When most people envision coastal Rhode Island, they immediately conjure thoughts of cottages around a preppy sailing town like Newport. There’s no doubt that the seaside gem famous for this kind of imagery is one of our favorite places to visit. But if you’re seeing a summer respite that puts rest, relaxation and Rhode Island charm to the forefront, look no further than the city of Westerly, with its villages of Weekapaug and Watch Hill, that only sits about 50 minutes from Newport. Here’s our recipe for enjoying two perfect days there.
Fly into Providence or Hartford, take the train from NYC, or drive from nearby Connecticut or Boston — the choice is yours. Getting to this seaside destination is quite simple. Many would plan their visit to the coast during the warm summer months — pristine white sand beaches, sprawling shingled homes, abundant seafood and attractive boutiques make for a postcard-perfect retreat — but come in the off season, when the days are crisp but sunny and the nights worthy of a roaring fire, and you’ll find relaxation galore.
With that said, plan your early afternoon arrival to Watch Hill’s Ocean House, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property. The area’s original grand hotel, Ocean House has been hosting well-heeled sun seekers since 1896, emerging from a top-to-bottom, $145 million renovation in 2010 with 49 rooms and 15 signature suites that feature luxe touches such as deep-soaking tubs, gratis in-room snacks and afternoon refreshments (we like the malted milk balls) and delicious dining. If you’re looking for a splurge, book any one of the signature suites — these individually decorated rooms come with complimentary minibars and many have private kitchens, fireplaces and massive terraces to watch the Atlantic below.
Start your afternoon with a relaxing spa treatment at the hotel’s Five-Star OH! Spa. We’d suggest a signature massage (ask for Melissa) with aromatherapy. After you’ve had your knots kneaded away, cozy up on a comfy chaise in the sunny relaxation lounge where you can sample housemade granola bars and a selection of teas while you watch the waves crash on the beach through oversized windows.
Don’t tax yourself too much, though. A stroll through the hotel’s Boutique — the shop boasts a carefully curated selection of estate gems, hardback books and preppy-chic clothing and accessories — and a decadent dinner at Seasons, the property’s Four-Star restaurant, are still on your day’s itinerary. Seasons’ farm-to-table menu changes almost daily, so, if you can, sit at the chef’s counter and chat with executive chef John Kolesar about what’s most exciting of the day’s options. Highlights of a recent visit included cauliflower soup with short rib and quail egg as well as lobster paupiette with scallions, broccoli and a flavorful mushroom dashi broth. Thoughtful details abound — when you leave, the waitstaff packs a miniature bag of treats from a tempting candy display for you to take back to your room.
After a good night’s rest, wake up early for breakfast at Seasons — you won’t want to miss its pastry basket. If you discover a lemon scone, claim it quickly. You can thank us later.
When you finish breakfast, call for the resort’s Mercedes house car, because you’re off for an adventure. Take the 45-minute ride to Newport, where you can stroll down the Bellevue Avenue Historic District for a look at of some of the state’s grandest summer “cottages.” This season, The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House & Rosecliff are open for daily tours. If you make a day of it, take your meals in high style, too. We’d suggest Castle Hill Inn’s Dining Room, The Chanler’s Spiced Pear (order the lobster, you won’t regret it) or The Vanderbilt Grace’s Muse. For something that’s pretty casual, try The Grill at Forty 1° North, downtown.
Need something a bit more adventurous? A day at the poker tables and slot machines at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino is just an hour’s drive away. Of course, if you’d prefer to stay local, we wouldn’t blame you. Weather permitting, a round on the Rees Jones-designed Lake of Isles golf course (about 20 minutes from Watch Hill) or any other of several local options makes for a fun afternoon. If you’d rather stick around Ocean House, go for a dip in the hotel’s indoor lap pool, tour the impressive onsite art collection (the staff is happy to show you around) or try a cooking class with the resort’s on-staff food forager and learn how to make everything from a soufflé to a mean martini. For dinner, head into town for a hearty Italian feast at Trattoria Longo, a local favorite famous for its signature meatballs and cocktails.
With your two perfect days coming to a close, take a long walk on the resort’s beach to burn off some of the decadence you’ve indulged in over the past 48 hours. It’s only a short stroll to scout out singer Taylor Swift’s new digs — the country star snagged her 11,000-square-foot palace, once the home of a Standard Oil heiress, just down the road from Ocean House for $17.75 million last year. Or, if you want to play it cool, just breeze along the beach and marvel at Block Island in the distance. As you head back to your room for the night, though, know that it’s already time to start plotting your return visit in the fall.
Photos Courtesy of Ocean House and Castle Hill Inn