Rhode Island’s southernmost and westernmost town has a split personality. There’s coastal Westerly, land of long, lazy beaches and nautical chic that runs the gamut from high-falutin’ to honky-tonk. Then there’s downtown Westerly, marked by striking architecture, restaurants, and clubs settled comfortably and respectfully in historic buildings, and vibrant galleries promoting talented local artists. September is a perfect month to enjoy them both.
Westerly boasts two Relais & Chateaux properties. Set high on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the Ocean House (1 Bluff Ave., 401-584-7000, www.oceanhouseri.com, from $320 offseason, from $855 peak season) is a modern interpretation of a Victorian grand hotel, where guests can relax in the spa, go yachting, or borrow a Mercedes for the day. Its sister property, the Weekapaug Inn (25 Salt Spray Rock Road, 888-813-7862, www.weekapauginn.com, from $225 offseason, from $550 peak season), sits on the edge of Quonochontaug Pond. Crushed clam shell walkways enhance its beach house look, and a staff naturalist organizes beach walks, bike rides, crabbing excursions, and kayak tours. Both inns offer fine dining as well. One of the loveliest bed-and-breakfasts in New England is the Mediterranean-style Villa Bed & Breakfast (190 Shore Road,
800-722-9240, www.thevillaatwesterly.com, $170-$355), where all the suites have Jacuzzis, and many have gas fireplaces. Enjoy the gourmet breakfast poolside or in the dining room, or have it delivered to your suite. Shelter Harbor Inn (10 Wagner Road, 401-322-8883, 800-468-8883, www.shelterharborinn.com, $96-$258) offers comfortable accommodations in an early-1800s farmhouse, barn, and carriage house near the ocean. Some rooms are suitable for families, and rates include a cooked-to-order breakfast in the tavern.
The popular restaurant 84 High Street is now 84 Tavern on Canal (15 Canal St., 401-596-7871, www.84tavern.com, lunch $11-$15, dinner $11-$26) in a high-ceilinged old building with lots of charm. We liked the fact that several dinner entrees are available in half-portions (which, to judge by the “chicken-n-chokes” serving, are quite large). At Ella’s Fine Food and Drink (2 Tower St., 401-315-0606, www.ellasfinefoodanddrink.com, dinner $23-$48), in a flatiron-shaped, red brick building, chef Jeanie Roland presents a combination of Asian fusion and French cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. Grab breakfast or lunch at Van Ghent Café (14 High St., 401-348-6026, www.vanghentcafewesterly.com, $3.50-$12), where the specialties are crepes, waffles, and other Belgian fare. One of the few places in the village of Watch Hill that is open year round, The Cooked Goose
(92 Watch Hill Road, 401-348-9888, www.thecookedgoose.com, breakfast $4.50-$13, lunch $8-$14) offers an appealing selection of sandwiches,
salads, quiche, and homemade soups to eat in or take away at lunch; truffled eggs are a breakfast specialty. Westerly’s Restaurant Week runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 5 with prix-fixe three-course lunches at $15 and dinners at $25. Check the Greater Westerly Pawcatuck Area Chamberof Commerce website (www.westerlychamber.org) for participating restaurants.
During the day
It may be too cool for ocean swimming, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy beachcombing in Westerly. A long, smooth strand running the length of Atlantic Avenue,
(from an Indian word meaning “red salmon at this place”) is Rhode Island’s largest state beach. Napatree Point, in the village of Watch Hill, is a sandy spit that separates Little Narragansett Bay from the ocean. It’s a half-mile walk from a parking lot on Bay Street, and you might see osprey, American oyster catchers, and piping plovers. Downtown check out the 1912 railroad station, an elegant, Spanish Colonial Revival structure with stucco walls and hipped, terra cotta tile roof; the Post Office, a Classical Revival building reminiscent of a Greek temple; and the Romanesque-style library. The 14-acre Wilcox Park, behind the library, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted protégé Warren Manning.
The Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly (7 Canal St., 401-596-2221, www.westerlyarts.com) mounts a new show every month with work from member and visiting artists in a variety of media — oils, watercolor, sculpture, and jewelry. Opening receptions are held from 5 to
8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Sip local wines on a deck overlooking the vineyard at Langworthy Farm Winery (308 Shore Road, 401-322-7791, www.langworthyfarm.com, tastings $10). Patrick Wall, weekend winery manager, told us the most popular wine is Weekapaug White, a stainless-steel chardonnay made entirely of grapes grown on site.
Downtown Westerly has become something of a hot spot for night life. With a bit of a speakeasy ambience, Perks & Corks Coffee and Wine Lounge
(62 High St., 401-596-1260, www.perksandcorks.com) hosts live music six nights a week. The Malted Barley (42 High St., 401-315-2184, www.themalted
barleyri.com), which serves 35 beers on tap and makes its own soft pretzels, offers entertainment Friday and Saturday nights. Housed in a handsome old mill building, The Twisted Vine (3 Canal St., 401-596-4600, www.thetwistedvineri.com) presents piano music or acoustic guitar on Sunday afternoons and live music or dancing to a DJ on most Friday and Saturday nights. The Granite Theatre
(1 Granite St., 401-596-2341, www.granitetheatre.com) stages Broadway plays, music performances, and more year round. The Westerly Land Trust is raising funds to reopen another historic theater, the United Theatre at 11 Canal St., which was Westerly’s go-to destination for film buffs from 1926 to 1986.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at email@example.com.