Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. In the decades since then, the house has witnessed hurricanes, wars (it housed Naval Officers during World War II) and became a hotel that housed movie stars (Grace Kelley moved in while filming High Society).

With rooms in the main house, including a suite in the turret, and in separate beach and harbor cottages, the hotel offers guests the chance to experience a quintessential New England summer escape. Of course, the hotel is winterized and open all year but rather than evoke the grand European formality of the Newport mansions just up Ocean Drive, Castle Hill feels more like nearby Hammersmith Farm, the childhood escape of Jackie Kennedy who spent days on the water and on horseback. The 35 rooms range from Victorian in style (in the main house) to settings that look straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalog (in the beach houses and cottages) to simple and modern with gas fireplaces (in the Harbor rooms). Throughout, furnishings feel lush and fresh, with fleece shearling throws and Newport-favorite Farmaesthetic toiletries. The Harbor rooms abut a beautiful back lawn that leads down to a tiny, secluded rocky beach. Beach rooms are set directly on the property's private beach (about a 5-minute walk down the hill from the main house).

Activities on offer include bocce ball and croquet on the lawns, kayaking, paddle boarding, yoga and the inevitable gazing out at the sea from Adirondack chairs. When guests want to head into town, the staff will happily take them in a hotel car or via the property's beautiful new motor launch, which runs from the hotel's private marina. The excellent concierge team can also arrange for such off-property undertakings as surfing lessons, bike riding, bird watching, hot air balloon rides, horseback riding and polo. At night there are regular clambakes, beach bonfires, movie nights and stargazing with a local astronomer.

The Lawnis the hotel's warm-weather outdoor restaurant overseen by chef Karsten Hart, who has a European and New Orleans background. A traditional afternoon tea is also served daily in the lobby.

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Living Room at Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, New England

Chanler at Cliff Walk

Not many hotel owners would furnish a suite with impeccable antiques, decide the results are not flawless and start all over again repainting and redecorating. But nothing seems to have daunted Jeanie Shufelt who, along with her husband John, is the mastermind behind the 20 art-filled rooms at the Chanler at Cliff Walk.

Perched on a rocky cliff with views of the beach and ocean, the stately Chanler occupies a rejuvenated Georgian-style mansion that was built in the 1870s for a congressman. It’s a perfectly peaceful enclave at the head of the three-and-a-half mile Cliff Walk, Newport’s famous coastal footpath path that curves along the seashore. A morning run, followed by breakfast on the Chanler’s verandah—which might entail caramelized banana compote French Toast with strawberry Grand Marnier butter sauce—is the ideal beginning of a Newport day, which should also include visits to the great houses.

The rooms at the Chanler are exquisitely accessorized by someone who clearly loves European antiques and an old-world sensibility. Curtains are sweeping and tasseled; beds are dressed up with four-posters and decorative pillows. Some have fireplaces, Oriental carpets and chandeliers, with the inspiration coming from the Gilded Ages cottages in the area and different eras. The Gothic room, outfitted with heavy purple drapery and faux stone walls is adjacent to the Mediterranean room, with wrought-iron furniture and upholstery in dark reds and oranges. Many accommodations have ocean views but also look out onto the major road, Memorial Boulevard. A favorite is the seaside Martha’s Vineyard Villa with its own private courtyard and hot tub. Shufelt’s triumph here is a hand-painted tile trompe l’oeil mural of an ocean scene and an antique stained-glass skylight. Equally enticing is the ornate Renaissance Suite with decidedly French antiques including three crystal chandeliers and a private rooftop deck with panoramic views of the ocean.

Though the hotel is not located directly in town, the Chanler's valets are available to run guests into town and pick them up at any time of day or night. During summer months, beach butler service, where staff will take you to a prime Newport beach, arrange your set-up and provide refreshments, is available.

Before dinner, consider a stroll on the Cliff Walk followed by drinks at the bar accompanied by the irresistible house signature: parmesan and truffle oil popcorn.

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External view - Forty 1 North, Newport, New England

Forty 1 North

There's a South Beach, Miami quality to Forty 1 North, the marina-front boutique hotel in Newport that attracts a younger clientele than the town's other luxury hotels. Set in a Dutch colonial–style building between Thames Street and one of the town's wharfs, the hotel is comprised of 28 rooms and cottages, some of which contain full-size kitchens and gas fireplaces. All rooms are outfitted with Frette linens, LED flat-screen televisions, complimentary iPads for use throughout your stay and Malin + Goetz toiletries.

The Grill is Forty 1 North's dockside dining option that is popular with Newport weekenders and locals for meals and cocktails throughout the day and evening. Summertime brunch is particularly great and tables in the sun are a hot commodity.

