Concierge Confidential: Newport, Rhode Island

A Gurney's Newport concierge on clam cakes, pygmy goats and ocean walks

July 19, 2019 7:00 am
(Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the swankiest hotels in town.

If you’re throwing together a power ranking of America’s best summer towns, Newport, Rhode Island is making the list every single time. The Ocean State town hosted the first U.S. Open (in tennis and golf), was the home of two Summer White Houses — Eisenhower for four years, JFK for two — and claims several nautical nicknames, including “City by the Sea,” “Sailing Capital of the World,” and “Queen of Summer Resorts.”

It’s also known for being a bit restrictive. Palatial mansions have long overlooked Newport’s coastline, a series of Gilded Age heirlooms that either hint at exclusivity, or enact it with private beachfronts.

Thankfully, though, the town’s warmer months are no longer reserved solely for the progeny of Vanderbilts and Astors. Consider Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. The 257-room resort is high-minded without losing any points on accessibility, and has its own island, its own marina, and more event space than any property in Newport.

It’s also a great launching pad for exploring the area, which is our focus for this edition of Concierge Confidential. We recently caught up with Grace Selkirk, a concierge at Gurney’s Newport, who’s lived in Newport for over a decade. Below, Selkirk dishes on sunset helicopter tours, the best ice cream in town and the one thing tourists are most likely to get ripped off on.

(Credit: Gurney’s Newport.)

What’s an underutilized part of your hotel? 
It’s definitely worth taking some time to sit out by our own lighthouse at sunset. It’s an absolute treat. You can sit on the rocks on the very edge of Goat Island for the best view. We also have our own Goat Mansion! Gurney’s Newport now has three new pygmy goats on board: Henry, Cooper and Cornelia. Our resident mascots live a life of luxury in their own mini mansion, built in 2017 when we first opened. The mansion is a goat-sized replica of Marble House, the famous 1892 Bellevue Avenue mansion, honoring the history and aesthetic of Newport. Most of the time, the goats’ only job is to hang out and frolic in their home on the north lawn of the resort, but occasionally the goats partially earn their keep by helping to “mow” the resort’s lawn. They’re an adorable addition to our team.

Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside? 
I would start with a drive around Ocean Drive and tour one of the many mansions Newport has to offer.  You can then take in a sunset helicopter tour and truly experience a Newport sunset. Of course we can help arrange that trip for you with one of our partners; just see the concierge.

Describe a great date night in the city
I would start off with an early dinner at Scarpetta (right at Gurney’s Newport) and then finish the night off with a cocktail at The Pineapple Club by our pool for an amazing sunset right on the water. A short walk into town for an ice cream at Newport Creamery is a sweet trip and an excuse to do a little exploring around town.

(Credit: Clarke Cooke House.)

What’s the single best meal in the city, in your opinion? 
Scarpetta! Or Bouchard. For a real task of history in Newport, go to Clarke Cooke House, and make sure to dine on the porch.

What’s the best time to get my table of choice? 
In the fall. White House Tavern is amazing as you can dine next to one of the many fireplaces stay warm.

I’m hungover and need a low-key brunch. Where to? 
The Conner Café on Broadway is the place to be.

A lesser known cultural institution worth visiting? 
Redwood Library and Athenæum. It’s the oldest operating library in America!

Name the best thing you can only get in Newport … 
Clam cakes or stuffies at Flo’s Clam Shack … nothing else like them! Wash it down with a Del’s Lemonade.

(Credit: Discover Newport.)

And the best thing you can only do in Newport? 
The Cliff Walk is absolutely breathtaking, as are the many mansions in the area. We can arrange for a guided tour, but both are worth exploring on your own, whenever you can. 

What’s something tourists tend to get ripped off on? Any tips on how to avoid that? 
Parking! It’s so easy to get transportation from the hotel into town and parking costs are totally unnecessary. Leave your car at the Resort and take our water taxi or car transfer into town.

What should I reach or watch before my trip?
I would watch the Great Gatsby for a little taste of the mansion high life and read up on the history of Newport on your favorite guide site. The town was founded in 1703 so there’s a lot to take in. Better yet, Discover Newport has a ton of information and tips for exploring, so I’d recommend checking out their resources to help plan your trip and get in the right mindset.


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