FFG Travels: Ocean House, Rhode Island

I watched the sunrise with my toes burrowed in the cold sand, my fingers intertwined around a hot cup of coffee and one of America’s most famous hotels behind me in the distance. Even before the light filled the sky, the striking yellow façade of Ocean House was commanding attention from all who passed. This is one of America’s most famous Victorian-Style hotels and it sits on one of the most prestigious waterfronts in the continental USA. To give you some idea of just how sought after this part of the world is – Ocean House’s neighbour is none other than Taylor Swift. Although they’ll never confess to the celebrity connection. No, every employee here keeps celebrity secrets under lock and key, which is of course why they all flock here by the boat load.

So what’s the great appeal? Well, keeping in mind that Rhode Island is known for its palatial sized oceanfront homes, it’s not hard to imagine how each guest could believe they are entering a scene from Great Gatsby the moment they step over the threshold of Ocean House. I could easily see Robert Redford, in his white linen suit, playing croquet on the lawn running parallel to the property.  Maybe Mia Farrow would be in the champagne bar overlooking the ocean, enjoying a tipple with a view and a plethora of extras, all decked out in flapper girl attire. Now, I just want to go back and throw the ultimate Great Gastby party. Somehow I think I’m not the first to have this idea.

While Ocean House has a great heritage story, it wasn’t always the grand structure you see before you today. Originally built in 1868, the first Ocean House was significantly smaller, but grew over the years as additions were added. Then in 2004, Girouard Associates of New Canaan bought the property with an idea to tear it down and build something totally new in its place. You can imagine the uproar! In the end, a plan was approved that allowed the architects to rebuild, with the idea that the original Ocean House would act as inspiration for the new structure. In 2010, a new and improved Ocean House, measuring 156,000 square feet and full of many salvaged pieces from the original building, opened to the public with great national acclaim. This grand hotel was given a new lease on life and quickly became a hotel with global appeal. It was certainly one that’s been on my radar for as long as I can remember.

I must tell you that I had high expectations for Ocean House. Some might say they were almost unrealistic. I have stalked this hotel for some time. So, the inner travel cynic in me was ready to be disappointed. I thought something had to be off. It was all too good to be true. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a reason not to fall head over heels in love with everything about this beautiful hotel and its magnificent staff. There were even a few unexpected moments while in residence.

For example, Ocean House have a prestigious collaboration with Mercedes Benz. Any guest, of age and with a license, can take a luxury vehicle from Mercedes out and about around Rhode Island while they’re in residence. You simply call down to the concierge, ask for availability, and they’ll bring round anything from a convertible to an SUV for any day trips you might like to take while in the area. That’s service on another level and you bet your bottom dollar I was asking for the fastest car they had in the parking lot. Sadly, it was a little too cold for a convertible, but can you just imagine in the summer?

It’s only natural that most people will see Ocean House for the first time and instantly think “summer retreat.” Ocean House is, I’m sure, fabulous in the height of summer. I can imagine hours spent on the sand, with rosé flowing like water and tanned legs running in and out of the cold sea. It’s a summer paradise, there is no doubt about that. Autumn, however, is not to be overlooked. While Indian summers are common place here, there is something truly magical about a chilly autumn day spent here at Ocean House. Waking up for a walk on the beach at sunrise, while wrapped in endless layers of clothing to stay warm and returning to your room where a fire is lit and a bath is drawn… what isn’t heavenly about that? There is also a glorious calm that comes over the area here, after the vacationers have left to return to the city for work and school. You don’t worry about dinner reservations or there being enough room in the breakfast area the next morning. The hotel is yours for the taking. And that’s just how I like it, thank you very much. I’ll take a tower suite, with a view of Taylor’s, please. Throw in four or five days of beach reading, champagne sipping and fire roasting and I think you’ll discover a woman that’s blissfully unaware of a world that exists outside of this one.


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