New England Weekending in Style at Newport’s New(ish) Wayfinder Hotel
The lead up to long, light-filled days, rooftop soirees, and the extended holiday (in a normal year) brings its share of palpable anticipation; so after sixteen+ months of restrictions on our social activities, our excitement for the coming of the summer season has certainly been particularly revved up. For those of us with pent up wanderlust (Hello, everyone?), the long awaited opportunity to explore something other than our GPS coordinates, and for visiting that new hotel we’ve only been able to read about, is thankfully finally upon us – though we’ll hold off on the predictions of a total summer bacchanal until the Delta Variant gets decisively sorted out.
One of those hotels is Newport’s The Wayfinder, newly reopened and renovated and offering just the sort of vibe we need right now: chill, unfussy, and with a charmingly bohemian flair. We’ve long had an affection for the Rhode Island marina town for its sailing pedigree, its Gilded Age mansions, and its spectacular Cliff Walk, all of which make it much more than just another posh beach destination. It’s actually the perfect place to test the limits of your inner preppie-chic, while noshing on fresh seafood and watching the ethereal summer sunsets.
Originally opened for a brief minute last summer, the Wayfinder is actually quite different from other more buttoned-up hotels in the area. To wit, a DJ spinning well-chosen tunes was a welcome greeting as we made our initial entrance into the eclectically modern lobby, with its ’70s inspired and very retro-orange fireplace at its center. Rooms are generously spacious, outfitted with particularly comfy beds and luxe linens, and done up with light wood furniture, neutral tones and pastel finishes, complemented by a few cool vintage accessories (loved the retro speaker). Suites come with separate sitting areas, large cushioned couches and kitchenettes, should you choose to stay in and whip up a quick lobster cobb.
But really the hotel’s restaurant Nomi Park is far too good to bother with cooking in the room. A large rectangular bar in the main dining room is the social focal point, serving up creative cocktails like the rum based Coco’s Punch and the jalapeno-infused Mezcal Momma, as well as Negronis on draft. Intimate seating nooks are good for a quiet morning coffee or a snogging-accompanied nightcap. An excellent brunch found us chowing on lobster rolls and shakshuka (a spicy North African egg dish), complemented by a vodka-laced Coffee Milk; later we sipped an addictive frozen tequila and passion fruit concoction, their signature Lit Juice, while floating lazily in the pool.
Though booking a chaise and whiling the day away poolside is a perfectly reasonable strategy for enjoying the Wayfinder, we opted for a tour of The Breakers, the former summer home of the Vanderbilt family, and the granddaddy of the aforementioned mansions (there are seven of them). We highly recommend the audio tour, which allows for historic immersion in how the turn-of-the-century “billionaire” class lived, marveling at how this seventy-room work of artful extravagance could have been built in just two years. The additional offtakes along the tour offered a bit of a deeper dive into the personal lives of the family and their hard working staff.
We then ventured a bit out of town to the lovely Newport Vineyards and taproom. We admit not actually knowing much about Rhode Island wine culture before sitting down for a few flights – but there was an impressive selection of varietals to choose from, all of which paired nicely with the local cheeses and charcuterie. Our personal picks were the Pinot Noir and the Great White, whose effervescent dance on the palate was a particular oenophilic treat.
We ended the trip enduring the line at Flo’s Clam Shack, because, well, you simply must. And we ultimately concluded that for those still a bit jittery about enduring the post-pandemic airport mayhem, Newport and the Wayfinder will quickly make you forget that you ever had plans to be in the Bahamas this summer.