Newport’s famed Cliff Walk teems with crowds in summer, but in winter you might have this New England bucket-list destination all to yourself.Photo Credit : David Hansen/Discover Newport
Some hotels are little more than a base camp: You check in, drop off your luggage, and you’re out the door. Then there are places like The Chanler at Cliff Walk, where you could completely confine yourself for the weekend and still feel as if you got away. The in-house restaurant might just be the best in town, while the guest quarters are spacious and steeped in lavish touches fit for a Vanderbilt (e.g., a “bath butler” who will draw the water for you and your loved one and complement the experience with rose petals, candles, and champagne). In a city famous for its over-the-top mansions, The Chanler offers the kind of opulence most of us rarely know.
Like the Newport mansions themselves, The Chanler traces its history back to the Gilded Age. Built in 1873 as a home for a prominent New York congressman and his wife, a member of the Astor family, it once welcomed such summer guests as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and President Theodore Roosevelt. After falling out of the family’s hands and undergoing a few different iterations, the property opened as a hotel in the 1940s, and since extensive renovations were completed by new owners in 2003, it has stood out as one of Newport’s most polished stays.
The Chanler is situated at the starting point of the Cliff Walk (it’s the only hotel on the city’s famous pathway), and everything about it is oriented toward the sea. The building sits on a perch above the water, and nearly all of its 20 rooms and villas offer ocean views … from a king-size bed … from a private deck … from a bathtub. There’s even the opportunity to sit by an outdoor fire and sip a hot toddy or mug of boozy hot chocolate as you watch the waves roll in on nearby Easton’s Beach.
Bestowed with names such as Louis XVI, English Tudor, and Regency, the guest rooms have the kinds of luxury elements that warm the soul on cold winter nights: private fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, whirlpool tubs for two. Stay in the Renaissance Room, for one, and you’ll immerse yourself in a large Italian-and-French-inspired space anchored by a four-poster king bed, an enormous walk-in shower, and more living space than some apartments.
But the little things also matter, and to stay at The Chanler is to be awash in personal touches that make you feel taken care of. You’ll come to look forward to the small box of “bedtime chocolates” left on your pillow, and you’ll marvel at how the housekeeping service discreetly tidied up your dangling computer and phone cords with Velcro ties. All this can make returning to The Chanler from your Newport adventures—like strolling to those other mansions on the Cliff Walk—so much the sweeter. —Ian Aldrich
Nightly rate for typical room option: $475 winter vs. $1,025 summer. thechanler.com
BREAKFAST SPOT: Russell Morin Catering’s cuisine is the talk of Newport’s most exclusive parties. Not invited? Be wowed by the flavors—and affordable prices—at the company’s casual eatery, Cru Café, where breakfast is served all day and the menus are brightened by local ingredients. Don’t miss the Bellevue-blend coffee from Rhode Island’s Custom House Coffee artisanal roasters. Newport; crucafenewport.com
NATURE OUTING: New England’s most celebrated seaside pathway, the Newport Cliff Walk, is a 3½-mile trail that threads between Gilded Age mansions and the tumbling Atlantic. Much of the path is moderate; some is even easy. (Certain stretches do require basic caution, though, since erosion has taken a toll, and wet rocks in spots will require careful navigation.) The walk comes with gifts bestowed equally to all: waves scudding off rocks, boats skimming the water, and a camaraderie with fellow walkers who, like you, feel lucky to be there. Newport; cliffwalk.com
RETAIL THERAPY: From glassware etched with compass roses at the Newport Mansions Store to modern preppy clothing and accessories at Kiel James Patrick, you’ll be filling your bags with post-holiday presents for friends and family (and, OK, yourself) at the enticing shops clustered on Newport’s Bowen’s Wharf (bowenswharf.com) and nearby Bannister’s Wharf (bannistersnewport.com).
DINING PICK: What makes the classic New England–style chowder at The Mooring a standout? It’s perfectly creamy, spattered with paprika, and so loaded with potato cubes and tender, buttery bites of clam that your spoon faces a veritable obstacle course—in a word, perfection. But a dilemma awaits: Herby-sweet corn chowder swimming with scallops is also on offer, and it has just the right hint of lemon for dunking salty fritters embedded with lobster and shrimp. Newport; mooringrestaurant.com
CULTURE HIT: Book and library lovers will want to stop by the Redwood Library & Athenaeum, which is considered to be the oldest continuously running lending library in the country, founded in 1747. The architecture is so impressive that Thomas Jefferson himself is said to have used the library as a model for public buildings elsewhere in the young country. Newport; redwoodlibrary.org
DON’T-MISS STOP: Lose yourself in bygone luxury with a tour of one or more of the Newport Mansions, which include The Breakers and Marble House (both former residences of the Vanderbilt family), Rosecliff (based on the fabled French Grand Trianon at Versailles), and The Elms (a copy of a lavish French estate called Château d’Asnières). Newport; newportmansions.org