Watch Hill is an upscale neighborhood located on the southern tip of Rhode Island in Westerly. Less known than the Hamptons or Newport, Watch Hill is a quiet luxury New England getaway. This quaint, coastal town is a hidden gem that offers gorgeous ocean views, fine dining, and numerous boutiques, art galleries, and seasonal events.
Watch Hill may attract travelers of luxury but still maintains its charming New England atmosphere with its historic Victorian homes and cute downtown. Come to experience Westerly’s beautiful white sand beaches, fresh seafood, and nature activities. Watch Hill in Westerly Rhode Island is the perfect destination for your next summer weekend!
Visiting Watch Hill Rhode Island
Watch Hill is located only 2 hours from Boston, and 3 hours from New York. It is also easily accessible for travelers flying in from TF Green Airport in Warwick Rhode Island which is about a 40-minute drive away. There is also a train station in Westerly but you will have to grab an Uber from the train station to get to Watch Hill. I’d suggest driving in to have access to all of Watch Hill’s beaches and attractions.
What famous people live in Watch Hill?
Watch Hill is famous for being one of the residences of 12-time Grammy-winning artist Taylor Swift. She has a 16-bedroom mansion overlooking the western part of East Beach (not too shabby!) If you want to see her mansion, I’d recommend taking a peek from the beach as driving past you won’t see much. There is security around the perimeter of her property and stopping in front of her house for pictures is strictly not allowed. Remember- please respect her privacy!
What is the famous house in Watch Hill Rhode Island?
The Ocean House is a gorgeous Victorian hotel along the beach that is the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Rhode Island. This property has an enormous on-site spa as well as several restaurants and bars.
Taylor Swift’s house is also a famous Watch Hill house. The best view is from the East Beach where you can see her white mansion overlooking the water.
Where should I park for Watch Hill?
Watch Hill has metered parking along its downtown area. The spots are very limited and are limited to 2 hours. If you want to spend the entire day at the beach or exploring Watch Hill, you’ll have to park in a reserved lot which varies from $20-30. You are able to make reservations for parking lots at Watch Hill Parking. You must make a reservation in advance as same-day parking is not allowed.
Once you have parked, Watch Hill is very walkable.
13 Things to Do in Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Watch Hill is a quintessential New England beach town with options for swimming, sunbathing, strolling along the water, and boating.
1. Visit Watch Hill Beach
Watch Hill Beach is a family friendly beach, ideal for swimming and sunbathing on the soft sand shore. Also known as Carousel Beach, this beach is centrally located near downtown.
There are amenities at Watch Hill Beach including restrooms, changing rooms, and umbrella/chair rentals. Located right near the historic 1876 Carousel, there are numerous summer events along the beach as well as quick access to restaurants and shopping.
The parking is extremely limited around the beach (most are fee based street parking) so be sure to arrive early in the summer months.
2. Visit the Historic Carousel on Watch Hill Beach
Bring your kids to ride this historic wooden carousel from the 1860s. The oldest surviving carousel of its kind, kids 12 and under can ride the carousel’s wooden horses suspended from the ceiling with brass chains.
Each horse is crafted from a single piece of wood, and adorned with leather saddles and real horse hair. For $1 kids can ride on the inner row, or for $2 kids can ride on the outer row for a chance to grab the ring and earn a free ride.
3. Visit the Watch Hill Lighthouse and Museum
One of the oldest and most picturesque lighthouses in Rhode Island, the Watch Hill Lighthouse has been a beacon for ships since 1745. Leading up to the lighthouse is a quarter-mile-long path that offers beautiful views of the ocean (especially at sunrise or sunset!)
The Museum has extremely limited seasonal hours from 1-3 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but is worth a visit. It is run by the Watch Hill Lighthouse Keepers Association.
