The Great Escape

Opened in 1868, on the heels of the Civil War, Ocean House sits on 13 acres of breathtaking oceanfront landscape overlooking a 650-foot private white-sand beach in Watch Hill Road Island. Most recognizable for its inviting butter-hued façade, it has long served as a luxurious respite for distinguished guests. After 135 years in business, the property was closed in 2003 and considered impossible to repair. Thankfully, local residents Charles Royce (a renowned mutual fund manager) and his wife, Deborah (an actress, story editor and author), stepped in to save the day, creating a replicate structure of the original exterior. Today, the new resort is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been, which I do not say lightly after twenty-plus years of travel writing. Everything from the attention to detail, the white-glove service and the mouth-watering cuisine to the lavish rooms, stunning grounds and the 5,000 salvageable artifacts and furnishings tenderly harvested from the primary historic interior will make your visit unforgettable.

left: Steak from Ocean House’s five-star restaurant, COAST; right: Owners, Charles and Deborah Royce

The forty-nine guestrooms and twenty signature suites, inspired by the glorious oceanfront scenery, are skillfully appointed with turn-of-the-twentieth-century décor. Custom wooden furnishings, a subdued color palette, and early New England artwork, along with plenty of high-tech touches ensure that accommodations appeal to a wide variety of tastes. I had the truly distinctive experience of staying in the Tower Suite with unrivaled views of the Atlantic, Napatree Point, Stonington and Watch Hill. Decorated by Greenwich-based designer Cindy Rinfret, the space is dressed in bright blues and gentle creams, with a nautical theme. A welcoming foyer, master suite and powder room reside on the first level. I loved the beach stone floor and a tea-for-two tub in the master bathroom! There’s also an adjoining guest room that may be reserved. On the second floor, there’s a living area with floor-to-ceiling fir paneling that will make you feel like you’re on a yacht at sea, in addition to a slate fireplace, built-in bookshelves, and window seats perfect for curling up with a great book. The adjoining dining area has a custom-built banquette with a roof deck, and there’s also a modern kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances and granite countertops. And that’s not all! A regal wooden staircase leads up and away to the Crow’s Nest—a intimate den with a daybed and full bath. All in all, the suite encompasses 2,400 square feet, sleeps five and entertains ten to twenty.

Situated high on the bluffs of Watch Hill, looking out on the Atlantic Ocean, the 12,000-square-foot OH! Spa boasts rejuvenating treatments and products that foster indulgence and relaxation. It’s the only Forbes Five-Star spa in Rhode Island and one of fifty-six destination spas in the world to achieve the five-star rating. Begin your journey with a glass of their signature fruit-infused water in the serene waiting area before spoiling yourself with one of the many services available, including body treatments, skin care and massages. I opted for the Your Way Custom massage, which was tailored to my preferences and divinely soothing.

A gorgeous indoor/outdoor pool with water views

With Executive Chef Matt Voskuil at the helm of a supremely talented culinary team, dining options abound at Ocean House—all with elevated traditional Rhode Island flavors. Combining fresh local ingredients, superlative service, and a farm-to-table philosophy, prepare to have your taste buds tantalized.

At COAST restaurant, the seasonal offerings change nightly and guests (ages eight and up) can choose from a prix-fixe four-course savory or vegetarian degustation menu with an optional cheese course. My favorites included the Maine Peekytoe Crab with persimmon, radish, sea bean and kaffir lime and the Royalton Farms Wagyu New York Strip with short rib, baby carrot, bone marrow, and buckwheat gnocchi. There’s also The Bistro, for a more casual dining experience, available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the members-only Club Room and Club Terrace, which feature traditional brasserie fare with a New England twist. I couldn’t resist the housemade Pappardelle with lobster, truffle butter and egg yolk. But the pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the Chocolate PB & J with banana, peanut butter and raspberry for dessert.

Visit Fondue Village, a unique and cozy private dining venue serving breakfast, afternoon crêpe service, and four-course lunches and dinners with Alpine delicacies and Veuve Clicquot champagnes. Each vintage ski gondola (either for up to four or six guests) has been restored and equipped with warm woods, fine Alpine textiles, chandeliers and imported Swiss and Austrian glassware and china. Whether for a romantic couple’s dinner or a gathering of friends, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

During the summer, delight in the panoramic view and calming sea breeze at one of three al fresco restaurants. Check out The Verandah for fresh-caught local seafood, Dune Cottage for a Mediterranean-style meal, and the Seaside Terrace for delicious breakfast and lunch provisions. On select Friday evenings, hit the private beach for a sunset lobster boil.

The meticulously reconstructed waterfront resort in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, has become a beacon for luxury-seekers nationally

Enjoy wine and culinary classes inspired by the season. Take a self-guided art tour to learn about Ocean House’s extensive collection and a historic tour of the property. Partake in classic movie screenings. Stick to your fitness regimen at the state-of-the-art TechnoGym with extensive cardiovascular and strength-training equipment or try your hand at yoga, tai chi, body sculpt and Pilates. Dip into the heated, salt-water lap pool, set against a wall of French doors that open toward Seaside Terrace’s sun deck. Or stop into the salon for a cut and color and a scalp treatment—customized packages are available for weddings, galas or an intimate dinner with someone special.

left: Ocean House has 49 large guest rooms, a collection of cottages (from two to seven bedrooms) and large suites. Here, the Tower Suite features a spiral staircase to the Crow’s Nest, a den with daybed, bath and one-of-a-kind view of the Atlantic Ocean and Watch Hill from the widow’s walk.; right: The relaxation room in the Five-Star OH! Spa, which offers an extensive list of nourishing and relaxing body treatments, massages and facials.
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