Nature & Luxury in South County
Three days of nature and luxury, by Mark Bullinger, Naturalist & Director of Recreation at Weekapaug Inn
Now is the perfect time for a weekend escape, and Weekapaug Inn, located along the shore in South County, Rhode Island, is just the place for a naturally relaxing getaway. The historic property has been beautifully renovated and features sweeping views of sea and saltmarsh. Crackling wood-burning fireplaces throughout the public rooms radiate lovely warmth and beckon guests to pull an antique rocker close. The Inn is surrounded by nature and it employs a staff naturalist, who leads outings and activities to explore the wonderful natural attractions of beach and bay, as well as the history of the region. Guests are invited to participate in as many or as few of the activities as they desire. Weekapaug and the Rhode Island coast are so easy to get to from New York or Boston, yet when you are here it feels like you are hundreds of miles away.
If you arrive in the area by lunchtime, swing through downtown Westerly and visit the historic business district. It is lined with independent shops and restaurants and can easily be covered on foot. The Malted Barley features beer and soft pretzel sandwiches and The Bridge restaurant has a varied menu and large windows looking right out on the beautiful Pawcatuck River. The Savoy bookshop is an enchanting place to browse and enjoy a coffee and baked treats from the in-store café.
Check-in time at the Inn is 4pm and you can look forward to a warm welcome. Arriving guests are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and after a quick tour of the property are escorted to their room. On Friday afternoons I give an insider tour of the historic Inn, at dusk a there's a short slideshow on backyard astronomy, followed by the real deal - a tour of the heavens from the back deck where I use a green laser pointer to identify stars and constellations. If the moon is at a good phase for viewing we'll also set up a telescope.
Follow-up your explorations with one of the Inn’s signature cocktails, enjoyed in an antique Stickley rocker by the wood fire and then dine in the Brasserie – the more casual of the Inn’s dining rooms, which features a French country inspired menu. After that it’s off to bed, so that you are well rested for an active day two.
Start your morning off with a Dave’s coffee, locally roasted and a regional favorite. The Inn serves its own custom roast. Breakfast is served in the restaurant and will give you energy for a full day.
Post breakfast, join me for a nature walk along the local beach, where I'll identifiy and discuss landscape features and lighthouses and points out various species of plants, animals and birds. Keep your eyes open for sea glass and beautiful small stones that have been polished smooth in the tumbling waves, because later in the morning the Inn offers a beachstone jewelry workshop, where participants design and make a delightful piece of jewelry to take home. All supplies are included, as is expert instruction and assistance.
By midday you might want a little something and the Weekapaug clam chowder makes a tasty and filling light lunch. After lunch you will want to size up the variables and make a choice – take a nap on the sofa next to the Searoom fireplace, or sign-out one of the Inn’s complimentary Volvos and head out and explore. Mystic, CT, Stonington Borough, CT, and Newport are all within an easy drive and offer shopping, attractions, sightseeing and beautiful views. The Inn is also a fine place to cozy-up and read, and the bookshelves contain numerous volumes on local history and nature.
Late in the day, I offer a van tour to near-by Watch Hill, featuring history, local knowledge and back-road views. The outing winds up at the Watch Hill Lighthouse, in time to watch the sun set over the sound. While there, I'll point out landmarks and interesting seabirds just offshore, before returning to the Inn.
Cocktails in the bar are always popular way to reflect on the day’s adventures and then it’s off to the dining experience of your choice. The Restaurant at the Inn offers a more structured fine dining experience, while some guests opt to step off property and try another venue. Coast at the Ocean House is popular for a special night out and the Matunuck Oyster Bar is much loved for great seafood in a comfortable setting with a water view.
You’ve been busy and now is a fine time to sleep in. Breakfast is available until 10:30 and I offer an additional morning beach walk and a mid-day birding outing around local hot-spots. If you are headed back towards New York, consider taking Rt. 1 south through Mystic. You can visit the shopping district on the way and both Mystic Seaport and the aquarium are fascinating and close to Rt. 95. If you are headed toward Boston, take Rt. 1 along the coast and stop in Narragansett or Wickford Village. Both are beautiful and no more than a short diversion off your direct route.