Nestled on New Castle Island, Wentworth by the Sea is one of the last grand hotels in New Hampshire, an easy hour-and-15 from the North Shore of Massachusetts. The hotel first opened in 1874, and was a favorite destination for generations of socialites, film stars, and presidents. Historians will tell you that in 1906, the Wentworth hosted the Russian and Japanese delegates who wrote the Treaty of Portsmouth ending the Russo-Japanese War. But the hotel’s fortunes had faded by the 1980s, and the building stood vacant for 21 years. In 1996 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the hotel one of its most endangered sites. It took the vision of national and private preservation groups, and $30 million, to restore the Wentworth to its former glory and create a grand hotel of yesteryear, updated for the twenty-first century.
Wentworth by the Sea is close enough for even a midweek body-and-soul rejuvenation, which is what this working couple needed after a typical gray New England winter. I carefully planned a visit that would have the most luxuries in the shortest amount of time, from spa visits to indulgent meals. But a few hours before our departure, my husband called to say there was no way he could pry himself out of yet another meeting before 5p.m. I dejectedly called the Wentworth to say we would be late. The unflappable Andra Diamond, the Wentworth’s spa director, let me know that because the spa offers services until 9p.m., it would be no problem for me to schedule something for later that evening. We finally left our respective offices and were off, with a sense of fun and holiday.
From the moment we pulled up to the massive portico entrance, we were enveloped in pampering. The valet took the car, the bellhop took the bags, and we settled into the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the Roosevelt Lounge for a light bite before our spa services. After executive chef Dan Dumont’s fabulous appetizers of lobster bisque and crab cakes, we drifted into the 6,500-square-foot spa and got cozy in robes and slippers. An hour and a half later, I didn’t recognize my own feet (Ultimate Spa Pedicure) and my husband was a changed man after having warm oil streamed onto his forehead during his Shirodhara facial. We headed to our VIP room, where the bed was turned down and rich chocolate truffles were left on the pillows.
Did I mention the fireplace and the heated floors in the marble bath?
The next morning we splurged on more spa services, including Ogenage facial, organic mud wrap and warm stone massage. With a staff of 32 professional therapists, the spa offers a full menu of the latest services including microdermabrasion and glycolic peel.
Before our departure, seated beneath the original ceiling paintings of cherubs and garlands in the Wentworth Dining Room, we indulged in another epicurean delight, Wentworth Lobster Hash and a Wentworth Burger. No wonder Wentworth’s is cited as one of New England’s best dining rooms with a view. In fact, water surrounds the hotel, with views from almost every room. With three restaurants, waterfront marina suites, nearby golf, kayaking, fishing, and of course, Portsmouth only minutes away, I see many days of play ahead in this grand hotel.