Newport, Rhode Island is the place to be if you're planning to travel to southern New England. Newport's charm and beauty are undeniable; with mansions, beaches, boutiques and five star dining - this is the best that East Coast luxury has to offer and a must visit vacation destination. We spent three glorious Autumn days exploring the city and taking in as much as we could in such a short time. Here you'll find all of the Type A details you need to plan a fabulous trip to Newport!
Castle Hill Inn
We made the Castle Hill Inn an absolute priority on our travel list because last January we ate at the James Beard House in New York City where guest chef, Karsten Hart, served us one of the most incredible meals of our life and it left us wanting more. My husband and I knew at that point that we were going to make the pilgrimage to the Castle Hill Inn, where Chef Hart works as the Executive Chef and we are so thankful we finally did. The Castle Hill Inn is one of the most picturesque, luxurious and overall delicious locations we've ever visited (seriously) and here's an overview of why.
The Hotel Itself is Magnificent
Every aspect of this historic Relais & Chateaux property is visually stunning. From the panoramic views of the Atlantic as you watch sailboats float by from adirondack chairs on the sprawling lawn, to the intricately preserved Victorian mansion built in 1875, The Castle Hill Inn is the gem of Newport and attracts world travelers and local elite to its beauty. You would be hard pressed to find a more romantic resort in all of New England.
There are so many beautiful spots to explore on the grounds of this resort, set at the western tip of the peninsula which overlooks the entrance to Narragansett Bay. Take a stroll down treelined pathways, stargaze under the iconic lighthouse, wander through Chef Hart's luscious garden or watch the yachts float by from serene Grace Kelly Beach, fondly named because it was her favorite spot to retreat between filming in the 1950s. The hotel also provides you with everything from road bikes to fishing gear, not to mention boat rides into town, so that you can make yourself right at home with all of the luxuries of home right at your fingertips. Beyond every corner lies a secret just waiting to be uncovered, ensuring a relaxing, adventurous and unforgettable retreat.
There are various accommodation options available, including rooms in the mansion, beach cottages and beach houses - all tastefully decorated to match. We stayed in one of the beach cottages, located on a private beach just a few minutes walk from the main house. The rooms have everything you need to be comfortable like sherpa blankets, organic toiletries from a local shop, rocking chairs on the porch and a quiet, secluded beachfront with full food and beverage service. Each day, you are left with fresh cookies and bottled water as well as gourmet chocolates on your pillow each night. The rooms have kitchenettes with a mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, sink and is fully stocked with dish ware. In case you get a craving for snacks or would like to watch the sunset with a bottle of wine, the kitchen is stocked with food for purchase so you have everything you need without ever having to leave the comfort of your room. There is not a luxury spared when staying at The Castle Hill Inn, ensuring you feel like royalty no matter what room you're in.
Service & Staff
The Castle Hill Inn is definitely the epitome of luxury; however, the staff is far from cold and stuffy as you might expect. From the moment you are greeted at the front desk you are made to feel like family and each interaction is warm and intentional. Managing Director, Brian Young, ensures that his staff is well taken care of and you can truly see that in them; always with walking around with a smile and going out of their way to make each guest's experience special. One memory that stood out to us was one evening before dinner and we watched Chef Hart literally jump over bushes to get chairs for an elderly couple, just to be helpful - a real reflection of servant leadership. We also met the head of housekeeping, Ines, who shared with us her beautiful story of how she migrated to the states and on our last day sent us off with a loving hug and warm cookies; it makes me smile just thinking about it. I strongly believe that it's the people who make a place worth coming back to and that's exactly what you'll find here - the hearts of the people who work here are a clear reflection of the beauty and warmth of The Castle Inn.
Dining Options Fit for Foodies
When breakfast includes lobster hash, afternoon tea is served with freshly made pastries and dinner is inventively created by Chef Hart, there is absolutely no reason to eat anywhere else in Newport, even if you're not staying here. We ate breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at The Inn and while we had the option to leave the resort we honestly didn't want to. This is arguably the best all around foodie spot we've ever visited, which is probably surprising considering it's a historic inn. But I'm not kidding when I tell you that every delicious detail of every meal is on point and will leave you craving more once you're gone. We never had a single dish that didn't scream AMAZING and we haven't stopped talking about each and every perfect bite. Oh and did I mention that Chef Hart is brilliant and is one of the best chefs we've ever encountered? Let me repeat for good measure - his flavor profiles and creativity are mind blowing and we overheard table after table praise his work as simply the best meal they've ever had. Overall - his food is damn good!
If you're a guest at the inn, breakfast is included in the main dining room with your stay. If you're thinking continental breakfast or chafing dish-buffet, think again. You start your day off with a gourmet meal that includes fresh juices, teas and coffee; a variety of artisan breads like sweet potato coffee cake, warm from the oven; and a welcome mini fruit smoothie blended with seasonal, local produce. Your main course menu includes options such as Main Lobster Hash with meaty chunks of lobster topped with precisely poached eggs, Salmon Pastrami Benedict and Peach Melba Pancakes, just to name a few. And if you're not a guest, I suggest that you come for their Sunday Brunch, which includes live jazz entertainment to start your day out right.
Lunch on The Lawn is a great way to pass the time on a crisp, clear day. There is often a wait on weekends, but hotel guests have a special seating area on the patio that skips the line and gives you a front view of the panoramic scenery. You also have the option to sit at the bar or on the lawn in one of the adirondack chairs. Considering this offers one of the best views in Newport, the prices are extremely reasonable and the high quality of food is a clear reflection of the hotel's standards.
