Rhode Island 101: Westerly to Newport

This Summer could be coined as the return to American travel. All over the states, travelers are turning towards closer, second city destinations to quench their travel thirst. Where to? Oh, have I got just the place for you! We are heading back to travel and taking on a long weekend for a New England getaway!

white and blue boats on body of water under blue and white cloudy sky during daytime

Lay of the Land

New England officially consists of Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and, our destination, Rhode Island. Specifically, we are headed to the town of Westerly and it’s fancy neighbor, Watch Hill. Just over the border from Connecticut, this Ocean State secret is one worth exploring. Westerly sits right in the middle of Newport, Block Island, and Mystic Seaport.

Sail into town by car or arrive at the town train station from a local airport like Providence or even Logan International in Boston.

red wooden door on gray concrete building

Westerly Downtown

Laid back, work-a-day Westerly charms with little shops and plenty of great eateries like Amigos Mexican Restaurant, Longo’s Italian Restaurant, The Malted Barley Brewhouse and The Tapped Apple. Each is a great time with great energy. Before sitting down, enjoy a quick stroll through the town’s Wilcox Park. I’m sure you will find a bunny or two to say hello! Move to the 1:40 mark in the video to see the charming downtown area.

Watch Hill

Fifteen minutes and a world away, fancy sister Watch Hill, packs the beach charm in a very small area. The cove-side area predictably has plenty of shopping including the famed awnings of Lilly Pulitzer as well as some yummy eating options. The historic Olympia Tea Room is the most recognizable but don’t overlook some of the get and go options that make a great picnic on the sea wall or out on the beach.

You’ll find all the kiddos surrounding the rope driven carousel or standing in line for an ice cream cone in the setting Summer sun. Probably the star of the entire area is the crescent beach that is accessed just past the rentals and over the dune. The New England waves are just right and the sand is perfect for wasting the day away.

a large building with a flag on top with Watch Hill, Rhode Island in the background

Ocean House

Anchoring this little corner of Watch Hill stands the big yellow Victorian known as Ocean House. This Grand Dame is the epitome of luxury and is worth every cent you save to enjoy it. With amazing experiences and accommodations that will wow you every time, Ocean House is the center of this community providing it’s neighbors with plenty of events including its annual Christmas Tree lighting.

Artistically, the hotel is one of the premiere collectors of Ludwig Bemelmans famous for his iconic contributions to the Madeline books. Additionally, look for serious eating options that partner with such heavy weights as Vueve Cliquot. Ocean House offers another property in the Watch Hill Inn which is more tailored to families.

Bemelman’s artwork is prominent on the lower level. For more on how artwork can be enjoyed check out our tips here.
two decorative chairs on grass field near body of water

Day Trip to Newport

One of Rhode Island’s biggest attractions is the seaside town of Newport. This town has a few lovely activities to keep you delighted. The seaside wharf is packed with boutiques and restaurants that will deliver just the right amount of charm and sophistication that anyone would come to expect from New England.

The biggest draw to Newport, however, are the mansions. Run by the Preservation Society of Newport County, all eleven houses are open during the high Summer season.

The Mansions

America’s version of Downton Abbey winds along Ocean Drive. Of the eleven properties, the prom queen of them all is The Breakers. This massive Summer cottage was the brainchild of the Vanderbilt Family. The 70 room mansion highlights the day to day workings of staff and family. However, it can be so very crowded!

The grandeur and pomp of these homes shows their primary role: to show off. These families were part of the original 400 and they wanted to ensure people knew and that their status didn’t change. This gilded age mentality came at a huge cost in not only materials but labor to create it and, moreover, labor to maintain it.

Taking time to explore some of the other venues like The Ems and Rosecliff are totally worth it. Some of these properties give far better insight into how these grand dames worked and how technology played such a crucial role in making them a success.

black and brown wooden staircase

Block Island

Escape the Southern Rhode Island mainland and hop on a ferry to Block Island for New England’s take on island time. Forty-five minutes on a ferry lands you in the quaint little downtown area full of all kinds of distractions to keep you entertained. The rest of the island opens up to outdoor enthusiasts who are ready to hike, bike, swim, explore, ride, paddle, sail and enjoy. Stay for the day or stay for a week. Block Island is a never ending source of Summer fun. Check out the video to get inspired and enjoy island time.

More Outdoors in Southern Rhode Island

Check out these amazing places for even more to keep you busy and entertained in Rhode Island!

  • Weekapaug State Park
  • Point Judith
  • Fort Adams
  • Sachuest Point