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Northern Exposure

Stephanie Davis Smith | February 4, 2014 | Articles National

This spring, no more counting dollars, we’ll be, we’ll be counting stars. Not at a OneRepublic concert, but under the starry skies of surprisingly sublime Rhode Island.

If you’re from Atlanta, chances are you love your sandy-beach vacays—escapes filled with mossy palms and dark St. Simons shores, or brighter backdrops of vibrantly colored cabanas set against white sands of the Florida Panhandle. While these images recall most of my holiday breaks since childhood, I decided to go in the opposite direction for my most recent R&R. Head north instead of south to the beach? What?! It sounded sacrilegious to my Southern upbringing. But I’ve recently discovered an equally bucolic, but altogether opposite scene in Rhode Island, where rocky shorelines mingle with gray-shingled sea towns.

I find myself in the quaint namesake town of Weekapaug—a place so closely situated to Long Island that a stone’s throw southward might hit The Hampty Hamps. Never before privy to the beauties of a Rhode Island respite, it’s here I discover a quiet rival to the cobblestoned streets of Nantucket and the storied vacation hamlets of Martha’s Vineyard or Montauk.

The playground for relaxing tony types—wealth managers from New York; blue-chip New England offspring; city-weary tycoons fleeing the fast life; and even Taylor Swift, who bought a $17 million manse down the road—Weekapaug welcomes them all to relax in rounded-roof mansions, to ride bikes and to tote wire baskets filled with freshly dug clams.

Sitting majestically on Quonochontaug Pond—a small saltwater sound separated from the Atlantic by a lush coastal forest and towering barrier dunes—since 1939, the Weekapaug Inn is a point of pride for everyone here. The community enthusiastically supports its new owners and the property’s recent $20 million renovation.

Looking like a backdrop for a party scene straight out of Revenge, the once aging, now fully restored Cape Cod-style resort has reclaimed its former glory. Gone are outdated additions from the ’80s and ’90s, replaced by its 1939 footprint—one the owners duplicated by using old photos to revitalize the historic details of entrances, red-cedar shingles, paint colors, windows and other embellishments. Modernized to the hilt, the inn now boasts a once-absent heating and air-conditioning system that relegated it operational for just a short peak season each year.

The newly revamped resort also offers 27 uniquely decorated (and much larger!) guest rooms (down from 67). Though feather-top beds dressed in Frette linens and holdover furnishings culled from the original structure tempt me to describe these spaces as cozy, the collection is also sleek—high-end amenities like heated marble bathroom floors; Red Flower bath products; and gorgeous, claw-footed soaking tubs are among the indulgences. But it is the small service touches—like an impossibly warm blanket placed on your bed when temperatures drop—that make the experience so memorable.

Anchoring the corners of the building are four 2,000-square-foot signature suites. All distinctly adorned (no cookie-cutter design here!), each sanctuary enjoys its own private elevator and staircase with direct access to the outside, plus a full kitchen, living room, fireplace and stainless steel appliances. A separate but neighboring structure, meanwhile, houses a trio of individual suites with private, outdoor soaking tubs (perfect for privacy seekers and romantic getaways). Got a pup to put up? In keeping with its hospitality upgrades, the inn welcomes pooches 25 pounds and less with doggie beds and Frisbees. Talk about fetching!

They have revived the cuisine scene with signature plates like al dente tortellini stuffed with Shy Brothers Cloumage cheese, Meyer lemon and black truffle (guaranteed to wow even the most sophisticated palate). Gourmands will delight in an exquisite mix of dishes tinged with Portuguese, Native American and Italian influences. This March 19, foodies will enjoy a special New England Traditions-themed three-course dinner with wine pairings (only $75 per person). After supper, move to a spot in front of the wood-burning fire to wait while the chef whips up a fabulous dessert (a local apple, cranberry and clothbound cheddar cobbler, perhaps?). In nearby (equally posh) Watch Hill, where Swift lives, sits the resort’s luxe AAA Five Diamond Relais & Châteaux sister property, Ocean House, where guests of Weekapaug Inn also enjoy access to a five-star spa, beaches and six dining options—all a mere five minutes away.

If the thought of venturing out entices, hop on a bike, or walk to the nearby private beach; its use is only for guests and town residents (aka moguls and captains of industry) in possession of exclusive passes. But before heading for the sand, make an appointment to meet resident naturalist Mark Bullinger. Having spent his entire life taking out Hobie Cats in the area’s salt marshes, he knows the shoreline better than anyone, and he’ll see to it that the resort packs you a picnic lunch prior to planned explorations to abundant nature nearby.

Or stick around the resort for that supremo stargazing I was raving about, as well as sunset clambakes or chic croquet lessons on the lawn. This destination’s DNA is engineered to get you out of your room and promote a sense of interaction with fellow guests, so while there are no in-room TVs unless requested, there is a new lap pool and Pilates/yoga studio to get in shape with the girls and to foster camaraderie.

If, like me, you love your white-sand resort towns, but have tired of hitting the same spots, seek a new circuit on the East Coast. Perhaps it’s time for all of us ATLiens to get into an Ocean State of mind. Through April 15, rates from $190; April 16-May 22 rates from $325, weekapauginn.com, @weekapauginn



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