4. Surf at East Beach (and peek Taylor Swift’s house)
East Beach has slightly rougher waves than Watch Hill Beach which makes it ideal for surfers. This 3-mile-long barrier beach separates the Atlantic Ocean and Ninigret Pond and offers gentle waves and untouched beaches.
This beach is harder to get to than Watch Hill and has extremely limited parking on Larkin Street (which helps keep East Beach less crowded!). There are no amenities at East Beach so families would be better off visiting Watch Hill Beach.
Enjoy the view of Block Island or rent out one of the nearby camping spots. Imagine waking up to the sound of ocean waves! This beach also is in close proximity to the Watch Hill towncenter so make sure to stop by for some icecream or a lobster roll after your day on the beach.
East Beach will offer the best view of Taylor Swift’s house. Dont bother driving past her house as security does not allow anyone to stop.
5. Hike and Birdwatch at Napatree Point
Just east of Watch Hill Beach, you will find Napatree Point Beach at the entrance of Napatree Point Conservation Area. The beach does not attract the same crowds as the Watch Hill area beaches as there are no facilities or amenities. It is a perfect place to enjoy the beach in peace.
Napatree Point Beach is ideal for nature lovers as there is plenty of birdwatching! Be sure to bring your binoculars to see the numerous migratory birds running among the dunes or spot the hawks that arrive in late summer. It is also a nesting area for birds like osprey, egrets, and falcons.
You can also start your day hiking at the Nappatree Point Conservation area and end up on the beach. There is a 2.75-mile hike that has marshes, boulder scrambles, and walking along the sand. There are also biking trails!
6. Check out the ruins of Fort Mansfield
Napatree Point in Watch Hill was strategically used as a watch point for many groups in history (hence its name “Watch Hill”). Watch Hill was a lookout point for indigenous tribes for centuries and was used during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War as a lookout point for enemy ships. In the late 1800s in an effort to reinforce the security of the U.S. coastline, Fort Mansfield was built on Watch Hill.
However, in a mock battle in 1907 Fort Mansfield proved to be vulnerable to attack and was no longer funded as a military lookout point. It has fallen to ruin but still makes for an interesting historical visit among the bushes and mashes of Napatree Point.
7. Go for a sailing excursion
Watch Hill is the perfect place for a sailing adventure. Enjoy watching the boats from the Watch Hill Yacht Club take off, or rent your own excursion. Rent a private sailboat or motor yacht with friends or take a guided moonlit or seal tour.
Local companies Trim Again or the Ocean House offers a variety of different tours and packages.
8. Go shopping
Watch Hill has a compact downtown area that is loaded with boutiques and nautical giftshops. There is everything from tourist t-shirt shops, to artisan jewelry, to ocean themed home goods, and colorful kids’ clothing. Most of the stores are independent but you can find larger brands like Lilly Pulitzer, known for its bright nautical colors.
Some shop highlights include Charlotte Julienne and Bay Breeze Interiors- perfect for decorating a beach house, or Sea Bags which sells beach bags made from recycled sails. Coco and Lala is a colorful shop that has a kid’s clothing shop and a women’s clothing shop. Perfect to buy brightly colored long dresses for matching clothes with the kids this summer.
Most of the shops will be on Bay Street but be sure to check out those closest to the Ocean House as well!
9. Check out some local art
In addition to countless boutiques, there are also a number of art galleries. Be sure to check out Lily Pad Gallery which has everything from realism to impressionism. If formal galleries aren’t your style, Watch Hill has seasonal artisan markets where you can purchase handmade crafts and paintings.
10. Visit the Ocean House
The Ocean House is a gorgeous Victorian hotel along the beach that is the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Rhode Island. This sprawling property offers an upscale experience with New England charm.
I’d highly suggest booking a stay at the property but even a visit to the property is worth the trip! The Ocean House has an award winning 12,000 foot spa as well as several restaurants with stunning views of the ocean. Come for a glass of wine at the Secret Garden bar or stay as a guest for the entire weekend!
