Summer is nearly upon us and I find myself longing to over-pack my trusty Jeep and begin the 30 hour journey to my adopted summer sneak away spot Saunderstown, Rhode Island. The tiniest state in the US was also the last to join the original 13 colonies. Things in Rhode Island don’t tend to change much from decade to decade. I think that’s why I find it so charming.
Happiness is Texas in the rear view mirror. At least for the summer.
Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the fabled stories and summer cottages of America’s earliest tycoons. The Breakers, Marble House and Rosecliff are carefully and lovingly maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County and open to the public almost every day of the year. Before your trip to Newport, consider joining the Preservation Society and supporting their heroic efforts and you’ll be rewarded with a “front of the line” pass for your tour. Newport is a highly coveted summer destination (i.e. CROWDED) and I would nudge you in the direction of a smaller town (Saunderstown, Wickford or Watch Hill) if you have more than a few nights to spend in the area. I’m normally the kind of hotel guest person who drives the front desk manager crazy by switching rooms at least twice before settling in. At The Ocean House and 41° N, I gleefully thank the bellmen and let the merriment begin. However, if you plan to stay a week or more, consider renting a charming coastal cottage. I’ve learned from experience that the only thing that really matters aside from location is cleanliness.
The Ocean House in Watch Hill. RI’s fanciest crash pad.
41N is the poshest hotel on Aquidneck Island. My first visit to 41N I was delighted to find 5 different kinds of ice being served at the bar. Hello happiness!
What you may not know about Rhode Island:
1. Rhode Islanders know where their food comes from. You can visit a Rhode Island Farmer’s Market nearly every day of the week. Farm Fresh RI.
2. Rhode Islanders think ice cream and iced coffee should each be designated a food group. Ask 5 Rhode Islanders where to get the best ice cream or best iced coffee and you will likely get a slurry of different answers.
3. Rhode Islanders all know each other and they can recognize a tourist in a flash but if you are nice, they will open their circle and make you feel at home.
4. Use your iPhone for directions in RI. Don’t ask the locals. If you do, be prepared for them to say crazy things like, “Follow your nose.” They also give directions based on long ago demolished landmarks. And for added fun, most roads in RI have multiple names.
5. Be open to the idea of falling in love with Rhode Island and coming back year after year. The housing market is among the slowest to recover in the country and there are plenty of “Someday houses” that you can call your own. View RI Real Estate here. My favorite Ocean State realtor here.
The Famer’s Market is THE social hub in every town. You may see your neighbors, your neighbor’s house guests, the Governor, Taylor Swift if she’s in town and of course, the farmers.
Dinner found at the Farm.
A rainy day for us includes lunch in Newport and a drive along the ocean. At the end of the day we always stop at Newport Creamery for an Awful Awful. (a milkshake)
Last stop before bed after a long day at the beach. We are giddy and punchy and plan to do it all over again tomorrow.
Where you will find the locals:
1. THE BEACH
Don’t expect to go anywhere fast on gorgeous days. The beach traffic can be daunting but don’t give up and turn back. This isn’t East Hampton! It usually looks worse than it is.
Sail Newport offers daily rentals of family friendly boats.
3. SUPPORTING THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITY at events like The Willet Free Library Book and Bake Sale, The Church Fair at Chapel of St. John the Divine.
4. Scouring for treasures at YARD SALES. We count the signs every day as we meander down the two lane beach road near our rental house. It’s fairly common to spot a handful of hand lettered signs beckoning us to stop. “Fresh Berries” “Tomatoes” “Bouquets” “Baby items” and the one that assures I stop “Fresh Eggs.”
5. Matunuck Oyster Bar. THE place to eat in Southern RI.
Paddle out to catch a wave and ride it in. Repeat.
Kids ages 5 and up can learn to sail through Sail Newport.
Three generations on race day is a common sight.
After a fun day of club racing nobody rushes to get off the water.
Napping is important too. If you’ve never slept on a boat, you simply must.
Fleet racing is a common theme across RI on Wednesday nights.
The Newport “Harbor Tour” is the equivalent of a Sunday drive.
Photo credits: All photos by Lisa Hough for The Hough Post except: 2. Ocean House 3. Forty-one North 4. Farm Fresh RI