The affluent beach community of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, a picturesque enclave, dotted with elegant shingled beachfront homes and Victorian-style cottages, has been attracting well-heeled travelers for more than a century. Clark Gable, Andrew Mellon and Henry Ford are among those that have flocked to the seaside village over the decades to absorb its tranquil charm.
Yet perched on a bluff above the town's winding streets and abundant landmarks may be the best reason of all to descend on Watch Hill this summer. The Ocean House, the newly restored Victorian-style hotel and spa with sweeping views of the Atlantic, is easily considered one of the best hotels in all of New England.
Though the original hotel dates back to the years immediately following the Civil War, a $152 million rebuild of the structure was unveiled in 2010. The restoration included more than 5,000 salvageable artifacts and furnishing elements from the original structure.
"These were historic interiors so no detail was too small," says Rachel Pope, the hotel's director of communications. "From doorways to the historic stone fireplace the restoration was focused on protecting the integrity and history of the structure."
The massive yellow structure is one of only 76 in the world to have a Forbes Five Star rating. It has a sweeping oceanfront veranda with 49 rooms and 15 so-called Signature Suites. Viewed from the outside, all of the resort's 247 windows remain in their original positions.
Beyond the luxury of the rooms and spa, the hotel also boasts a five star dining experience. Seasons Restaurant employs a farm-to-table ethos and sources all of ingredients from nearby farms.
"When we were conceptualizing Seasons I wanted to make it farm-to-table and to ensure that there is a dictate that 80 percent of every dish comes from within 150-mile of the property," Daniel A. Hostettler told Leaders Magazine earlier this year. A hospitality executive with 20 years of luxury hotel and restaurant industry experience, Hostettler is president and managing director of Ocean House. "We have tried to take that culinary idea and weave it throughout the entire property and we have been successful with that," Hostettler says.
The menu at Seasons changes daily and can include main courses such as roasted wild monkfish with artichokes, preserved pepper, spiced yogurt, and a Moroccan cous cous or natural free range chicken with baby leeks, confit potatoes, morel mushroom, and wheat berries. Appetizers include spring artichoke soup and citrus cured lobster with asparagus, almond, and caviar.
A 12,000-square-foot spa is also on offer at Ocean House. It has a collection of seasonal treatments and products. The OH! Spa is the only Forbes Five Star spa in Rhode Island, and among only 41 spas in the world to achieve the Five-Star rating, the hotel says.
"The entire resort was designed to offer a serene yet active experience for guests," adds Rachel Pope, the hotels communications director. "And I think we really did achieve that."