I fell for The Rhinecliff the minute I arrived. I don’t know if it was because I was absolutely ready to settle somewhere for a couple of days or the gorgeous view of the mighty Hudson River. Perhaps the owners imbued the place with their British charm, thus fulfilling my vision of what a warm, welcoming, sophisticated destination should be. Maybe it was all of those things…and more.
Many noteworthy personalities have graced the area, among them author Edith Wharton, for whom I feel a certain affinity because of her self-proclaimed inability to tolerate ugliness. Edith would have been quite content at the Rhinecliff.
The original Rhinecliff was built in 1854. It was a simple roadhouse for travelers to rest, eat, and feed their horses. It also serviced travelers arriving by ferry or the Hudson River Railroad.
By the 1990s and early 2000s, it had become a bit infamous for the rock bands that played in the bar, and the rowdy crowd of often-underage teenagers. The neighbors worried the place might burn down (the Rhinecliff was built entirely of wood) in 2003, The Rhinecliff closed.
But the Chapman brothers had developed a bit of nostaglia for the location and decided it was perfect for a revival. Located adjacent to the Amtrak station and perched on a hillside overlooking the Hudson River, the Rhinecliff was purchased by the brothers who began the renovation.
What at first was thought to be a quick makeover became a five-year investment of not only time and money but also emotion. James Chapman, who enjoyed a successful career and lived in Manhattan, decided the only way to oversee the renovation and manage the newly opened hotel was to give up the city life and live full-time in the Hudson Valley.
I asked James if he had the feeling he’d made a mistake and he said, “Sure. Once we started the project it seemed to grow and become even larger than we’d expected. But at some point, you realize you’ve got too much in it and there’s no turning back.” I, for one, am happy that he saw it through to completion. Judging from the success of not only the hotel but the restaurant and catering services, so are a lot of people.
Artifacts of the original building were recycled into the new hotel. The original Victorian bar is still there, presiding over the dining room and pub, giving the room a sense of history and place.
Rooms with a view
Each of the nine guest rooms have a balcony and view of the Hudson River. The honey-colored hardwood floors and soft yellow walls are enhanced by the west-facing windows which allow for plenty of natural light and warmth. Other amenities include flat-screen televisions, wifi and king size beds in all but one room. My room had a comfy chair for lounging and a cute little desk tucked into the corner. However, the view of the river is just too good to stay inside.
The bathrooms have wonderful whirlpool tubs and shower attachments, very European. Shower caps, cosmetic cleansing wipes and loofah sponges are all thoughtfully provided, as well as candles to create your own spa-like ambiance. Everything looks and feels warm and comfortably refined.
A full breakfast is served every morning in the bar from 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. and the selection is luxurious. There is everything from Eggs Benedict to a simple yogurt parfait. Both were delicious. I also enjoyed a real cup of tea, not just a dry tea bag. Details that James Chapman, who has extensive experience in luxury hotels and restaurants, appreciates and passes on to his own clientele.
The Rhinecliff is located in the hamlet of Rhinecliff, just two miles west of the town of Rhinebeck. It is one of the oldest intact hamlets in the Hudson River Valley. The area is defined by woods, agricultural land and the Hudson River on the east side. Designated a National Historic District, it’s also the port of entry for the town of Rhinebeck only a mile to the east.
I loved standing on my balcony watching the sun illuminate the trees on the opposite side of the river, the boats and barges, and the trains disappearing around a bend in the river.
To Get To The Rhinecliff
Arrival by car
Route 9 is the main road into Rhinebeck. Once you arrive in Rhinebeck turn west at the traffic light at Route 9 and W.Market St. Follow Market street until you arrive at Grinnell. Turn right and the Rhinecliff will be on your left.
Arrival by train
Arrive by Amtrak. The train terminal is literally a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.
I’m a big fan of train travel and often lament that it’s not really a way of life here in the US as it is in Europe. But in the Hudson Valley many people take the train to and from the area. It’s crazy convenient.
If you don’t want to drive at all you can either hire a taxi to take you into Rhinebeck (though it’s only a two-mile walk), or if you want to visit the historic homes and the FDR Library you can catch a ride into Rhinebeck, then take a community bus called The Loop which stops at the Vanderbilt Mansion and the FDR Library and Museum. That’s what I call a stress-free, rejuvenating weekend.
Staying at the Rhinecliff:
The Rhinecliff has become a popular place for destination weddings and other events. As there are only nine rooms I recommend booking well in advance. Spring, early summer, and fall are the most popular times for weekenders and brides, so keep that in mind. Monday through Thursday there may be a bit more flexibility.
My stay at the Rhinecliff was sponsored by Dutchess County Tourism. All opinions expressed are my own.