Are you a fan of historic hotels? I am, even though I’ve found my experiences range from iconic to disappointing. Wentworth by the Sea near Portsmouth has been on my must-visit list for some time. So, when I had the chance to slot in a night’s stay on the New Hampshire Seacoast en route to a girls’ weekend in Maine, I booked my room and spa reservation in a hot minute. Happily, the Grand Dame of the Sea, delivered the goods.
Located on an island in New Castle, the original wooden hotel building with its towering turrets was constructed in 1874 and is one of the last of the majestic Gilded Age New England resorts. World leaders, including President Teddy Roosevelt, stayed at the property in 1905 while negotiating the Portsmouth Treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War. And it was featured in the 1999 Annette Bening-Robert Downey Jr. film, In Dreams.
Driving up, the massive white clapboard facade reminded me of both the Omni Mount Washington, another classic New Hampshire resort, and The Grand Floridian in Disney World. I wondered what I’d find inside, as I approached the front doors. My last stay at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone had not met my expectations. I thought the rooms would be as charming as the timbered lobby with its massive stone fireplace. However, they were expensive and shabby and, because the Inn is a bustling tourist attraction, I felt more like a part of the scenery rather than a welcome guest.
My experience at Wentworth by the Sea was the exact opposite. The resort, rescued from demolition by Ocean Properties, is bright and modern, yet retains many charming reminders of its past. Here’s what my experience was like including the things I loved about the property and why it’s on my “must return” list.
What’s to Love at Wentworth by the Sea
- Grand hotel with wide rocking chair porches
- Coastal chic vibe
- On-property destination dining
- Indoor and outdoor seasonal pools, hot tub, tennis, golf and spa
- Heated bathroom floors
What You Might Not Like
- Mandatory resort fee
- Outdoor hot tub restricted for use by spa guests
- Limited resort activities
Guest Rooms at Wentworth by the Sea
Although the building is huge, the resort feels intimate. The 161 guest rooms come in a variety of configurations that range in size from 292 to 1402 square feet. Want to feel like Rapunzel? Book one of the three turret suites for a fairytale stay. The largest rooms are the Marina Suites, located in a separate building about a 3-minute walk from the main hotel. Guests staying here have private access to a waterfront pool with seasonal food and beverage service.
I booked a standard king room but splurged slightly to secure a water view. Whenever I stay at one of the Historic Hotels of America, I like to pretend that I’m the heroine in a gothic 19th-century novel. In this classic edition, I’m the widow of a sea captain who perished in a shipwreck. It felt essential to my character that I be able to sweep open the drapes at dawn to gaze out at the raging Atlantic Ocean surf.
Sadly, the morning was gray and rainy and the water in view was a placid inlet.
The room, decorated in a soft pastel palette, gave off a coastal luxe vibe. It felt very large thanks to the high ceilings. The bed was super comfortable. Instead of a fluffy duvet, the coverlet was compressed between two sheets and gave a weighted blanket feel that sent me right off to sleep.
Two of the room features were true knock-outs. I whooped with glee when I stepped barefoot onto the bathroom’s heated floors. It’s such a glorious amenity, especially on a cold winter morning. While sitting in the lobby, I overheard three guests mention it when they were checking out.
And the closet is brilliantly configured to accommodate both clothes and the room’s coffee station, safe and mini fridge. If I ever have a home with a dedicated guest room, I fully intend to convert the closet to this set-up.
My one complaint? Just one hook on the back of the bathroom door. The bathroom in my room was large, long and narrow. It had a wall that easily would accommodate four hooks for hanging robes – and reusing – towels.
Standard Room Amenities:
- Heated bathroom floors
- Nespresso coffee maker
- Mini fridge
- In-room safe
- Make-up mirror
- Iron and ironing board
- Hair dryer
- Air conditioning
- $35 resort fee covers high-speed internet, self-parking (valet available for an extra fee), water in the room refreshed daily and pool towels.
Depending on the room, some have Juliet balconies, writing desks, a walk-in shower or a bathtub. If any of these features is wildly important to you, request it when booking your reservation.
Wentworth by the Sea Dining
The resort’s waterfront restaurant, Latitudes, is open during warm weather months. I peeked in. Decorated like an upscale lobster shack, it feels like the perfect place to sip Cape Codders and knock back oysters on a July night. Cue the fireflies.
I had to content myself with dinner at the property’s other on-site restaurant, SALT. Decorated in a crisp navy and cream, the dining room gives off a luxury yacht vibe. Not that I’ve been on a luxury yacht, but I feel confident in my assessment thanks to seasons watching “Below Deck.”
Look up. The dining room rotunda features rollicking cherubs in a charming fresco. My waitress noted that the rotunda, one of the building’s original features, has an unintended acoustic quirk. Conversations at the center tables can be heard clear across the dining room, much like in the Whispering Arches in NY’s Grand Central Terminal.
