If you’re looking for a leisurely pace, a great beach, good food, upscale boutiques and spectacular views, set a course for Watch Hill Harbor and Napatree Point. Veteran boaters have long appreciated the area’s long sand beach, protected anchorage and quick access to a town with good restaurants and interesting shops. However, if you plan to visit for more than a day, bring some essentials, as Watch Hill Harbor doesn’t have any large grocery stores or other places to reprovision. No fuel either, by the way.
Boaters with vessels under 30’ often back stern-to the shore for easy access to the beach. Once anchored, you can frolic in the protected, lake-like water of Little Narragansett Bay or enjoy the surf along the south-facing shore of Napatree Point. And there’s plenty of beach to go around, even during the peak summer months.
Napatree Point has an interesting history. It was originally connected to Sandy Point, Connecticut—now an island off Stonington—until the Great Hurricane of 1938 caused a breach in the spit. The huge storm reshaped much of the surrounding shore and destroyed numerous coastal homes. Indeed, the bottom of the anchorage remains littered with parts of cast-iron stoves, refrigerators and metal pipes, giving it the moniker “The Kitchen.”
Watch Hill Harbor is easily reached by dinghy from the anchorage, and there’s a dinghy dock at Watch Hill Docks, next to the Yacht Club, that affords easy access to town. Take a casual stroll down Bay Street, stopping to visit the small shops, bistros and specialty boutiques. If you’re hungry, check out St. Claire’s Annex for traditional diner fare, or the Bay Street Deli for oversized sandwiches bearing names like the Bay Street Reuben, The Mooring or Misquamicut Club. A couple doors down is Bruna’s Café, which offers an assortment of gourmet hot and cold drinks, yogurts, granola, sandwich wraps, salads, fruit smoothies, homemade sorbet and gelato. It’s a great place to stock up on picnic fixings. You can pick up ice for your cooler at the Bay Street Deli or Watch Hill Docks.
If you’re looking for something a bit more formal for lunch or dinner, there’s indoor/alfresco dining at the Olympia Tea Room and Bar, as well as the magnificent Ocean House on Bluff Avenue, on a hill overlooking Watch Hill Harbor to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Kids will love the Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest continually operating carousel in the country. Public restrooms are located adjacent to the carousel at Flying Horse Beach.
Speaking of beaches, Napatree Beach is a mile-long sandy stretch of shoreline with picturesque Watch Hill Light at its eastern end and Fort Mansfield, a Spanish-American War gun emplacement now covered with thick vegetation, at its western end. Napatree is crescent-shaped, with soft sand and a view of Fishers Island to the west and on a clear day, Block Island to the southeast and Montauk Point, Long Island, due south. It also happens to be a great spot for surf fishing, if you’re so inclined.
About William Gills
Author and photographer William Gills is a lifelong boater. He and his wife own an express cruiser based in Mystic, Connecticut, and spend most of their time cruising the waters of Long Island and Block Island Sounds. Last year, Gills released Lubber’s Log, published by Llumina Press.
Taken from the couple’s journal entries, this boating primer and adventure story covers the good, the bad and the ugly of running a larger boat. Lubber’s Log contains valuable information for new mariners and plenty of humorous “been-there, done-that” anecdotes for those who have traveled the same course and lived to tell the tale.