Once called “the richest girl in the world,” tobacco heiress Doris Duke saved more than 50 historic Newport homes from being bulldozed in the 1960s. Today, they make up the country’s most extensive collection of colonial-era dwellings, known as The Point. Located just a few miles away is Duke's own massive Gilded Age mansion, Rough Point, on the edge of the ocean. So there’s no question, Newport loves a beautiful home.
“Newport has always been a preppy sailboat riding, beach-going, polo-playing kinda place. For us, it's more about the style of its history rather than its popularity,” says Newport designer Blair Moore. One of the country’s most fascinating architectural destinations, it’s an ideal summer escape to tour an encyclopedia of historic homes turned museums with a cold Del’s Lemonade in hand.
While you can easily spend the entire time perusing old Victorians juxtaposed next to gigantic French-inspired palaces, Newport is also one of New England’s best places for a seafood feast and a day at the beach. Here, we get the scoop on the best places to hit, from design experts who know.
Where to Stay
Cool and coastal was the look The Wayfinder was going for when it embarked on a refurb in 2019. “The design highlights the edgy, imaginative spirit of modern-day Newport and the destination's new creative class - the thriving art scene, unique surf and skate culture, rising culinary stars,” says the hotel’s developer Phil Hospod. With nightstands sourced from local vintage markets and over 1,000 pieces of artwork from area artists, its quirky, retro design makes it one of the most exciting places to stay just outside of town.
Newport is known for its Gilded Age design, and this historic home-turned-hotel has it in spades. The 20 rooms are decorated in antiques and period-style, ranging from colonial Williamsburg charm to coastal chic. “The unique location at the beginning of Newport's Cliff Walk overlooking First Beach gives guests an opportunity to share the same view of the most historic and exclusive properties in Newport,” says local designer Kelli Prendergast Rugg.
Once a summer cottage for a Harvard marine biologist, this became a home for naval officers during World War II and then a stylish summer getaway for celebrities like Grace Kelly. Today it’s a contemporary Relais & Chateaux property with 33 rooms, most of them seaside cottages. “With its iconic sweeping views of Jamestown and Narragansett Bay, it's an incredible example of a fine Victorian age shingle-style cottage that has been lovingly restored and maintained,” says Rugg.
Where to Eat and Drink
Newport’s best new restaurant located right on the wharf serves up “freestyle Italian” using seafood caught directly from the bay in front. “The Walrus and Carpenter oysters are a treat,” says Moore. “The design takes traditional details and materials and gives them a more modern slant,” says the restaurant’s designer Libby Slader. The upscale space has upholstered seating and a spacious bar for gathering with the wood ceiling details and millwork throughout, inspired by famous architect Stanford White.
Pronounced “chee-no,” it’s the neighborhood go-to for a glass of wine with friends or a bite with a partner. The space is warm, with wood floors giving way to mosaic tiles, muted charcoals and greens in the bar area and tons of natural light streaming in. Among the Italian-inspired plates, “The prosciutto, fig and goat cheese bruschetta is so good you might want to devour it by yourself. I cannot share it,” says Moore.
A minimalist design carries throughout the cozy restaurant on busy Thames Street. “The big focus for us was highlighting the open kitchen, as well as the food.” says owner and designer Anna Burnley. “I really wanted the interiors to feel comfy, nothing too outrageous, or in your face.” Her husband and business partner Tyler hand-poured the concrete tables, and local artist Catherine Druken aka Lovici did the artwork. Trust us, the ravioli filled with gooey egg, serrano ham and ricotta is worth the $10 price tag.
Where to Shop
Though it's native to Newport, this boutique store selling unique accessories and home goods was inspired by the laid-back attitude, music and art of the opposite coast. With an emphasis on building community through store events and local relationships (like the curated lobby retail store at The Wayfinder) it's been a Newport mainstay since 2017.
It doesn’t get more Kennedy-inspired prep than this New England clothing and jewelry company. Their flagship store on Newport’s wharf is the place to pick up some outfits for blending in around town or boarding one of the yacht’s docked just a few feet away.
An antique lover’s dream, this dealer has been selling precious artifacts (with a story) from around the world since 1969. “Aardvark Antiques is a great one-stop-shop for some incredible artifacts that are sometimes pulled out of the mansions here in Newport,” says Moore.
Where to Explore
Whether it’s setting up a beach chair and umbrella at Easton Beach or renting a boat, the water is one of the best parts of this coastal town. “Newport Charter Group is so down to earth and lovely and an absolute pleasure to go out on the water with,” says Moore. “Plus, their boats are the epitome of a day on the water in Newport.”
Lace-up your sneakers; this is the thing to do in Newport. The 3.5-mile walking trail takes you past stunning historic mansion after humongous beautiful home. Perched along the water’s edge are markers for each historic spot and an online app to read whether this Gilded-Age summer cottage belonged to The Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts.
There are 11 incredible mansions to visit around Newport but none more spectacular than The Breakers. It’s the most popular mansion to visit and one of the most ornate. Once owned by the Vanderbilts, it’s a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style retreat designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Today, it’s the perfect pit-stop along The Cliff Walk and, just like for the socialites of the 1920s, a reprieve from the summer heat.
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