Summing up a visit to Ocean House in one word is simple: perfection. With summer fast approaching, there’s no better time to visit the Watch Hill, Rhode Island retreat than now, as the summer months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, mark the resort’s high season. The historic Relais & Chateaux inn is the only property in the state to have earned five Forbes stars, and it’s no wonder why.
We began our visit with an easy flight from Washington, DC into nearby Providence Airport, an easy hour’s drive from the property in the hotel’s well-appointed E Class Mercedes. Sal, the friendly driver, pointed out notable sites along the “scenic” route to the hotel, including a quick tour through the village of Watch Hill proper, a small strip of shops and restaurants along Narragansett Bay. The highlight? The famed “flying horse” carousel, one of the oldest in the country, where horses are suspended from chains rather than traditional poles, meaning that they appear to “fly” as the carousel gains speed.
Perched at the top of the hill, overlooking the Bay on one side and a 650-foot private white sand beach with views all the way to Montauk and Block Island on the other, sits the massive yellow Ocean House, presiding over the town like the grande dame she is.
Our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived early Sunday afternoon, so we opted for brunch in the acclaimed Seasons Restaurant, which overlooks the resort grounds, the championship croquet lawn and the ocean beyond. Perfectly crispy local fish and chips paired with well seasoned cole slaw made a more than ample brunch, although an impressive selection for a buffet included a raw bar option, desserts, appetizers and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Attentive staff — kudos to Ursula — made sure each and every detail was executed perfectly. Breakfast on subsequent mornings was less lavish, but equally divine. The lemon scones inspired me to buy the resort’s cookbook and attempt to recreate at home.
We returned to our room for a brief break before exploring the grounds and heading downstairs to the Five Star Oh! Spa for afternoon massages. The resort’s 49 rooms and 14 signature suites are spacious, fresh from a top-to-bottom renovation in 2010, offering deep soaking tubs, oversized rain showers, and expansive terraces, all with full or partial water views. Extra perks? Stocked snack jars, filled with goldfish, malted milk balls and bar mix.
After a brisk walk on the beach, we arrived ready for our afternoon massages. The well-appointed spa offers a steam room and quiet waiting area, as well as a sun-filled relaxation lounge complete with chaises, blankets and homemade snacks. Treatments were, in short, fantastic. Therapist Melissa Smith worked out knots I didn’t know I had, making the hour-long treatment feel as relaxing as any I’ve experienced. In fact, the experience was so lovely, we booked return trips for the next day, which were equally as satisfying.
Dinner that night was at Seasons, the same restaurant where we’d had brunch. We visited in the off season, and only a few dining options were available, but the inventive dishes — think cauliflower soup with short rib and quail egg as well as lobster paupiette with scallions, broccoli and a flavorful mushroom dashi broth. Thoughtful details awaited at every turn; the waitstaff packs a miniature bag of treats from a tempting candy display for you to take back to your room.
Subsequent days passed in a happy relaxed blur, including a trip to the delightful sister property Weekapaug Inn for a leisurely lunch. New sister property Watch Hill Inn was still under construction, but it should open this weekend for new guests. The trip all too quickly drew to a close, leaving us eager to make this New England gem part of our regular vacation rotation at any time of year.