Rhode Island occupies a special place within the mythology of Americana. From the palaces of the Gilded Age and the glittering debauchery of F. Scott Fitzgerald to, more recently, Taylor Swift’s Fourth of July parties, the country’s smallest state is a vibrant tapestry of All-American history and heritage.
And with 400 miles of jagged coastline, its nickname the ‘Ocean State’ is thoroughly well-deserved. The salt air is ever-present, the sound of crashing waves as alluring as the state’s unbeatable lobster and crab offerings. Its sailing culture sees mariners flock from across the world, and its fabulous nightlife (Newport Jazz Festival, anyone?) means the party continues way after the students leave for summer break.
It’s no wonder that Rhode Island remains such an unbeatable summer location. Considerably chicer than Malibu, and more exclusive than Miami, this is New England at its absolute best: Hair-down, dancing until dawn, skinny dipping in the Atlantic, All-American fun, in one of the country’s most beautiful regions.
If you’re lucky enough to have a summer spot there, you already know you have one of the hottest tickets in the States. But property is scarce, and building regulations are restrictive. Luckily – and unsurprisingly – Rhode Island boasts one of the most glittering luxury hotel scenes across the country, with these establishments combining classical East Coast glamour with modern flashes of luxury. Here are Elite Traveler’s favorite luxury hotels in Rhode Island.
Dust off your Ivy sweatshirts and your best boat shoes: the Ocean House has had All-American prep flow through its pipelines since 1868. A pillar of the Watch Hill community, the yellow and white painted building has been meticulously and lovingly restored to its former Gilded Age glamor, and today is a wonderful fusion of timeless East Coast elegance with seriously modern luxury amenities.
Such as the state-of-the-art spa, or the dining options, of which the award-winning COAST is among one of the best restaurants in New England. (Just remember the “jackets preferred for gentlemen” dress code.) You can even book an individual home, rather than a room, to really indulge in the Vanderbilt legacy.
But in all truth, it’s the Ocean House itself you go for: the history, the micro-culture, the awe-inspiring vistas over the ocean which can be seen from many windows, but best enjoyed with a drink on the lawn. So New England it makes Gilmore Girls look like Jersey Shore, it doesn’t get more Rhode Island glam than this.
First built in 1873 for John Winthrop Chanler and his wife Margaret Astor Ward, this Newport hotel is a real journey into the depths of Rhode Island’s heritage.
The 20 rooms and villas are all individually designed with different styles of the island’s history, from the lavish glitz of the Gilded Age resurrected in the outlandish Renaissance room, to the more subtle Martha’s Vineyard suite offering a toned down, ocean-facing alternative. The sporadic lean into kitsch feels wholly original, whilst the gorgeous vistas surrounding The Chanler– this is the only hotel built upon the dramatic Cliff Walk – render the hotel deeply romantic.
The Vanderbilt is that rarity of a hotel where the entire essence of the experience can be found within the name itself. The absolute epitome of the Gilded Age magnate, The Vanderbilt was once owned by Alfred Vanderbilt, and today embodies both the classy glitz of its heritage and the luxury trappings of the modern age.
With gorgeous vistas of the Newport Harbor, the red-brick mansion boasts two pools, a delightful spa and a brilliant collection of art. The sophisticated yet homely ambiance, in which vintage touches feel deliciously eccentric, peaks in with the roof deck, where watching the Rhode Island sun set over the harbor is best enjoyed with oysters and champagne.
Castle Hill Inn
Sprawling over 40 acres and including half a mile of private beach, Castle Hill Inn is something of a utopian vacation experience. Its location within the bustling town of Newport means guests are never far from the action, and yet the rolling gardens and oceanfront horizon embed the hotel with blissful serenity.
There are 33 rooms in total, with only nine actually located in the mansion. Instead, the other rooms are stylized beach houses and cottages, in which the Rhode Island charm really comes to roost. These private dwellings are fitted with stylish kitchenettes but don’t let that distract you from taking advantage of the hotel’s fabulous dining options, with the four dining rooms all spotlighting fresh seafood and local ingredients.
The Weekapaug Inn
This 27-room boutique hotel stands for all the things we love about the state. Small and endlessly charming, it’s a welcome respite from the mega-hotel scene that’s dominated the industry recently, with a felt emphasis on authenticity that enhances its placement as one of the top luxury hotels in Rhode Island.
On the National Register of Historical Places, the Weekapaug Inn offers a refreshing escape from the urban world in the heart of the idyllic, Atlantic-facing Weekapaug. This is a part of the world where summer nights stretch on into the sunset-streaked horizon, and the hotel’s easy-going – but by no means informal – ambiance is the perfect spot for both couples and families to recuperate and rejuvenate.
Considerably more modern than the repurposed mansions of the Newport scene, The Beatrice brings a fun kick of urban flair to Providence. This jazzy new spot is all kinds of cool, from the vintage feel of its black and red-brick exterior to its beloved restaurant Bellini, which has already become quite the classic.
Right in the heart of the city, The Beatrice is perfectly located to explore the state’s capital. We recommend grabbing an evening cap over the glittering Providence skyline atop the Bellini Rooftop, open exclusively to members and guests.