When writer John de St. Jorre visited a friend in Newport, Rhode Island, he knew right away he wanted to make it his home. “I was struck by the beauty and the old-world atmosphere,” he says. “The residents are international and well-traveled.”
As a correspondent for the London Observer, de St. Jorre covered the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Islamic revolution in Iran. The London native has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Town & Country; his latest book is Legendary Golf Clubs of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.
Contributing photographer Nik Wheeler describes Newport as an East Coast version of his hometown of Santa Barbara, California: “It has a traditional society with strong preservation instincts.” He also liked the New England architecture, including the grand Public Library and the Rose Island Lighthouse.
Wheeler and de St. Jorre met more than 30 years ago while covering the Middle East and have collaborated on several magazine stories and The Insider’s Guide to Spain. Together they have even run with the bulls in Pamplona.
HOME, SWEET MEGAHOME Stroll the 3 1/2-mile Cliff Walk to get an introduction to Newport’s historic mansions. De St. Jorre’s favorite was Rosecliff, where many movies have been filmed. He also recommends the Elms, where you can see the servants’ quarters and take a leisurely taped tour. Eleven mansions are operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County, which offers a variety of admission packages. (The Gilded Age Experience features five separate tours for $31 per adult. The visitors’ center is at the Breakers; 401-847-1000, www.newportmansions.org.) Wheeler liked Rough Point, Doris Duke’s house, because he says it was “more contemporary and more American” ($25 per adult; 401-849-7300, www.newportrestoration.com).
BEACH TIME Mile-long Second Beach, or Sachuest, in Middletown, is a favorite with surfers and windsurfers; you can rent wet suits and boards at Island Sports in Middletown (401-846-4421). First Beach, or Easton’s, is smaller but closer to Newport, while Third Beach, in Middletown, offers calm water and a nature preserve.
ROOM KEY Would-be lighthouse-keepers can stay at the Rose Island Lighthouse ($145 to $185 per night for a double or $850 to $1,600 per night for the keeper’s apartment; 401-847-4242, www.roseislandlighthouse.org). For a different kind of charm, de St. Jorre recommends the Cliffside Inn, an ocean-close Victorian bed-and-breakfast with gardens, antiques, four-poster beds, fireplaces, and whirlpool tubs ($235 to $495 per night; 800-845-1811, www.cliffsideinn.com). Near downtown, check out The Victorian Ladies Inn, which has pleasant gardens and courtyards ($125 to $255 per night; 401-849-9960, www.victorianladies.com). For reservations, take a look Newport County Inns & B & Bs (www.newportinss.com); Inns of Newport (800-524-1386, www.innsofnewport.com); or Bed & Breakfast Newport (401-846-5408, www.bbnewport.com).
WHAT’S TO EAT Head to Aquidneck Fisheries on Bowen’s Wharf to buy seafood and fish fresh off the boats. De St. Jorre recommends the Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf for its excellent clam chowder (401-846-5264), The Mooring restaurant on Sayer’s Wharf for its great harbor view (401-846-2260), and Tuckers Bistro for its colorful atmosphere (401-846-3449). Wheeler liked the Sunday brunch at the Castle Hill Inn & Resort, a Victorian estate set on a point (401-849-3800). After a big meal there, you can sit in an Adirondack chair on the grass and watch the sailboats go by.
NIGHTLIFE The Thames Street area hosts a rowdy bar scene, especially in summer, but don’t miss downing a pint in the historic White Horse Tavern. For live music, try Area 22, Asterisk & Obelisk, and Christie’s. The Jane Pickens Theater features quality foreign films.
ON THE ROAD To mansion-hop, park your car and take the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) trolley. It leaves from the Newport Visitor’s Center (Memorial Day to Columbus Day) and offers discounts on area attractions. De St. Jorre suggests renting a bike and pedaling Newport’s flat, wide roads. For a walking tour, try Newport On Foot Guided Tours led by Anita Rafael (401-846-5391; E-mail: [email protected]).
READ IT AND LEAP For the town’s sailing legacy, check out:
- The America’s Cup: 1851 to the Present Day, edited by Olin Stephens;
- Enterprise to Endeavour: The J-Class Yachts, by Ian Dear. For insider travel information, see:
- Secret Providence & Newport: The Unique Guidebook to Providence & Newport’s Hidden Sites, Sounds & Tastes, by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers and Juliette Rogers.
CASH FLOW There are plenty of banks and ATMs.