Destination: Newport


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World-class cuisine, sweeping sea vistas and a swanky past make this East Coast town a classic stop for discerning travelers.

Newport, Rhode Island is a yacht-lovers paradise. America's first resort town has hosted the America's Cup Regatta 12 times, and gorgeous vessels always line the town's piers. But even if you're a landlubber, there is plenty to enjoy in this historic location beloved by America's Gilded Age glitterati. From china plates abounding with fresh lobster to sprawling mansions on the sea, everything about Newport screams (or rather, softly states) elegance. Even the lone greasy spoon has class.

It's important to remember that bluebloods don't rush. To fit in, adopt a genteel pace while strolling the streets and wharfs. Get your sea legs by seeking out the sailboat charter and tour companies clustered around Bowen's Wharf. Don't miss the International Yacht Restoration School, (449 Thames St., 401.848.5777; www.iyrs.org) where obsessive students transform beat-up old boats back into fine vessels.

 
The opulent dining room at The Breakers mansion.
For adventure-seekers, Newport's Cliff Walk (www.cliffwalk.com) runs along the Eastern shore of Newport with enough rugged terrain to add drama and outstanding sea views. The most popular section winds around the Newport Mansions that once belonged to some of America's richest families, now open to  the public. This includes Vanderbilt's The Breakers (44 Ochre Point Ave, 401.847.1000, www.newportmansions.org), the town's undisputed grandest house. The mansions serve as a backdrop for the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, held this year on September 27-29.

Just as one would expect, the tony pedigree of Newport ensures that there will be top-class restaurants to sample. While the piers downtown host most of the top spots, it's worth wandering inland a bit to find some culinary treasures.

The Black Pearl
(Bannister's Wharf, 401.846.5264, www.blackpearlnewport.com), in the heart of the tourist district, is Newport's best-known restaurant. Locals are found here, sampling native oysters from the raw bar and  perusing the diverse wine list. Get a window seat for great people watching.

Further south along the pier area, The Mooring (Sayer's Wharf, 401.846.2260, www.mooringrestaurant.com) is
 
The Mooring restaurant serves inventive cuisine, such as the Salmon Tostada.
more intimate and upscale, and offers wonderful ocean views. The menu is heavy in gourmet seafood dishes like the Georges Bank Scallops "Inside-Out" Shepherd's pie, but it has  "turf" items sourced from local organic farms, including a Hereford burger. The wine list features more than 900 labels.

A short walk from the waterfront sits a Newport institution: Canfield House (5 Memorial Blvd., 401.847.0416, www.canfieldhousenewport.com), a 19th-century casino turned world-class restaurant with reasonable prices. On the building's first level is Patrick's Pub, from where you can peek at courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame next door. Another spot for a tipple is the White Horse Tavern (26 Marlborough Street, 401.849.3600, www.whitehorsetavern.com). Built in 1673, it's one of the oldest bars in America.

Places to stay in Newport are plentiful, but not cheap. Expect to pay top dollar in July and August; look for deals in the off-season. For a waterside view downtown, The Harborside Inn (Christie's Landing, 800.427.9444, www.newportharborsideinn.com) is the best. Watch the sunset over Newport Harbor from your own private balcony. If it's four-poster romance you're after, the many historic inns of Newport, like The Clarkeston (28 Clarke St., 800.524.1386, www.innsofnewport.com/clarkeston) will oblige.

By land or sea, Newport is truly a treasure. It seems America's first resort town got it right long ago, and will continue sailing along on its graceful path.  

 

 

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