Set in a neo-colonial mansion a few blocks from the water, the Attwater hotel in Newport has more nautical know-how than a summer sailing crew. Rooms are primarily decorated with ocean blues, corals, and accents like lacquered finishes, nailheads and grommets are meant to conjure boat designs. Aspiring sailors should stop by the bistro each morning, where homemade pastries, oven-warm muffins and fresh brews are perfect fuel for a day on the water.
Double rooms from £177.20 ($225), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include a breakfast of small plates, served in the coffee house.
There are two small steps up to the hotel’s ground floor (let staff know if you need a ramp and they’ll be happy to assist), but otherwise all communal areas are wheelchair-friendly. One of the King Junior Suites is ADA-approved, fitted with a roll-in shower and grab bars, and is accessed by an elevator.
At the hotel
Gym, free parking (subject to availability), and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, air-conditioning, mini fridge, and bespoke bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The King Suite is the best room in the house, with a separate seating area and a gas fireplace, plus perky prints and sea-inspired colors (the burnt-orange and navy is our favorite). If you’re planning on staying a little longer, check in to the Lark Suite, which is decked out with a dining area, dry bar, microwave and refrigerator.
Newport is a sailing hub, so bring anything you’ll need to hit the high seas.
On sunny days, the deck on the second floor is one of the best spots in town for sea-faring sights.
Little Smiths are welcome, but this Rhode Island retreat is better suited to couples.
On a nice day, sit by the open French doors or take your coffee out to sip on the porch.
Polished and preppy. New Englanders don’t tend to show up to breakfast in their PJs.
Head down to the perky breakfast bistro for fresh blends and small plates of homemade baked goods (including homemade doughnuts, blueberry-ricotta muffins, cheddar biscuits, bagels and yet more pastries), eggs how you like ‘em and light breakfast salads. Later in the day, there are cookies, oven-fresh scones and free French-press coffee for your sampling.
There isn’t a bar here, but staff will be more than happy to recommend some of Newport’s locally loved watering holes.
Breakfast is served from 8am, and snacks are available throughout the day.
None, though each room has a Keurig coffeemaker and a fridge for guests to stock.
The Attwater is located in downtown Newport on Liberty Street.
Domestic flights land at Newport State Airport, which is a 20-minute drive from the hotel; but if you’re arriving from outside the US, you’ll have to fly to TF Green International Airport in Providence, around 40 minutes from the hotel. The hotel can arrange private transfers, otherwise you can take a taxi for around $80, or rent a car from one of the airport kiosks. Further afield, Boston’s Logan International Airport is a 90-minute drive. The East Coast hub serves most major cities, including London, Los Angeles and Miami.
The closest station is South Kingstown, a 30-minute drive away, which is on Amtrak's East Coast route to Boston, New York, Washington, and Richmond.
A car is handy for anyone looking to visit Providence (a 40-minute drive), Boston (a 90-minute drive) or any other New England sites. The airports all have rental kiosks, and the hotel has free first-come-first-served parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Newport’s massive mansions, once laughably called ‘summer cottages’ by their well-heeled owners (some were once owned by tycoons like the Vanderbilts), are well worth a tour. Newport Restoration Foundation, founded by tobacco heiress Doris Duke, has restored more than 80 Newport homes, including Duke’s own massive home, Rough Point on Bellevue Avenue – the home now serves as a museum space, with antique and art exhibitions. Nearby, the National Museum of American Illustration features works by masters such as Norman Rockwell, NC Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. The hotel can also help arrange sailing trips; or there’s a bike rental just down the street for those who would rather explore on land.
On nearby Charles Street, Perro Salado serves contemporary Mexican food with a seafood spin that pays homage to Newport’s nautical legacy. Two young New York chefs married twin sisters and opened popular BYOB Thames Street Kitchen, with a focus on ultra-fresh dishes, which change weekly and pair unexpected ingredients, like monkfish with grapefruit, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. They also helm Mission Burgers, along Aquidneck Avenue, where patties are pressed on-site and served with their signature, secret sauce.
Beer fans won’t be disappointed at Pour Judgement on Broadway, which serves an extensive menu of bottled and draft brews from around the world. If you fancy yourself more sommelier than beer buff, head to waterfront 22 Bowen’s and pick from over 650 bottles of refined wines.
