On the southernmost point of Rhode Island, on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, is the town of Watch Hill. Perched on a bluff, high above a gorgeous beach, sits the Ocean House.
It’s a spectacular building, more than 146 feet tall, massive and dominant as you pull around the bend, with a look straight from the Victorian Age. Grand buildings of this sort once dotted the Rhode Island Coast, and the original Ocean House welcomed its first guests in 1868. It fell into disrepair, and was closed in 2003, with plans to replace it. The new Ocean House—created to replicate the original design, with all 247 windows in their original positions and some 5,000 artifacts salvaged from the original—opened in 2010, and in 2012 joined Relais & Châteaux. While the outside retains the look of the old, the rooms inside are modern and far larger. This 152,000-square-foot facility contains a mere 49 rooms and 18 suites. Most have water views.
The shore calls to you here, and the long walk down to the beach below is well worth the journey. The hotel has 650 feet of white sand beach, with comfortable chairs, cabanas and attentive service to bring you a cocktail or glass of rosé while you sit and admire the waves. Other activities abound, as the hotel has a putting green, cooking lessons, yoga, squash courts, an indoor saltwater pool and a vast grass croquet lawn, complete with an expert to give you a lesson. There’s also a four-car fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles available for complimentary drives, whether for a short trip to the quaint town (complete with a working, historic carousel that dates back to the late 1800s) or a longer trip to the mansions of Newport.
The dining options here are considerable, from the upscale Coast, which has a prix-fixe menu, to the mid-level Bistro (with steaks and pastas) and the more laid back Verandah on the covered porch, overlooking the croquet court. You can also dine by the beach or indulge in 24-hour room service. Aside from the restaurants, this is a gratuity-free property.
You’re likely to see many guests take their cigars (along with a libation) to one of several smoke-friendly porches at the resort, such as the long, covered porch off the Harbour Room. And when the sun is setting, the evening’s plans firming up in your mind, it’s hard to find a more sublime place on earth than the Ocean House’s spacious front porch, cigar in hand, rocking chair under you, watching the clouds of your robusto wafting to the sky as you remember the day.