11. Grab an icecream cone at Clair Annex
No beach trip is complete without a icecream cone! This family owned shop has operated for over 125 years and is located conveniently in downtown Watch Hill. Reasonably priced, the shop also has sandwiches and breakfast as well as icecream sundaes and ice cream fountain classics.
Grab an icecream after dinner and watch the sunset over Narragansett Bay. Expect a long line on summer nights!
12. Explore Miquamicut Beach and its Atlantic Beach Park
While not technically in Watch Hill, these attractions are found in Westerly only a short drive away. Misquamicut State Beach is a half-mile stretch of sand that offers soft sands, and waves for beginners. Between the gradual drop-off in the water and countless amenities nearby, it is a great spot for families.
The amenities include restrooms, changing areas, outdoor showers, a playground, shady picnic areas, pavilion access, and snack shacks. The summer months also bring lots of activities such as fireworks, or live music. Parking for non-seasonal pass holders costs $12 on weekdays and $30 on weekends but seasonal passes can be purchased online.
The highlight of the beach is the Atlantic Beach Park across the street for go-carts, mini-golf, or sand-free water fun.
13. Take a day trip to Newport Rhode Island
Watch Hill is located less than an hour’s drive from Newport Rhode Island. While Watch Hill is known for its understated wealth, Newport is known for its historic mansions and opulence (think Great Gatsby!) One of the best beach towns in New England, Newport is worth a day trip!
Explore the Cliff Walk and explore the several Guilded-age mansions that dot the coast. Easily walkable, downtown Newport also has numerous restaurants, boutiques, and galleries to enjoy.
Unique Places to Stay in Westerly, Rhode Island
Watch Hill certainly isn’t a budget-friendly destination as there are many luxury resorts and rentals. However, there are some options in Westerly that provide the most value for your stay!
Watch Hill Locations
Best Luxury Spot The Ocean House
This iconic property offers stunning views of the ocean and world-class amenities and dining. Rated as a Forbes 5 star and AAA Five Diamond Hotel, expect luxury accommodation with a classic New England Victorian charm.
Best Mid-Range Spot Watch Hill Condo
This Condo is located minutes from Watch Hill Beach, the historic carousel, and numerous dining options. A perfect pick for families or larger groups, this Condo includes a kitchen and parking. Rooms are available with ocean views!
Best Location Watch Hill Cottage
This cottage is walkable to the beach in less than 5 minutes. Perfect for larger groups who want quick restaurants, shopping, and beach access.
Best Budget Spot Hotel Maria
This hotel is not in the Watch Hill neighborhood but only a short drive away in Westerly, Rhode Island. This beautiful beachfront hotel offers private beach access, onsite dining, and complimentary bikes. The homey yet nautical atmosphere is perfect for a getaway on Misquamicut beach in Westerly Rhode Island.
Best Family Spot Breezeway Resort
A short drive from the Watch Hill neighborhood in Westerly, this simple yet updated resort has an outdoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and easy access to the beach. Close to Watch Hill, and the Block Island Ferry, this would be a perfect place for your family’s next trip.
Watch Hill, Rhode Island Restaurant Highlights
Olympia Tea Room– A classic New England family-owned restaurant dating back to the 1930s with a bistro-style menu and “famous not fancy” moto.
Coast– This fine dining restaurant is located within the Ocean House and has upscale seafood and wine pairings.
Cooked Goose– This Watch Hill classic establishment opens for breakfast and lunch. Prices are midrange and perfect for a quick stop on the way to the beach.
Conclusion: Watch Hill
Watch Hill is absolutely worth a visit for your next beach getaway! A coastal, charming, upscale New England town, Watch Hill offers soft sand beaches, boutique shopping, and great seafood restaurants. Watch Hill is known for its beautiful beaches, classic Watch Hill Lighthouse as well as its historic beachside carousel from 1860, as well as the sprawling luxury hotel The Ocean House.