Newport is a town of summer homes, expansively old-school hotels (aka wedding factories in the warm months) and bed and breakfasts. The latter have names that reference Dickens’ books, and the hosts expect you to have long, lingering meals, discussing your plans for the day, your sleeping habits and the local bird population.
Thankfully, the Attwater, a boutique hotel set right by the Newport Art Museum, doesn’t fit into any of those categories. It is not your weekend home (though you might wish it was), and, unlike the local hotel classics, it is polished but never, ever stodgy – with nary a white dress or drunken groomsman in sight. And though the Attwater feeds you every morning – a changing menu of small plates that might include red pepper and cheddar quiche, say, or strawberry scones, all made in-house – there is absolutely no expectation of the sort of interaction that is especially painful before you’ve been caffeinated. In fact, it’s completely acceptable if the only thing you say as you work your way through your Greek yogurt and balled cantaloupe (served in a birdbath glass that may have held champagne in a former life) is, ‘I think the coffee carafe might be empty.’
Which meant that it was exactly what Mr Smith and I were in the market for. Though he is much more adept at navigating the early-morning chit-chat than I am, he’s also more than happy to be left alone to read the paper and brainstorm the best nearby options for unimpressive tennis-playing or splashing around.
Considering this was the first time either Mr Smith or I visited Newport – indeed, it was our first outing to any of the classic, East Coast summer destinations that seem to have an endless supply of ribbon belts and polo shirts – it’s probably not fair for me to judge the Attwater as unconventional, but it was unexpected. The 17-room hotel in a rehabbed mansion is modern and sophisticated, and the 10-minute walk to the seafood-and-ice-cream harbourside main drag lets you feel like you’re doing your own thing and actually having a weekend. And a stroll is definitely part of the draw – especially if you’re anything like my travel companion, who was in it for the big, beautiful sailboats and got his fix with an America’s Cup charter the last day of our trip.
The hotel’s design has a certain if-Alexander-Girard-and-Kelly-Wearstler-had-a-love-child vibe (yes, that would involve time travel, but go with me). The common areas downstairs are bright and lively with pops of orange, turquoise, and lime and chandeliers that don’t seem to want to be taken seriously. Upstairs, the King Suite that we happily made our home for two nights was cheery but serene. There was a marble coffee table and a sleek gas fireplace in our sitting room and homey rugs on the hardwood floors throughout. Sweet little beach photos by Alicia Bock hung on the walls, and a painted barn door separated our bedroom from our black-and-white-tiled bathroom.
The best part of the set-up, without a doubt, was the bed. The hotel should consider opening a gift shop just to sell their sheets and pillowcases, which were likely constructed of very high-thread-count cotton but felt as if they were made of magic. Leaving them to start our day was a real struggle – something our hosts seemed well aware of, considering that they served the breakfast in their café until 11am.
Another bit of genius: upon check-in, as well as keys to our room and to the front door (which is locked nightly at 10pm), we were given an iPad preloaded with the Attwater’s approved list of Newport goings-on: things to do, stores to shop (such as Farmaesthetics, the local apothecary just a quick stroll away), and, of course, places to eat. When we arrived around 5pm after fighting the July weekend traffic, the friendly receptionist was visibly concerned about our dinner plans, offering to help us score a Friday night reservation. We didn’t tell her we’d be happy to go pretty much anywhere that had a raw bar, but she read our minds. We were set up on the unfussy patio at Benjamin’s and spent way too much time deciding whether we needed both fried and raw oysters. Turns out we did.
Though there was rain during our weekend, we took advantage of any evening patches of clear skies to slip out onto the hotel’s back deck – the perfect venue for taking in the stars that we don’t see in New York and we sometimes forget exist at all. We made our way through a bottle of wine, served in the pair of stemless wine glasses tucked into the a sneaky alcove right by our suite’s front door along with a mini fridge, an ice bucket, and a pod coffeemaker – all the weekend essentials, no?
Had we stayed longer than two days – which would have been very easy to do – we would have settled contentedly into our room, spending hours curled up reading on our cushy gray couch, doing a little email-answering from the Parsons desk to feel productive, and jogging to the Cliff Walk for a morning run. Our fellow guests even exhibited that wearing workout gear to the morning meal was absolutely acceptable and that you could do so without anyone asking where you were headed or if you’d like some company. We look forward to testing that out ourselves some time. Nice to meet you, Newport.