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A TANK AWAY

Jamestown, R.I.: An escape from hustle and bustle

Alexander Nesbitt/Simpatico

Simpatico serves new American fare and is a popular spot for dining al fresco.

By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright Globe correspondents 

What a difference a trip over the bridge can make. (Or a ferry boat ride across the bay.) Moments from touristy Newport, but worlds away from its hustle and bustle, is this quiet and quaint town on pretty Conanicut Island at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Jamestown was once a summer haven for the East Coast wealthy, where several elegant hotels and grand summer cottages lined the beachfront. Today, it’s a delightful blend of homes and historic sites, a handful of local shops and restaurants, and acres of pristine preservation land, open spaces, and sweeping vistas. Consider bringing bicycles; the island, only 9 miles long and 1 mile wide, is a great place to pedal, with miles of dedicated cycling trails and scenic backroads.

STAY

The recently spiffed-up East Bay B&B (14 Union St., 401-423-0330, www.eastbaybnb.com, $99-$189) is a Jamestown gem. The 1891 Victorian, within an easy walk to village shops and restaurants, has four white-glove clean rooms, with hardwood floors, quality antiques, updated private baths, and lush linens. The porch and courtyard are great places to hang out and relax, and small touches, like mini fridges in the rooms, robes, reading lights, Wi-Fi, and flat- screen TVs, will make you want to stay longer than you’ve booked. Lionel Champlin Guest House (20 Lincoln St., 401-423-7469, www.lionelchamplinguesthouse.com, $100-$195) sits in a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from town and the Newport ferry. Guests rave about the friendly innkeepers, and the spacious, bright rooms in this three-story Victorian. The Captain’s Room is especially nice, with a queen bed, modern granite and tile bathroom, and water views. Small condo suites are available at the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn (150 Conanicus Ave., 800-438-6493, www.wyndhambayvoyageinn.com, rates vary from around $120 to $340), a big Victorian located on the bay. This is a timeshare property so don’t expect full-service, resort-style services, but the units all have separate sitting areas and small kitchenettes, and there’s an outdoor pool and on-site restaurant.

DINE

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Plenty of people are lured across the bridge just to dine at Jamestown FISH (14 Narragansett Ave., 401-423-3474, www.jamestownfishri.com, $24-$39). Start with drinks at the upstairs Bridge Bar, with a deck overlooking the Newport Bridge and Narragansett Bay, and then head downstairs to the more elegant, blue and white dining room. Chef-owner Matthew MacCartney, voted one of People’s Best New Chefs in New England last year by Food and Wine magazine, uses ultra-fresh, local seafood and produce to craft outstanding dishes like the signature Fish Cookpot, with loads of seafood and spicy chourico, and the black squid ink linguine with Rhode Island calamari. If it’s a warm summer night, consider dining al fresco at Simpatico
(13 Narragansett Ave., 401-423-2000, www.simpaticojamestown.com, $14-$24); the popular eatery serves new American fare, such as pan seared salmon and rigatoni Bolognese, along with a variety of grilled pizzas. Grab a seat at a picnic table nestled in the sand at the tiny Shack on Dutch Harbor (Dutch Harbor Boat Yard, 252 Narragansett Ave., 401-239-9999, www.tallulahonthames.com). The takeout joint, run by critically acclaimed chef Jake Rojas of Newport’s award-winning Tallulah on Thames, is known for crave-worthy fish tacos. For breakfast, try the memorable blueberry sourdough pancakes or Grand Marnier French toast at the light-filled Slice of Heaven bakery and cafe (32 Narragansett Ave., 401-423-9866, www.sliceofheavenri.com, $5.99-$12.99). If you happen to be on the island on Sunday night, join the locals at Village Hearth Bakery Cafe (2 Watson Ave., 401-423-9282, www.villagehearthbakerycafe.com) who line up for its popular pizza night. There are always two varieties to choose from, including the Margherita, made with seasoned tomato sauce and topped with fresh Italian bocconcini mozzarella and cheddar and lots of fresh basil. They also serve fabulous panini and sandwiches (Friday-Sunday); try the lobster roll served on a house-made butter brioche roll.

DURING THE DAY

Discover Newport

Jamestown has plenty of coastal scenery, open spaces, and sweeping vistas.

Visit Beavertail State Park (Beavertail Road, 401-423-9941, www.riparks.com/Locations/
LocationBeavertail.html, free) with sweeping coastline vistas, hiking and biking trails, and guided naturalist programs. Also at the park is the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, where you can climb the tower ($5 suggested donation) and view exhibits. Enjoy a picnic at 61.5-acre Fort Wetherill State Park (Fort Wetherill Road, 401-423-1771, www
.riparks.com/Locations/LocationFortWetherill.html, free), perched on granite sea cliffs, with great views of Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. You’re welcome to roam the 265-acre, seaside Watson Farm (455 North Road, 401-423-0005, www.jamestowncommunityfarm.com, open Tue, Thu, Sun, $4 adults, $2 students); founded in 1796, the working farm is known for its grass-fed beef and lamb and woolen blankets, and features miles of trails through open pastures and along the coast. History buffs will enjoy Conanicut Battery National Historic Park (Battery Lane, 401-423-7000, free), with fortifications dating to the Revolutionary War. Hot day? Head to pretty Mackerel Cove Beach ($15 parking) for a swim.

AFTER DARK

The award-winning Narragansett Cafe (25 Narragansett Ave., 401-423-2150, www.narragansettcafe.com, no cover charge) features live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Rhode Island Monthly magazine has awarded this island haunt, known locally as the Ganny, its honors as Best Blues Hangout and Best Place for Live Music. In winter, the Sunday Blues, Bloodies and Brunch draws a loyal crowd. In summer, it shifts to Swizzle Sundays from 4-7 p.m.

For more information, visit www.discovernewport.org.


Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.