What to Order
The appealing menu is small but has a wide range of options to meet a variety of appetites. In the mood for a lighter bite? Share a salad with housemade dressing and a flatbread flash-cooked at 600 degrees in the open-to-the-bar stone oven. Prefer something more substantial? My waitress highly recommended the lobster fettucine.
Because I find it hard to pass up dessert, I opted for the Salt Salad, starring caramelized cipollini onions and a tangy red wine vinaigrette. For my entree, I chose the PEI mussels primarily because they came with more of those delicious little onions. The accompanying grilled crostini was a perfect mop for the pink peppercorn and rosé broth.
I did a two-fer for dessert because both the ice cream and German chocolate cookie of the day were made in-house. I paid my bill and rolled myself into the lounge.
SALT is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and provides the resort room service. I splurged on room service for breakfast so I could lounge in my room. Sadly, my tray had just a single cup of coffee, not the mini carafe I expected. The yummy marble rye toast, though, made up for the coffee. And I considered purchasing the room robe to take home-it was a delight!
Winter Wine Festival
One of the resort’s winter highlights is its annual Wine Festival. There are a variety of events, ranging from Grand Vintner dinners hosted by renowned winemakers to Sunday Bubbles and Jazz Brunches.
Monday through Thursday from 5 pm – 7 pm, wine flights are featured for $14-$18, depending on the selection. I sampled three California reds, including a very drinkable William Hill Merlot.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The wine flight is available outside of the advertised time window in both the restaurant and lounge. Just ask.
If you’re looking for a family resort with sun-up to sun-down scheduled activities, Wentworth by the Sea is not that. There’s no kid’s club. And when I asked the front desk host if there’s a summer schedule of activities, she noted that they show Saturday night movies by the pool.
What they do offer is a complement of relaxing activities you can do, or not, depending on your mood. During my winter visit, soaking in the outdoor hot tub until I pruned was the perfect way to deal with yet another rainy January day.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If you book a spa treatment on the day of departure, be sure to ask for a late checkout. I was able to keep my room until 2 pm.
The spa menu features a wide variety of body treatments, facials and traditional massages. I chose a 60-minute Hydrafacial, hoping to turn back the clock a few years. It was delightful and I was presented for examination, a vial of the gunk suctioned from my skin. Gross, yet fascinating.
If you’d like a massage, book your appointment well in advance. I tried to secure a Friday appointment two days before my visit, but there were no appointments available.
Arrive early or plan to stay after your treatment to enjoy the resort’s outdoor hot tub, available for spa guest use only. There’s a sauna and gift shop too.
Sadly, I missed the opening of the spa’s Salt & Sound Lounge. I’m curious to try halotherapy, a session spent inhaling dry salt aerosol in a relaxing room as a way to cleanse your lungs and respiratory system. The Wentworth salt therapy space is scheduled to open in February 2023.
A year-round indoor swimming pool has comfy lounge chairs and a hot tub. The outdoor pool is open seasonally. There’s a third pool available for Marina Suite guests only.
The pool area is adjacent to the spa. Signs request guests to keep the noise down. This might be a challenge for families with small children. Consider visiting the indoor pool when the spa is closed if you’ll need to constantly “Shush!” your littles.
A nicely equipped gym is available for guest use 24 hours a day. It’s located in the spa hallway, near the indoor pool.
Want to practice your serves and volleys? Channel your inner Coco Gauff on the resort’s tennis court. If you forgot to pack your racquet, rentals are available.
Resort guests can access tee times at the Wentworth by the Sea Country Club, a Scottish links-style golf course. It’s one of the first golf courses in America, established in 1897. That makes it a must-play for golf fans.
To reserve a tee time, contact the resort front desk. They can provide current round prices.
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Getting to New Castle NH
Wentworth by the Sea is an easily accessible getaway by car from the NH state capital Concord (1 hour), Boston (1 1/2 hours) and New York City (4 1/2 hours). Drive times do not include traffic which you should plan on encountering, especially on summer weekends.
The closest airport is Portsmouth International Airport (PSM).
Wentworth by the Sea is located at 588 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NH 03854
Opal Collection Resorts
Wentworth by the Sea had closed in 1982 and several of the wings and property buildings were demolished. It was acquired in 1997 by Portsmouth NH-based Ocean Properties and reopened after a massive reconstruction project as a Marriott property in 2003.
In March of 2023 it ceased operating under the Marriott brand and is now a member of the Opal Collection and the Historic Hotels of America.
The Opal Collection consists of 26 properties in Florida, New England and New York including grand resorts like The Sagamore in Lake George and The Resort at Longboat Key Club.