The hotel is typically the top pick for those who arrive in Newport by boat—be it sail or motor—as the marina has slips to dock launches up to 250 feet. The restaurants provide on-boat dining options, and the hotel offers cleaning and maintenance services.

grand new england hotel on coast in daytime

Ocean House

While the parasols of its nineteenth-century origins have given way to blue and yellow beach umbrellas and cabanas complete with butler service, the Victorian-style Ocean House remains a nostalgic reminder of the past, with all the modern amenities to ensure a five-star experience.

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Vanderbilt Hall Hotel, Newport, Rhode Island.
Not for transmission or publication without express permission of the copyright owner, Simon Burt

The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection

Set on a pretty side street just off the main thoroughfare Thames Street, The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection (formerly the Grace Vanderbilt) is a lovely in-town boutique property for Newport visitors. The mansion was built in 1909 by Alfred Vanderbilt for his mistress, and the building has such period Beaux Arts architectural details as massive fireplaces and double grand staircases in the front hall. Today, visitors are greeted in a lobby area with comfy couches and bookshelves that create the feeling that you have wandered into someone’s cozy den. On the main floor are a billiards room with lacquered red walls and two restaurants, one casual where diners can eat in a conservatory or at tables in an outdoor garden; and the other is a gourmet option, Muse, where award-winning chef Jonathan Cartwright serves up New England classics with modern flair.

The 33 guest rooms vary in size and configuration. Two on the main floor have fireplaces while some in the new wing are lofts with bedrooms up a flight of stairs from the seating area. Some rooms are well suited to families with separate living areas with pull-out couches, and there is the possibility to connect suites to create a multi-bedroom family space. While fine antiques are sprinkled throughout the public spaces, the furnishings in the guest rooms are new and contemporary so there is no fussy bed-and-breakfast décor despite the building’s provenance. All of the rooms have been tastefully updated with modern amenities and personal touches, like shelves full of novels.

The basement contains a spa and fitness center as well as a lovely, large indoor pool. In warmer weather, the outdoor pool is open and guests can sit out in a large, courtyard garden. For the best views in town, there is a roof deck on the top floor with a bar. In the summer months, movies are sometimes shown on a giant flat screen outdoors.

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Weekapaig Waterfront view

Weekapaug Inn

If the Weekapaug Inn were to be located on the coast of Florida, it might be appropriate to deem the resort barefoot casual. But thanks to its location in rural Rhode Island on the banks of Quonochontaug Pong, the property channels something more akin to New England waterfront­–chic, with wellies topping sandals as the footwear of choice. While the Inn has all the trappings of a summer resort (ample watersports, complimentary bikes, swimming pool), it also encourages guests to explore the natural beauty of the region, be it on naturalist walks, fishing excursions or in landscape painting lessons.

The initial resort occupied a plot just steps from the current hotel, and operated from 1899-1938, until a hurricane struck and severely damaged the building. Just a year later, the hotel reopened down the beach, and was operated by the Buffum family until the early 2000’s, when it fell into disrepair and was acquired by two local residents. After a long renovation, the Weekapaug Inn reopened in 2012 and now has 33 rooms and suites featuring modern amenities but the same homey charm of the original resort.

The accommodations reflect this mentality, thanks in part to the interior designer, who had only decorated homes before the resort. Each of the cozy rooms features a cream palate with accents taken from the colors of the headboards, all of which are unique. While simple in design, the accommodations are given a boost with granola in the winter and a beach chair in the summer, binoculars and bird books, TV’s (upon request) and breakfast menus, which can be enjoyed in one’s room each morning. Beyond the standard guest rooms, the Inn boasts four two-bedroom signature suites, which are accessible by private entrance and elevator and feature full kitchens and washer/dryers. But the premiere accommodations are undoubtedly the three Fenway suites, which are located in a separate building. Featuring complimentary wet bars, outdoor patios with bathtubs and light-filled rooms with whitewashed walls, the suites are the rooms of choice for couples looking to hole up for a romantic weekend.

Days at the Weekapaug can be spent boating, kayaking, paddle boarding and playing bocce and shuffleboard, or unwinding at the pool or private beach a quarter mile from the resort. For more immersive activities, the resort has a naturalist on staff, who leads nature walks, star-gazing excursions and arts and crafts classes. There is a well-equipped gym and while the Inn lacks a spa, guests can use the one at the sister property: the Ocean House. Active types can also explore the surrounding area by bike or house Volvos, both of which are complimentary.

Dining options abound, with four on-property restaurants and Thursday night clam bakes (followed by s’mores at the fire pit). All emphasize New England cuisine to varying degrees of formality. The Bath House is the ideal spot to grab a frozen Del’s lemonade and wrap on a sunny day, while the formal Restaurant serves elevated fare including a tasting menu with locally sourced ingredients. And should hunger strike throughout the day, the pantry is stocked around-the-clock with warm chocolate chip cookies, snacks, hot chocolate and coffee.

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