After a four hour drive from New Hampshire, we satisfied our overwhelming hunger by ordering sandwiches and sangria, not knowing what to expect. To our surprise, the food and service was top notch and my sandwich-snob hubby claims that his Turkey Club was the best sandwich he's ever head (and all this time I thought I made the best sandwich he's ever had. Hmmm...). Each dish, from drinks to dessert, was packed with flavor and creativity and clearly explained why people wait over an hour just for lunch!
**Note that during late Summer months, bees are in abundance so I suggest sitting inside if this may bother you.
Every afternoon, guests can enjoy Afternoon Tea served inside the mansion. Along with your choice of gourmet tea, you are served a three-tier platter of sweet and savory finger foods, all delicately prepared each day by the inventive pastry chefs at the inn. With a side of lemon curd and devonshire cream, you'll wish you could spend every afternoon here surrounded by unspoken stories of this historic Victorian. I very much looked forward to our afternoons when my husband and I could unwind with a warm cup of tea and reminisce about our day. I also loved my chats with our favorite tea time host, Madeline, who always ensured that I had everything I needed (including an extra scone because I just couldn't get enough!).
Dinner in The Dining Room is where all the magic happens; where Chef Karsten Hart and his talented team prepare the most memorable and beautiful meals of the day. His food plays with your senses and reminds you that food is not "just food". When bright colors fill your eyes, smells transport you to another place entirely and flavor combinations are unlike anything you've ever had before - you know you've arrived at foodie-licious heaven. Chef Hart's multi-course dining experiences offer you a crash course into the real artistry of food.
My husband and I ate here two nights in a row because it was simply that good. The first night we had the 4 course menu with wine pairings, which includes two appetizers, a main course and dessert per person. The second night we had the three course menu, only because we had eaten so much throughout the day that we weren't as hungry. I've said this before - I'm often weary of food that's too pretty because good looks often mask unmatched taste - but this could not be farther from the truth. Course after course was a new flavor explosion, gorgeously presented to satisfy all of your senses. After dining at Michelin Star restaurants in Beverly Hills, New York and across the globe, I can easily say that the dining experience at The Castle Hill Inn matches or exceeds any we've ever had before - with a much more reasonable price tag! The menu is constantly changing based on seasonal ingredients, so it's hard to suggest dishes that will most likely not be there; however, we felt the seafood showcased the chef's greatest work. I also suggest getting outside of your comfort zone, because our favorite dishes ended up being ones we wouldn't normally order - it just goes to show that when you pair a brilliant chef with quality ingredients that anything can happen!
While it's hard to leave the comfort of The Castle Inn, there's so much to see and do in Newport that it's important to plan time for sightseeing. I think you need at least a full three days to enjoy all that Newport has to offer, but five days would be ideal as not to feel rushed. It also helps tremendously to have a car, but it is not necessary since cabs are in abundance and it's not a very large area.
The mansions of Newport are why so many flock to the area. These summer party homes built throughout the 1800's for the rich and famous attract thousands who come to admire their grandeur. One way to see them is to take the famous Cliff Walk, which is a 3.5 hike/walk along the beach and cliffs that border the sprawling yards of the famous homes. Be sure to wear your walking shoes because there are rocky areas and unpaved paths, so it's important to be prepared. However, if you want to do more than just window shop from a distance, a few of the more famous homes are open to the public for about a $15 fee each. The most imfamous mansions include The Breakers, The Marble House and The Elms - but be sure to check out the schedule as they do vary depending on the season.
The downtown area is a mix of souvenir shops, restaurants, and antique stores all within a few short miles. Near the marina is where most of the action takes place and is a good starting point for exploring. Along the way we checked out some unique little shops that are worth visiting, including the Armory Antique Marketplace, which is an antique marketplace that has dozens of booths with interesting treasures, including rare military memorabilia just waiting to be discovered. For lunch, we skipped the bars and tourist traps and took a short drive over to Flo's Clam Shack, famous for their huge portions of fresh, fried seafood. I'm talking scallops, clams, oysters, you name it! With a view of the ocean and a table full of food, you really can't go wrong.
I'm always on the lookout for what I can't get at home and this beauty boutique gave me just that. After using the line of Farmaesthetics toiletries at The Castle Inn, I was on a mission to find more to bring home. The shop's organic, sustainable and hypoalergenic skin care products are like silk on your skin and have an intoxicatingly subtle aroma. The owner truly has an eye for aesthetics as each bottle is carefully decorated; every detail reflecting an image of clean, simple opulence.
la V Curiosite
After stopping in Farmaesthetics, I happened to wander next door to la V Curiosite and immediately fell in love. This little shop is the epitome of feminine chic, carrying home decor and sweet and thoughtful gifts to bring back to your friends from your New England vacation. Inspired by her world travels, the owner emphasizes the best in high-quality splendor with reasonable price tags. I just couldn't get enough of this fabulous boutique and left with a new burlap beach bag, a travel journal and a pearl studded pen - and I use them constantly!
Sweet Berry Farm
Our last stop before heading out of town was at Sweet Berry Farm, a picture perfect pick-your-own farm. Wander through the lines of apple trees, pumpkin patch and wildflowers or find all the local produce and goods you could want inside the barn shop. This is also a perfect spot to stop for a delicious lunch with homemade soups, sandwiches and salads all carefully prepared just for you.