WESTERLY, R.I. (WGGB) — It’s a town hit hard last year by Superstorm Sandy, but is back and open for business for a new summer season.
Best of all, it’s a place you can get to in about two hours and on one tank of gas.
This week, we hit the road to Westerly, R.I.
In Westerly, Watch Hill is a quaint little neighborhood long known for it’s affluent population, within Westerly, Rhode Island.
Sitting on the most south western tip of the state, it’s home to one of New England’s Lighthouses.
The Rhode Island Colonial Government first erected a simple watchtower and beacon at Watch Hill in 1745 which gave the area its name.
Less than 40 years later the original tower was destroyed in a storm, but by 1806, President Thomas Jefferson had signed an act to rebuild the lighthouse.
The first official Watch Hill Light was a 35 foot round wooden tower with 10 whale oil lamps and parabolic reflectors.
Over the years, the light has seen it’s fair share of disasters and storms. In 1907 one of the most famous of all New England shipping disasters occurred just four miles south west of Watch Hill Light when the steamer Larchmont collided with a schooner in a February blizzard. Approximately 200 people perished in the disaster.
And in 1954 Hurricane Carol barreled up the New England coast and made Watch Hill Point a virtual island throughout the violent storm.
Finally in 1986, the light was automated and leased to the Watch Hill Lightkeepers Association.
While the Lighthouse itself is closed to the public, the grounds are open during the day and there is a museum where visitors can enjoy the amazing history surrounding the Lighthouse during the summer, but it’s worth noting that there is no parking near the lighthouse, so be prepared for the 15 minute walk to it from town.
The Watch Hill Lighthouse Museum is open July 1 through Labor Day on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
From oaks to beech trees, cedars to Japanese maples, at the beautiful Wilcox Park in downtown Westerly, there are over 600 species of trees and plants to admire.
A paradise for photographers and picnic seekers alike, Wilcox Park is a historic place and one of only two Medallion parks in all of Rhode Island.
“What makes unique is the fact that we are an arboretum. We’re a museum of living trees, as well as a historic park. We have a lot of really unique historic elements, statuary, fountains, and different things,” says Alan Peck, the park’s manager.
If you do decide to have a picnic in the park, remember it is also dog friendly as long as Fido stays on a leash.
There are also guided tours available for groups and school children.
One of the wonderful things about Westerly is how close all of of these locations were and how full of charm they are as well.
A perfect example of that charm is Langworthy Farm Winery.
Small and quaint, yet producing six red wines and 6 whites, this family owned winery is a must see for wine lovers who are passing through.
“We get a lot of first timers here and they’re just amazed that they can sit down, we have usually ten to twelve different wines for them to taste, and it’s a good experience for them if they haven’t been to a winery to basically get an idea of tasting different wines to what their particular taste goes towards,” adds Joe Sharry, owner of Langworthy Farm Winery.
While Langworthy had little impact from Sandy, they were hit hard by Irene. Overall, they lost about 60 plants which all had to be replanted.
It will now take four to five years for those plants to produce grapes.
Of course, the winery also offers guided tours, so visitors can see the entire process from vine to bottle.
Among the many great things to do here in Westerly, one of the most popular has to be sunbathing on its amazing beaches, but that’s only the beginning of what they offer at Atlantic Beach Park
And if your looking for a fun Oceanside venue for a party or other event, Atlantic beach park can handle that too!
Here in Westerly there’s a half-mile stretch of beach that separates Watch Hill’s Little Narragansett Bay from the ocean.
A favorite spot for both hikers and bird watchers this serene area is known as Napatree Point.
Often simply referred to as Napatree, the area forms a protected harbor and was once heavily wooded but when the Great September Gale hit the area in 1815, the trees were completely destroyed.
Napatree was actually purchased by the federal government in 1898 for the construction of a coastal artillery installation, as one of many forts that was designed to protect the eastern entrance to the Long Island Sound.
Fort Mansfield began operating in 1901, but war games in 1907 showed that there was a fatal design flaw and within 2 years the fort was removed from the list of active posts.
Today all that remains are three concrete gun emplacements which were left behind.
Currently, Napatree Point is a wildlife preserve and a popular public beach as well that’s protected by the Watch Hill Conservancy and Fire District which have hired wardens to protect the area’s wildlife and habitat.
Napatree is home to ospreys and is also a resting area for migratory birds and is also home to the piping plover which is a federally endangered species of bird.
Our last stop here in Westerly is actually right where we are now. The Ocean House is the area’s premiere resort, and with this view and impeccable service, it’s easy to see why
Some of the signature suites here at ocean house are available for purchase as well.
PICTURES (click on any of the images below to begin a slideshow):