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Watch Hill for the Weekend

I had visited Watch Hill, Rhode Island, once before, but that trip was on someone else's time. I was hired help for a family with four kids and what seemed to be a lot of money. We took their yacht to Watch Hill to see the town and try to assess whether it measured up to their standards. To Watch Hill's credit, it took only half an hour before the lady of the family was in front of a real estate office scanning images of multi-million dollar homes and pointing out her favorites.

Finding Whimsy in Rhode Island

Watch Hill is most certainly an affluent town, but it maintains a residential, familiar feel. Located in the southwest corner of Rhode Island, Watch Hill seems to be Newport's less ostentatious cousin. It has the same family money in the bank, but it uses the wealth differently. Newport's mansions are absolutely huge estates set back from the road and cut off from reality by tall walls and high gates. Those mansions have been traded for some merely generously sized, nicely manicured homes in Watch Hill.

Points of Interest in Watch Hill

- East Beach
- Flying Horse Carousel
- Fort Mansfield, the remains of
- Ocean House
- Olympia Tea Room
- Watch Hill Lighthouse

On my recent visit I came in (by car) on scenic route 1A and passed golf, racquet, and country clubs on the way. The New England-style shingled homes, neat hedges, and low stone walls set the visual tone for the afternoon. Even if there aren't mega yachts in the marina across the street from where I park, I can tell this isn't the kind of place anyone would dare litter or ask why there's no McDonald's.


Within easy walking distance of the marina, I have access to the main street of shops and restaurants. There's the requisite clam chowder, lobster rolls, and ice cream on offer - all things I would miss if they weren't there. After selecting a few gifts from Small Axe (149 Bay Street), I buy lunch from Ten Sandwiches (98 Bay Street), which has a summer menu featuring exactly ten sandwiches as well as smoothies, salads, and a dessert case.

Just down the sidewalk is the Olympia Tea Room, which contrary to its name has manchego croquettes and lobster cocktail on the menu instead of English Breakfast and cucumber sandwiches. All the tables outside are taken as people sit enjoying their food and the view of the water across the street. This same stretch of road is where families line up to put little ones onto the Flying Horse Carousel or head out onto the public beach.

Around a curve and up a hill, I find the expansive Ocean House hotel (1 Bluff Avenue). This yellow Victorian building sits on a corner and purposefully overlooks the water, boats, and other less imposing structures around town. With many travel awards to its name, Ocean House is easily the place to spend a couple nights if you haven't arrived by private yacht. Between the spa, croquet green, squash court, and beach access, you might not want to leave. For the restless, there are bike tours and yacht excursions.

Watch Hill is frequented by celebrities and day sailors. It welcomes families and foreign visitors. This is a lovely spot to bring your boat, drop anchor, and live the simply wonderful life for a few days. Rent a cabana and let the waves wash your troubles away!

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