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CLOSE-UP ON westport, MASS.

Sea of tranquillity

Quiet, welcoming town is rich in coastal and pastoral beauty

Grapes on the vine at Westport Rivers & Winery.
Grapes on the vine at Westport Rivers & Winery. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Mary Grauerholz
Globe Correspondent / August 27, 2008
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DISTANCE FROM BOSTON: 60 miles
POPULATION: 14,715
WEBSITE: www.westport-ma.com
ODD FACT: In the early 20th century, Westport was home to a grand summer community on the beachfront, much of which was washed away in the hurricane of 1938. Westport Harbor lost most of its houses and East Beach lost 60.

Some destinations beckon with a crash and a boom; Westport lures with a subdued whisper. But what a lovely whisper. Perched on the south coast, where the Westport River converges with Rhode Island Sound and Buzzards Bay, Westport is a place for the world-weary to restore and regroup. Family farms, historic structures, and a handful of sweet shops and restaurants form the core of the town, amid an inviting backdrop of water views and pastoral beauty.

Do
Local agriculture, much of it focused on sustainable food and organic farming, is an important part of Westport's identity. With its beautiful farms and rich soil, this is a perfect place to introduce the kids to harvesting pure food straight from the earth. A simple drive through Westport's rolling byways reveals a rich tapestry of small farms. At Berry Hill Farm (764 Pine Hill Road, www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=874) Bob Pierce grows pick-your-own blueberries in the prime of summer. He also grows fall crops that he sells through the local Lees Market, including Macomber turnips, a local favorite that tastes like a cross between a turnip and radish (and which many people say originated in Westport). On the north end of Westport is Wild Dogwood Farm (148 Sanford Road, 508-678-9955, www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=984), a small organic farm. The owners, Peter and Louise Levesque, grow and sell vegetables and flowers, including fall crops such as kale, Macomber turnips, and a popular strong-flavored garlic. The Levesques also raise "meat lambs," which they raise and send to slaughter for customers. Golden Touch Farm (645 Sanford Road, 508-672-3727, www.goldentouchfarm.com) is a wonderful family destination dedicated to alpacas. Call in advance to arrange a visit. (Goods made from the farm's alpaca fiber are sold online and at the Westport Farmers Market.) Shy Brothers Farm (2001 Main Road, Westport Point, 508-965-6560, www.shybrothers farm.com) makes a delicious semisoft cheese, Hannahbells, the old-fashioned way. The farm doesn't offer formal tours, but visitors can pull up to see cows grazing in a storybook setting. History calls from almost every corner of Westport. The Westport Historical Society (25 Drift Road, Head of Westport, 508-636-6011, www.westport history.com) is featuring "Winds of Change," a special exhibit on hurricanes, Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays 10 a.m.--4 p.m. through this week. The structure that the society is housed in is a prime example of a 19th-century schoolhouse and well worth experiencing. You can also enjoy a permanent exhibit on Westport schools and a research collection.

Fuel
Westport has its share of outstanding restaurants. The greatly popular waterfront eatery The Back Eddy (1 Bridge Road, 508-636-6500, www.thebackeddy.com, $7-$29) purchases local seafood, produce, and other products such as wine as much as possible. The theory is that buying and serving local food is better for everyone, including diners, and the food here offers tasty proof. Diners at Bittersweet Farm Restaurant and Tavern (438 Main Road, 508-636-0085, www.lafrancehospitality .com, $8.50-$31.50) choose between a simple tavern menu and a more upscale menu with items such as filet mignon. The Westporter (1031 Main Road, 508-636-9000, dinners $15.95-$23.95) is a local favorite. The Bayside Restaurant (1253 Horseneck Road, 508-636-5882, www.thewestportbayside.com, $5-$21.99) is a lovely little spot overlooking the water with excellent cuisine, including lobster rolls and homemade pies.

Play
A must-visit is Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Route 88, Westport Point, 508-636-8817, www.massparks.org). This 600-acre expanse of beach and salt marsh is a beauty with activities galore: swimming, camping, nature watching, and more. Little Fox Sport Fishing Charters (Bridge Road, 508-636-3784, www.littlefox sportfishing.com) is situated on beautiful Westport River and offers fishing trips, sunset viewing, and tours to nearby locales such as Newport, Cape Cod, and Block Island. The friendly Le Belle family operates Village Bicycle (678 Main Road, 508-636-0525, www.village bicycle.com) with a focus on wellness and building relationships with their customers. The shop rents bikes and offers group rides on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. They also lead bike tours through coastal beaches and other scenic areas.

Spend
Find stylish women's clothing such as Eileen Fisher at A.S. Deams (440 Main Road, 508-636-0800). The store is housed in an old farmhouse with several rooms and just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Partners Village Store and Kitchen (865 Main Road, 508-636-2572, www.partnersvillagestore.com) is the place to go for books, gifts, toys, and cards. A cafe offers soup, cookies, coffee, and other lunch items. Partners also serves as a center for book signings and community events, such as "Nice to Meet You," a recent series that featured as-yet-undiscovered artisans and artists showing their work. Look to Lees Market (796 Main Road, 508-636-3348, www.leesmarket.com) for groceries and specialty items, including Hannahbells, the cheese produced at Shy Brothers Farm in Westport, and organic milk from Arruda Dairy in Tiverton, R.I.

Party
Westport is not a town noted for party spots, but there are delightful drinks to sip among lovely natural landscapes. One jewel is Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery (417 Hixbridge Road, 800-993-9695, www.westportrivers.com). Come here to sip award-winning wine and stroll the beautiful grounds. The winery's owners, the Russell family, also operate Buzzards Bay Brewery (98 Horseneck Road, 508-636-2288, www.buzzardsbrew.com) with the same fine principles of respect for the land and natural resources - and a good drink.

Rest
Westport doesn't have an abundance of overnight accommodations, so is best suited for day-trippers or those who don't mind making plans well in advance. The Harbor Inn (23 Acoaxet Road, 508-636-5915, www.harborinnwestport.com; rooms $125-$400; open mid-June till Labor Day) was originally the Harbor Farm, a mid-1700s dairy and crop farm. The inn's 10 rooms have retained that appealing sense of history. The Hampton Inn (53 Old Bedford Road, 508-675-8500, www.hamp toninn.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=FLRWPHX, doubles start at $119; open year-round) gets good reviews for clean, comfortable rooms, and a handy location, just off Interstate 195.

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