views can be had from the patio at Matunuck Oyster
Bar in South Kingstown, R.I.
KINGSTOWN, R.I. ó I tasted the ocean in the air as I sat
on the outdoor deck at Matunuck Oyster Bar, the ebbing
tide draining a few feet from our table into the Great
Salt Pond and from there to the sea.
were ordered. A cold beer had just arrived. I sipped, and
it occurred to me that maybe I shouldnít write this
share the lovely little secret that is the rest of Rhode
Island? Why risk drawing the tourists out of Newport, the
only place they know, and letting them ruin the modest,
beachy simplicity that hasnít changed a whole lot since
my parents brought me to Point Judith as an infant in
suppose the answer, other than that writers should write
what they know, is that the southern tip of Rhode Islandís
mainland will always be surrounded by other nice places to
go. What harm could it do to spread the word about this
slower-paced version of the classic summer beach vacation
spot? Less crowded than New Englandís more popular
destinations, itís a bit more affordable and every bit
best, if you like ocean surf, is Scarborough State Beach,
just north of Point Judith. If the waves are running high,
brace yourself for some knock-down rollers. No surfing is
allowed here. But smaller "boogie boards" are,
and they can be bought in the gift shop.
up the road in Narragansett is the town beach where
surfing is allowed, with board rentals and lessons
available. Roger W. Wheeler State Beach near Galilee may
be a better option for families with little kids, as it
sits inside the protective waters of the Point Judith
Harbor of Refuge. The waves are small.
you canít stay for a whole week or prefer hotel
amenities, take a look at Narragansett. Huddled up against
the ocean shore, it was once a playground for the rich,
before they discovered Newport. Now itís home to a
beautiful town beach, as well as a pleasant colony of inns
the more popular are The Break, Ocean Rose Inn and
Atlantic House. Midsummer room rates can run into the
mid-$300s per night ó not exactly budget travel, but
generally cheaper than youíll find in more popular
destinations, like Newport. Our favorite restaurants are
Trio and Coast Guard House, the latter perched on rocks,
literally hanging over the ocean.
you really must see Newport, its many hotels are minutes
away. Indeed, proximity is one of the benefits of Rhode
Island vacationing. Visitors typically fly into
Providence, which is just more than half an hour from
Point Judith. Boston is less than two hours away.
my money, cottage or condo rental is the way to see the
real Rhode Island. This is not a whatís-the-next-tourist-attraction
kind of place. Thereís nothing like having a kitchen
table for card games; a lawn for cocktails. The rental
market, driven both by summer vacationers and students at
the nearby University of Rhode Island, offers many
options. Youíll find good selections at Durkin Cottage
Realty and Lila Delman Real Estate.
hanging out at the beach with a good book, you can rent
kayaks and paddleboards for a more active experience.
Fishing charters are available, mostly out of Galilee. The
area also is well-stocked with the usual family
diversions, like putt-putt golf and bumper boats.
favorite for our brood is a visit to "the
rocks," vast stretches of jagged coastline ideal for
picnicking and exploring. Ask a local for directions
(everyone has a favorite spot), but be mindful not to get
too close to the pounding surf. Thereís an ocean tide
here, and rocks that are often submerged can get slippery.
eating is essential to any vacation. Favorite options
include the seafood joint Aunt Carrieís near Point
Judith. Unchanged for decades, it offers classic Rhode
Island fare. Do yourself a favor, and order your clam
chowder "plain" or "clear." Thatís
the Rhode Island style, without the heavy cream. The
seafood spot Champlinís in Galilee is another favorite.
It has an elevated deck to watch the fishing boats come
recommended, and available everywhere, are clam cakes,
fried balls of clam-filled batter that, as far as I can
tell, are only eaten in Rhode Island.
on the culinary scene is the aforementioned Matunuck
Oyster Bar, Rhode Islandís take on farm-to-table
cuisine. Started in 2009 by oyster fisherman Perry Raso,
who runs a 7-acre aquaculture farm in nearby Potter Pond,
the lauded fare is simple, fresh and expertly prepared.
Set on the banks of Great Salt Pond, itís the kind of
place that just might serve up the best meal youíve ever
STORY CAN END HERE)
Judith Lighthouse is worth a visit, as well, even if just
to park the car and look out at the ocean. (Tip: Buy some
clam cakes. Drive to the lighthouse. Sit. Eat. Breathe.
Relax. Youíre welcome.)
of our family traditions is buying lobster fresh off the
boats in Galilee, a bustling fishing village. Most
lobsters go to restaurants and retailers, but there are
always a few hand-made signs at the end of the docks,
offering the freshly caught crustaceans for cash. The
lobsters are stored in cages hanging off the boats. Thereís
nothing quite like seeing your dinner emerge from the
water, still alive and moving.
itís home to ó if youíre lucky ó an outdoor
shower. There you can stand under a stream of fresh water
in the fading light, washing the salt and sand from your
sun-soaked skin. The fresh cotton shirt you throw on
afterward will feel as good as any piece of clothing youíve
ever worn, ideally followed by the beverage of your
choice, a lawn, an Adirondack chair, and a passel of
family and friends.