New England summer travel in Rhode Island
Whether you want to kayak in the ocean, zip down a mountain, or just cozy up in a rocking chair on a country porch, your vacation is waiting at one of these destinations.
WHY GO It’s about an hour and a half from Boston, and getting there requires no ferries, planes, or Cape bridge crossings. Yet Little Compton feels a world away from the city – and from the throngs at Newport. So do its spectacular uncrowded beaches and rolling farmland.
THE BASICS The ultimate hotel amenity? A private beach. The 157-year-old Stone House (401-635-2222, http://www.stonehouse1854.com; from $250) reopened in 2009, after a major renovation, as a luxury hotel – and a fashionably green one at that, with reclaimed lumber and slate, photovoltaic panels to power the lighting, and even geothermal heating and cooling. The suites (from $350) have heavenly views, private outdoor spaces, and beds made up with custom Denyse Schmidt quilts (her studio is in Connecticut). There’s a spa offering skin and body treatments, many incorporating organic products from Rhode Island-based Farmaesthetics. You don’t need to leave the grounds for a good meal, either. Pietra is the swankier of two on-site dining spots. Open only during the summer, its menu highlights local seafood and there’s a five-course “farmers’ market prix fixe” at $70. The other restaurant, 1854, is open year-round and serves high-end comfort food, including, if you wish, a platter of handcrafted fudge for dessert. For a much (much) more casual experience, and a really good johnnycake, try the Commons Lunch (401-635-4388), located on Little Compton’s common – the only common in all of Rhode Island, and a charming one at that.
DON’T MISS Goosewing Beach Preserve (401-635-9974), a 75-acre Nature Conservancy property, includes a coastal pond, rolling sand dunes, and one of the prettiest, most serene beaches in New England. On a rainy day, visit the preserve’s new Benjamin Family Environmental Center to learn about local wildlife. If you need extra help unwinding after all that relaxing, try a glass of wine at acclaimed Sakonnet Vineyards (800-919-4637, http://www.sakonnetwine.com).
WHY GO The Ocean State knows a thing or two about user-friendly but still beautiful beaches, and nowhere is this more evident than in stunning Narragansett. With 26 miles of coastline, the town has some of the best strands in the state. Town Beach has waves big enough to satisfy surfers; Scarborough is a quieter expanse of silky, gray sand, with Point Judith Light winking in the distance; Roger Wheeler Beach is sheltered, with minimal surf, a slow drop-off, and a playground – perfect for families with small children. The beaches are beautifully maintained and each has bathhouses with restrooms and showers, as well as refreshments.
THE BASICS You can walk to Town Beach from The Village Inn (401-783-6767, http://www.v-inn.com; from $194), a sprawling complex with expansive decks overlooking the ocean. If you stay at the Tower House Bed & Breakfast (401-783-3787, http://www.towerhousebandb.com; from $170), a historic home with a formal English garden tucked into a residential neighborhood, innkeeper Mary Beth Kreger will load you up with towels and beach chairs and drop you off at the beach of your choice. Two legendary seafood shacks sit across the street from each other in Point Judith. Still run by the family that started it in 1920, Aunt Carrie’s (401-783-7930, http://www.auntcarriesri.com) serves up chowder, clam cakes, fish, and homemade bread (the cinnamon raisin is yummy). Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House (401-783-5608, htpp://www.iggysdoughboys.com) is justifiably famous for its fried dough.
DON’T MISS Walk the just-under-a-mile sea wall along Ocean Road and listen to the castanet-like sounds of waves breaking on rock. Take a surfing lesson from Warm Winds (401-789-9040, http://www.warmwinds.com; $50 for a group, $65 single). And grab a clam roll and eat outside at Monahan’s (401-782-2524, http://www.monahansri.com). For a peek into Narragansett’s heyday as a luxury alternative to Newport, trade your flip-flops for heels and take ballroom dancing lessons on Wednesday nights at the Towers (401-782-2597, http://www.thetowersri.com; $12-$20).