26 February 2020
Often eclipsed by its more famous neighbours Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Rhode Island is a secret that I simply must share with you. This little jewel in the New England crown is less than 2 hours by car from Boston (you can also take the train in). It has all the whimsical charm and long sandy beaches you could ask for, yet in a more serene and easier to get to package.
I spent 2 days exploring this lovely little spot and have to say I’m totally hooked. I started in Newport which is a buzzy harbour town famous for its America’s Cup history. From here I took to the 3 ½ mile Cliff Walk that stretches around the headland, past historic and grand mansions, many of which you can visit, through to Bailey’s Beach which is the prettiest beach of the area and perfect for paddle boarding, surfing or simply relaxing on. Granted, the beach is 2 miles out of town, so I concentrated my stay on exploring the town and its surroundings. I spent time meandering through the pretty streets, layered with colourful clapboard houses and striking churches, and then made my way to the main street which hugs the harbourfront. This is the busiest and most touristy area, with quirky gift shops, pirate themed pubs and souvenir shops that are designed to pull the day trippers in. Head one street back though and the peace and tranquillity is restored.
I retreated to the Vanderbult Hotel, a lovely historic inn complete with a rooftop terrace offering the most amazing sunset views across the city and a member of the Auberge Collection. Many take to the city’s stunning harbour, by motor boat or yacht, which is particularly enchanting at sunset. The only thing that Newport lacks is a hotel on a beach but travel less than a mile West and you have two of the most beautifully set hotels you could hope for, complete with the long sandy beaches on their doorstop.
Furthest away is Watch Hill, a sleepy seaside town with up market boutiques and the oldest carousel in the USA. The Ocean House here is the epitome of New England luxury and sits in prime position on top of the hill. With old world charm and impeccable service, it’s the only direct beachfront hotel in Rhode Island. It’s small enough to offer wonderful personal service, yet large enough to offer everything from paddle boarding to croquet. Most importantly, it welcomes children and has some wonderfully fun signature suites with equally wonderful ocean views.
Just 7 miles down the road is the sister hotel of Weekapaug Inn which offers a quainter experience. Set on a pretty inlet and just a 5-minute-walk from the beach, this is the place to unplug, relax and feel cosy, as a couple or a family. It’s tucked away, tranquil and to get there you get to drive past some stunning, idyllic mansions that just make you want to glimpse the price in the estate agents’ windows…just to look. The multi-million-dollar price tags confirm what I have discovered, this exclusive little secret can easily give its busier competitors a run for their money. Come and take a look…I’m sure you’ll be back again and again.