Fall Getaways: Ocean House
A perfect Rhode Island retreat.
The service at this picture-perfect Victorian New England resort is as exemplary as the setting.
After the valet hands me the keys to my car and I begin my drive home from the Ocean House, I notice something out of the corner of my eye: a bottle of water. It doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary, but it wasn’t there when I pulled in. Someone thoughtfully filled my cup-holders with bottled water for the trip back without my having to ask.
This was after I checked out, when the friendly hotel staffer at the front desk gave me a bag of caramel popcorn as a parting gift. And it was also after the most relaxing massage at the world-class OH! Spa, where, upon leaving, I was given a small silver seashell charm as a reminder of my visit. And, of course, this was all after a couple nights’ stay at the Ocean House, where every night there was some kind of trinket or goodie—a jar of bath salts, a decadent truffle—waiting by my bedside.
It’s not that the Ocean House needs all these extra touches. The Victorian Relais & Châteaux property (frequently seen on “Best of” lists, including the Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, and AAA Five-Diamond list), with its mansard roof, sunny yellow walls, and wrap-around porch, looks like the perfect New England coastal hotel, perched on a bluff overlooking 650 feet of private Rhode Island beach. It’s possible to get a room overlooking the same view, with a private balcony (where you can also try to spy the vacation home of the Ocean House’s most famous neighbor, Taylor Swift). Traveler tip: It’s worth it to upgrade to one of the deluxe guest rooms, if only for the deep, deep soaking tub.
The Ocean House was cozy in the fall when I visited—decorative pumpkins and gourds on every surface—and there were plenty of comfy seats near the “living room” (lobby) fireplace, which just happens to date back to the 1800s. The inn also hosts events, classes, and activities that draw people in from all around, not just hotel guests. I dropped in on a class led by Janice McEachen, the staff food forager (really—that’s a full-time position), about making homemade hostess gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I left with a book of recipes and homemade maple-syrup mustard, mulling spices for cider or wine, mocha Baileys Irish cream, sweet and salty fudge, and cranberry-walnut muffin mix, all in beautifully decorated packaging.
Explore: The Watch Hill area of Rhode Island—known as one of those quaint summer vacation villages where you can buy fudge and take the kids on a spin on a historic carousel—gets pretty sleepy in fall. Many of the shops and restaurants close, except for a few hours on weekends. You can hop over to the Ocean House’s sister property, the Weekapaug Inn, which has more of a laid-back summer-camp vibe. Otherwise, you can still find some life in downtown Westerly, or take a short drive to nearby Mystic, Connecticut.
Dine: You won’t have to go far for a good meal: Request a window-side table at Seasons, a restaurant that, as its name suggests, changes its menu daily in accordance with what’s locally in season, taking the farm-to-table concept seriously. Try the Sunday Champagne Jazz Brunch, where a full buffet is offered in addition to the made-to-order menu items.
Insider’s Tip: Though this isn’t our winter travel guide, Christmas and New Year’s are a big deal here: There are many events planned for each of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the New Year’s bash is always a themed affair with a different motif—such as decades or countries of the world—playing out in different rooms.
1 Bluff Ave, Watch Hill, RI (401) 584-7000; www.oceanhouseri.com
Distance from White Plains: 2 hours Details: 49 guestrooms and 14 Signature Suites starting at $555 for a mid-week