Christina Ohly has lived with her husband and two children in New York City and London, and has never been shy about shipping her crew to the far corners of the globe in search of memorable sights and tastes. So we never expected that, come summer, she's at her happiest so close to her American home in Rhode Island, the small state that delivers big.
WATCH HILL, Rhode Island – There is no place more beautiful in the summer than New England. Period, full stop.
The quaint seaside town of Watch Hill is the ultimate in pure, awesome Americana, from outstanding displays of true prep and lighthouses to killer lobster rolls and the best homemade black raspberry ice cream (a seasonal RI speciality). Located on a peninsula on Block Island Sound and surrounded by water on all sides, Watch Hill is perfect for sailing, body surfing, and exploring the village's gorgeous "cottages" (who do they think they're fooling?) by bicycle.
WHERE TO STAY
The Ocean House recently underwent a multi-million reno and is now getting up to speed on the service front. But this place is lovely and well located old-world fun. Overlooking the beach and the picturesque village, the Ocean House is the only Relais & Chateau-esque game in town. The sweet college student staffers will happily book boat rides, fishing trip, and cool activities for kids.
A less pricey option is Watch Hill Inn on the bay. Accommodations are more like condos, and the kitchenettes make this a great choice for families, as does the proximity to the carousel and public beach.
WHAT TO EAT
Pack a picnic from the Cooked Goose and order the locals' favorite sandwich, W. H. 15, a ham, cheese, and carmelized onion treat named after a type of old sailboat found only in this area. The Goose stocks great basics like BLT with thick-cut bacon on freshly baked bread, as well as upscale offerings like lobster salad, lemon/herb cappellini, and chewy molasses and chocolate chip cookies.
Other great bets: Aunt Carrie's for lobster in the rough: Bridge for fresh seafood, vegetarian options aplenty, and the riverfront view; and PizzaPlace Westerly for gourmet pies with shrimp and artichoke in an old converted mill.
Drinks at dusk on the enormous, sweeping porch at Ocean House are a must. You'll have upscale takes on New England faves for hors d'ouevres. The phenomenal sunsets are free.
WHERE TO PLAY
At risk of stating the obvious, go to the beach. East Beach, with its formidable surf, is the quintessential summer stop, though it's not great for kids under two. Pack a picnic, take in the views from the bluff (ah, that picture-perfect lighthouse), and stroll along the endless coast toward Weekapaug. Watch Hill's central carousel (pause for a moment of charm: It's the oldest continually operating one in the US) is old-school fun, as are milkshakes from St. Clair Annex just down the street. Walk out to Napatree Point, a half-mile long sandspit with remnants of a fort from the Spanish-American War, to ponder the passing boats and Fisher's Island in the distance.
WHAT TO SEE
If fun in the sun gets to be too much (it could happen), head indoors for a little culture. At the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, kids learn about Native peoples from hands-on exhibits, dancing, and life-size dioramas. Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck is a great place to catch a show. If you want to go farther afield, you can spend the day at WaterFire Providence, the summer river festival/exhibit 40 minutes away, or wander the nearby towns of Stonington and Wickford, Connecticut, for the quaint streets, fishing history, and delicious foodie finds.
See the locations for this trip. (Google Maps)