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A Tank Away

Middletown, R.I., offers quaint inn, outdoor recreation

Take a leisurely walk on First Beach in Middletown, located in the middle of Aquidneck Island, between Portsmouth and Newport in Rhode Island.
Take a leisurely walk on First Beach in Middletown, located in the middle of Aquidneck Island, between Portsmouth and Newport in Rhode Island. (PAUL E. KANDARIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

This is a town that lives up to its name, located in the middle of Aquidneck Island between Portsmouth and Newport. There is a cluttered retail presence along West Main Road, but off the main drags, this little town is a gem bounded by water on three sides and with plenty to occupy visitors of all ages. There are plenty of places to stay, eat, and shop, and recreational opportunities abound, on land, sea, and even in the sky above.

STAY

There are chain hotels here, but no shortage of quaint alternatives to explore. Case in point: bucolic Aunt Polly’s Bed and Breakfast (349 Valley Road, 401-847-2160, www.pollysbnb.com, rates from $100), a home surrounded by weeping willows, with babbling brook and flowering gardens. Though just a mile from busy Newport center, Villa 120 (120 Miantonomi Ave., 401-619-5993, www.villaonetwenty.com, rates from $320) boasts a relaxing 1½ acres of private grounds enveloping a historic 9,000-square-foot restored mansion. The eight-room Sea Breeze Inn (147 Aquidneck Ave., 401-849-1211, www
.theseabreezeinn.com, rates from $130.50) features a full breakfast and a great location, within walking distance of the beach and Newport’s Cliff Walk.

Bonnie the beagle is on hand for pet lovers at Island Books in Middletown, a store stocking beach and every other kind of reads.
Bonnie the beagle is on hand for pet lovers at Island Books in Middletown, a store stocking beach and every other kind of reads.(paul e. kandarian for the boston globe)

DINE

Start the day at the Atlantic Grille (91 Aquidneck Ave., 401-849-4440, www.atlanticgrille
.com, breakfast from $4.50). On weekends, the Grille offers “Bennies” specials — eggs Benedict variations such as the Bellevue Benny: sirloin steak, with mushrooms and onions and béarnaise sauce on an English muffin for $13. Jonesing for seafood? Flo’s Clam Shack (4 Wave Ave., 401-847-8141, www.facebook.com/pages/Flos-Clam-Shack/245316
810509, platters from $10.95) is a local fave with indoor-outdoor seating near First Beach and famous for its fried food — the fisherman’s platter is immense – and quirky items like a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne and two hot dogs for $50. Have food allergies? Grab a healthy lunch at Eva Ruth’s Specialty Bakery (796 Aquidneck Ave., Unit D, 401-619-1924, www.evaruths.com, sandwiches $7), with food that is gluten-, wheat-, and nut-free, including breads, muffins, quiches, cookies, pies, and pastas. You can’t eat any closer to the water than at Atlantic Beach Club (55 Purgatory Road, 401-847-2750, www.atlanticbeachclub.com, dinner from $18.95), known for its picturesque location, sunny patio dining, Sunday brunch, and live music Friday and Saturday afternoons. Cap off the day with a cone at Frosty Freez (496 East Main Road, 401-846-1697, www.frosty
freez.com), serving Garelick Farms super-premium, 10-percent butterfat, soft-serve mix, hard ice cream, and treats using Rhode Island’s famous Autocrat coffee syrup.

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Prescott Farm offers summer programs in such esoteric skills as building stone walls and cooking in an open hearth, mindful of Middletown’s Colonial past.
Prescott Farm offers summer programs in such esoteric skills as building stone walls and cooking in an open hearth, mindful of Middletown’s Colonial past.(PAUL E. KANDARIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

DURING THE DAY

Nature lovers flock to Norman Bird Sanctuary (583 Third Beach Road, 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org, trail fee $6), a 300-plus acre preserve with seven miles of hiking trails, educational programs, and ocean-view yoga sessions on Saturday mornings for $10. Dip into local history at Prescott Farm (2009 West Main Road, 401-849-7300, www.newportrestoration.org/
visit/prescott_farm/) with windmill, duck pond, gardens, and Colonial workshops that have included open-hearth cooking and stonewall building. Sweet Berry Farm (401-847-3912, www.sweet
berryfarmri.com) is a post-and-beam farm and market with terrific pick-your-own seasonal offerings, cafe, and ice cream so good Martha Stewart stops for some on her way to Newport. For fun in the water take a dip at Sachuest Beach (475 Sachuest Point Road, 401-847-1993, www.middletown
ri.com/government/6/43/
sachuest-beaches, parking $10 weekdays, $20 weekends), a.k.a. Second Beach, a long stretch of sand popular with families. For fun on the water, Rhody Surf (www.rhodysurf.com, 401-216-9283, lessons from $65), in its second summer, teaches surfing on Second Beach, with no storefront presence, just online and on the beach. Need a beach read? Try Island Books (575 East Main Road, 401-849-2665, www.islandbooks
ri.com), a locally owned shop with plenty to choose from and a resident beagle, Bonnie, always ready to be petted. Gear up for fun in the sun at Beach Party Swimwear (707 West Main Road, 800-789-9730, www.beachpartyswimwear
.com), a family-owned business with a nice selection of apparel for the water and working out. Want to see the wild blue yonder up close? Skydive Newport (211 Airport Access Road, 401-845-0393, www.skydivenewport.com, $220 per person) will take you up 10,000 feet, strap you to a certified skydiving instructor, and treat you to the best aerial views you will ever have.

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AFTER DARK

Rock it close to the beach at Rusty’s (44 Wave Ave., 401-846-3357, www.rustysri.com), with bands playing Friday and Saturday nights and no cover charge. Take in a movie over at Island Cinemas (866 West Main Road, 401-847-3456, www.yourneighbor
hoodtheatre.com, adults $9), where you can enjoy first-run films with stadium seating and high-back rocker chairs. Share a little vino with the Bard of Avon at Newport Vineyards’ (909 East Main Road, 401-848-5161, www.newportvineyards.com, from $15) Shakespeare in the Vineyard, July 27-28. The Rhode Island Shakespeare Company is slated to perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” both nights at
7 p.m. The vineyard also hosts a jazz and wine summer clambake Aug. 2 from 6 p.m., with jazz by the Lois Vaughan Trio, where the $70 ticket price includes lobster, wine tasting until 7 p.m., and a glass of wine with dinner.

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Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe.com.

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