EXPLORE CASTLE HILL
The peninsula that is home to Castle Hill is located on the western-most tip of Newport, towards the southern edge of Aquidneck Island, just at the entrance of Narragansett Bay. It is this omniscient location, overseeing the East Passage and the Atlantic, that has secured its varied and notable history.
Prior to European settlement in the 1630s, the native Narragansett Indians built an earthwork here to signal messages to nearby tribes across the bay. After the arrival of the English, an 18th century watchtower was built and later, after the Revolutionary War, a battery of cannons was added (and fired) to defend against attacks.
As Newport began to grow into a prominent seaport, the wealthy built great architectural tributes to the life of leisure: splendid, multiple-roomed mansions called “cottages.” Castle Hill was a gracious, shingle-style song of a house commissioned in 1874 by marine biologist and naturalist Alexander Agassiz of Harvard University. Today’s Inn was his original summer home, where he kept his eye on the ocean and the sea life within it. He filled his house with the best of Chinese and Japanese art and furnishings, especially bronzes and porcelain, many of which are still present in the house.
In the great hurricane of 1938, the waters of Castle Hill beach and cove became one, cutting the peninsula off from the mainland. Mrs. Maximillian Agassiz, daughter-in-law of Alexander, became so frightened that she refused to return.
During World War II, the Mansion housed Naval officers while functioning as an impromptu base. After the war, the Inn became a summer hotel, hosting Hollywood royalty from time to time. Grace Kelly stayed here while filming High Society in the 1950s; the rocky cove she cherished visiting is now named after her. Renowned novelist Thornton Wilder was also a frequent visito and describes the turret suite as a “magical room” in the autobiographical novel, Theophilus North.
Eventually, all accommodations were winterized, making Castle Hill a year-round retreat for those who sought its beauty, grace, and solitude while still retaining its old-world charm. In 2008, Castle Hill became the first Rhode Island property to be invited into the prestigious Relais & Chateaux family. Widely regarded as the foremost authority on luxury hospitality, Relais & Chateaux recognizes hotels that combine one-of-a-kind accommodations with exceptional cuisine.
Today, Castle Hill continues to carry on its storied legacy while ever elevating its guest experience.
Our forty acres are lush with natural wildlife, but Castle Hill is also a haven for farming our own vegetables. Down by the Marina, red Rambo radish, bright light swiss chard, and spicy micro greens are only a few of the ingredients grown in our raised garden beds. Behind the Chalet, the air is rich with fragrance from lemon basil, wild marjoram, and orange thyme at our herb and garlic garden. Our culinary team regularly incorporates and builds dishes around these on-site offerings.
…But they aren’t the only ones who adore the greens: rabbits regularly attempt to plunder the beds. We've built fences to protect the crop, but resourceful baby bunnies still squeeze through the holes. They spend their first few weeks fattening up, until they’re so plump they can’t get back out of the beds. This means that often times in spring, our chefs add freeing the adorable trespassers to their to-do list.
CASTLE HILL FLAGPOLE
The flagpole is a replica of the mast and rigging used on the 1905, Rhode Island built, Herreshoff NY-30 class sailing yachts. Hand-hewn by Pat Shea of Castle Hill Inn and shipwrights Jim Titus and Jeff Szala of Mt. Hope Boat Works, the 42 foot high sycamore spruce mast was erected on Friday, May 24, 2013. The team used archived blueprints from a 1917 vintage NY-30 to plan the restoration. The pole was fashioned from sixteen individual planks of rough-hewn wood, and then joined, planed, and sanded into shape. All work was done by hand, representing more than 500 hours of artisan craftsmanship. The flagpole, yardarms, and gaff pole were finished with eight coats of marine varnish.
GRACE KELLY BEACH
Over the summer of 1956, Grace Kelly retreated to the solace of Castle Hill between takes of High Society, an American musical-comedy set in Newport. The film also starred Hollywood greats Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who vie for Kelly’s socialite character amidst the glamour of the oceanfront mansions. When not relaxing in her Harbor House at Castle Hill, Kelly would sneak down the rocky landscape to the water’s edge. There, she would sun on the rocks, swim in the cove, and enjoy the solitude of her secluded shoreline, where autograph seekers couldn’t disturb her. The climb up, however, wasn’t nearly as fun; the staff soon built a staircase so she could reach her hideaway with ease. She spent so much time on the rocky enclave that Castle Hill staff and guests soon began referring to it exclusively as “Grace Kelly Beach.”
CASTLE HILL BEACH
In the great hurricane of 1938, the waters of Castle Hill beach and cove became one, famously cutting the peninsula off from the mainland. An intimate coastal beauty, the arc of white sandy beach surrounded by calm waters has called generations of families and guests to its shore for annual summer retreats. Today, Castle Hill is Newport’s only luxury inn boasting private beach accommodations. The majestic coastline offers quintessential New England rock formations and magical sunsets, making it the perfect locale for splashing in the surf or to relax in peaceful contemplation.
CASTLE HILL LIGHTHOUSE
The graceful Castle Hill Lighthouse seems almost a natural extension of our rocky seascape. It was built in 1890 by celebrated American architect H.H. Richardson, after Agassiz deeded the land from his property to the U.S. Government for $1.00. The granite tower stands thirty-four feet tall and has in the past featured a 1,300-pound fog bell. In addition to serving as a beacon for ships navigating Narragansett Bay, the lighthouse has also acted as the starting and finish line for many of Newport’s famous yacht races, affording guests unparalleled views of the action from our rolling Lawn. Curious explorers can easily reach the coastal icon by footpaths on our grounds.
CASTLE HILL COVE & MARINA
One of the primary reasons Agassiz chose to build his summer cottage at Castle Hill was due to the private, well-protected cove where he could keep his boats. Each day, the naturalist and his students would push off from the inlet into the greater bay to catch marine life, which they would later study in their laboratory, the Chalet.
The long, narrow cove is well protected, has an average approach of 5 feet at low tide, and is also home to a Coast Guard station. During the summer months, sunset sails depart from the marina docks, inviting guests to relax and enjoy a cocktail on the water during the twilight hour.
Take a step away from land for a day and experience the beauty of Newport from the deck of a luxurious Hinckley Yacht. Guests can enjoy a picnic on the waters of Mackerel Cove, escape to nearby Block Island and Cuttyhunk, or take an ocean cruise over to our sister restaurant The Boat House. To learn more about our different ocean escapes and to reserve your next trip contact the concierge. For reservations please call 888-466-1355.