Across the street in the harbor, fishing boats may be chartered, starting at $400 a day for inshore fishing. Anglers will find bluefish, fluke and mackerel awaiting them, while farther offshore, meaner fish: sharks, tuna and marlin. Simple pleasure cruises may also be arranged. Call Fishmonger at (203) 928-6700 or Avanga at (203) 848-0170. Both sail out of Watch Hill.
Additional places to stay are just a short walk down Bay Street. The Harbor House, (401) 348-8998, offers clean rooms from $50 a night double to $480 a week for an apartment (maximum six persons). The Narragansett Inn, (401) 348-8912, has rooms with harbor views available for $40 to $55 a night.
A mile west of Watch Hill along scenic Rhode Island 1A lies Misquamicut. The Westerly beach line runs six miles from the tip of Napatree Point in Watch Hill to Weekapaug, but the longest run of bathing beach is in Misquamicut.
A short strip of beach surrounding Misquamicut State Beach is fairly commercial. Beachfront shacks hawk chowder, shrimp baskets and hot dogs, and tiny shops sell T-shirts and sea gull souvenirs. Add a video arcade, and you have what is, for some, the essence of a vacation.
The good news about Misquamicut is that just a short hike along the beach will take you away from all that and back to the sea.
Finding a Retreat
The most crucial element of planning a beach vacation is finding a place to stay that is a respite from the pressures of urban insanity. The more abandoned and quiet the site, the better.
Pleasant View House (401) 348-8200 in Misquamicut is a modern ocean-front motel catering to a clientele seeking relaxation and sun. Founded in 1903, the motel has been owned since 1965 by the Terra Nova family. Stan Terra Nova Jr. says: "We have no telephones in the rooms, and everything just goes at a slower pace. We try to accommodate people and give them what they want with a personal touch."
The rooms are modern and clean, but the real draw is the balcony on most oceanside rooms. It's a personal eagle's nest to survey the seascape, abandoning all care.
Beneath the balconies a row of deck chairs faces out to sea, regimental as in a Hopper painting, awaiting the day's sunbathers and readers. Down the wooden stairs ambles a couple, arm in arm, headed for the waterline to walk a mile in this direction and a mile in the other in search of tide treasure.
Pleasant View House is open May 2 through Nov. 5. Rates vary from $56 to $78 a night per person, double occupancy.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room and are served in a formal dining room with long, narrow windows opening to a panorama of seascape. Early American antique chairs are clustered around tables draped with lavender tablecloths.
The dinner menu offers a wide selection of such favorites as broiled lobster, prime rib and Cornish game hen.
Other amenities include the private beach, swimming pool, sauna and separate changing facilities for those who want to arrive before check-in time or linger late. Use of the five area golf courses is possible for a slight extra fee.
For those who want a little more privacy and personality in their beach stay, investigate cottage rentals. Hundreds are available in all shapes and sizes, from the humblest shanty to (occasionally) one of the Watch Hill castles. Prices vary accordingly. In Misquamicut, call Stanton Realty, (401) 596-2885, or the Beachcomber Agency, (401) 348-8669.
Atlantic Avenue winds along the coast west from Misquamicut to Weekapaug, bordered by the Atlantic on one side and Winnapaug Pond on the other. This two-mile stretch makes for picturesque hiking or bicycling. Rocky overlook points offer a gorgeous setting for a picnic lunch. Within two miles is the tiny village of Weekapaug, a name that in Narragansett means "at the end of the pond." The houses are a little grander there, with a complete absence of commercialism.
The Weekapaug Inn is secreted away on a private lane, its shingled and red-shuttered exterior crowned by gable windows. It looks for all the world like the turn-of-the-century retreat for the upper classes that it still is. Owned for three generations by the Buffum family, the resort maintains an air of exclusivity and does little advertising.
Guests are offered a miles-long private beach, an 18-hole golf course, tennis, lawn bowling, shuffleboard, sailing, windsurfing, rowing, fishing and swimming. Rates range from $80 to $150 a day per person and include three meals. Call (401) 322-0301.
In the sap-green countryside just a mile north of Weekapaug is a restored 19th-Century farmhouse, Shelter Harbor Inn. Set back from U.S. 1 in a lush field, the farmhouse and newly renovated barn contain 18 guest rooms, with a redwood deck overlooking secluded woods. The rooms create a convincing 19th-Century atmosphere with their period antiques and print wallpaper. Cocktails are served in the sun parlor and meals in the dining room.