Guests are invited to raise the billowing sails of vessels including the Aquidneck, a majestic 80-foot late-1800s reproduction pleasure craft that carries guests past vintage America’s Cup boats, historic Fort Adams (home to the summertime jazz and folk fests) and Hammersmith Farm, summertime stomping grounds for the Kennedys and the childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
By CARLEY D. THORNELL
Sometimes adventure comes in the most unexpected places — like at the dinner table.
Watching my Southern-born husband try to crack open a lobster is like a scene straight out of “Pretty Woman,” but totally worth it for the succulent surprise inside. After a day of enjoying the rest of Newport, R.I.’s coastal bounty, we’ve decided to pack it in early and enjoy paella filled with clams, mussels, scallops and saffron rice, the signature dish at the Hotel Viking’s One Bellevue restaurant.
You, too, can enjoy the spoils of shoulder season before Newport’s iconic mansions are bedecked in their holiday finery, with lower rates at cushy hotels and fine restaurants — especially now during Newport Restaurant Week, running through Sunday. (Enjoy $16 three-course lunches or $35 three-course dinners by booking through OpenTable.com.) Plus, if your palate tends toward the finer things, fall is a great time to enjoy the bounty of several local stops on the Coastal Wine Trail, including Greenvale Vineyards, where owner Nancy Parker Wilson will gladly fill you in on her move from Boston’s South End to keep up the farm that’s been in her family for more than a century. Stop by on a Saturday afternoon for a glass of chardonnay, cabernet franc or vidal — or a flight of five half-pours for less than $20 — and toast to free live jazz.
Or mosey over to Newport Vineyards for some tutorials from Johnson & Wales culinary school grads about sipping ’n’ sloshing from more than two dozen varietals. The raspberry and cherry-rich pinot noir is great for chatting and admiring the view, although whites tend to fare better thanks to Rhode Island’s temperate sea-swept climate. Make sure your choice of five (including a collectible glass, all for $14) includes Great White, a favorite among the bachelorette parties that are common just about every weekend here.
If one particular variety floats your boat, buy a bottle to bring along on a BYOB schooner harbor cruise with Sightsailing of Newport. Guests are invited to raise the billowing sails of vessels including the Aquidneck, a majestic 80-foot late-1800s reproduction pleasure craft that carries guests past vintage America’s Cup boats, historic Fort Adams (home to the summertime jazz and folk fests) and Hammersmith Farm, summertime stomping grounds for the Kennedys and the childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Those ready for some romance can toast a day well spent with a champagne sunset sail with your sweetie, though those ubiquitous bachelorette parties are also fond of chartering the morning mimosa sails.
No matter what the afternoon or evening has in store, there’s plenty to do when you dock at Bowen’s Wharf, whether it’s shopping for nautical-themed cashmere sweaters at Monelle boutique or bracelets at Alex & Ani (whose owner also runs nearby Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard); savoring a steak at 22 Wine Bar & Grille (also part of Restaurant Week); or browsing at the galleries and glass stores featuring the work of local artisans.
For those not quite weary after a sailing adventure — or those just looking to chill, literally — the second day of a weekend trek to Newport is best capped with a water journey of another kind at Bodhi Spa. Get ready to detoxify with a whole circuit of cold plunges between soothing hot mineral baths, infrared and electric saunas and aromatherapy steams. If co-owner Harmony Oschefski is around, she’ll likely tell you about her family’s outside sauna in Nova Scotia and how therapeutic she finds switching from one temperature extreme to the other. Whether or not you agree, her invitation to step into the cedar-planked Bodhi back yard offers up a perfect oasis of calm, with spots of both sunshine and shade for the perfect blend of serenity.
Not ready to go home hungry? Don’t skip out on lunch at Jo’s American Bistro, where there are plenty of spa-friendly healthy options and everything is local, made-to-order fresh. Whether you’re on a low-sodium or gluten-free diet, Jo’s is renowned for the options to customize everything from salads to pastas and burgers. If you’re watching your waistline, the hand-cut French fries alone are worth the drive to Rhode Island.
Carley D. Thornell is a Massachusetts-based marketing executive and writer who travels extensively and has written for The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Boston magazine, the Improper Bostonian and other national and local publications. She and her husband live north of Boston.