The Coastal Traveller at The Break Hotel
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Stretching from southern Connecticut to northern Maine, the New England coast is more than 400 miles of raw scenic beauty, dotted with stylish habitations. Rhode Island is home to some of the best, and among those one should include an enjoyable little escape called The Break Hotel in Narragansett.
Part of the Lark Hotels portfolio of imaginative boutique properties, The Break is aptly named. Its location on Rhode Island’s historic Point Judith places it a few hours drive from either Boston or New Haven, making it an ideal getaway from urban New England. As the homeport of the Block Island ferry, Point Judith has managed to capture some of that coastal island charm and bring it to life on the mainland.
Newly constructed in 2014, The Break pops with design sensibilities that bring to mind the mid-century modern art flourishes of Jonathan Adler. It was actually Newport-based interior designer Jocelyn Chiappone who collaborated with owners Jim and Becky Durkin to produce a playful sense of kitsch, inspired by the recent renaissance in boutique hotel design. It’s casual, flirty and pleasant.
The lobby has multiple personalities, all of them fun: a tranquil tropical fish tank juxtaposes a cozy fireplace seating area, and adjoining that, an ultramodern chess set is parked beneath a massive window. A small retail boutique off the lobby is like a peek into the summerhouse closet of a Martha’s Vineyard socialite.
The Ocean King suite is nicely put together, typified by a seaside cottage motif that somehow harks back to a time when Narragansett was a surfer’s mecca. The king bed is appropriately cloudlike. It’s an efficient two-room layout divided by a frosted glass sliding door. The gas fireplace in the sitting room corner is ideal for wind-swept beach evenings after sundown, and the balcony offers a beckoning view of the water’s edge just a short walk away.
Like fireplaces, heated tiles on bathroom floors are always welcome in a New England hotel room, regardless of the season. The suites have Keurig brewing systems and Dometic mini fridges, making them a lovely setting and great base of operations as one explores nearby beaches including Roger Wheeler State Beach, Salty Brine State Beach, and Scarborough State Beach (to name a few).
A heated saltwater pool is the centerpiece of an outdoor patio that has a damn near perfect beach bungalow vibe, accented by a gas fire pit required for magical evenings. Innkeeper couple, Michael Guillen and Heather Beckman, whose deep knowledge of hospitality is clear in each detail, discretely oversees it all.
Understand that The Break isn’t your Forbes star-rated experience. It’s plush and unpretentious, which makes it a different kind of relaxing. Even though every amenity is available for the asking, people don’t come here for white-glove service. The Break is frequented by cosmopolitan types with an informed travel palette in search of a genuine beach escape. This is definitely the place to find it.
Executive chef Basil Yu is quickly building a reputation as one of the area’s sharpest new culinary talents. His menu at the Chair 5 restaurant shows imagination with inventive dishes including his succulent Pineapple Braised Shortrib, the hearty Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and a hot Lobster Roll with tarragon and pistachio pesto with sautéed spinach. Yu’s mastery with fresh vegetables is remarkable.
“Our location inspires our menu,” Yu says. “We like to keep it super local and super fresh. We also like to serve classic dishes that are elevated just a bit. We keep in tune with the cultural identity of Narragansett, while putting a fresh spin on things.”
Yu’s “Ramen and Beer” nights during the off-season are becoming legendary.
For an entirely different dining experience, The Break has what is easily the nicest rooftop bar in Narragansett. With cozy seating areas and cheery bars inside, the outdoor deck itself offers an inspiring view of Narragansett Bay. The cocktails and small bites served up here are fantastic, but the view (and the breeze) seals the deal.
The Break also serves an artistically plated and satisfying continental breakfast.
That’s the literal meaning of the original Native American word “Narragansett.” By some estimates, the Narragansett and other tribes occupied this point of land for up to 30,000 years before European pilgrims arrived. It wasn’t exactly Eden (war was not uncommon), but for eons tribes summered on the shores around Point Judith, feasting on fresh vegetables, fish, shellfish, and all the meats of a plentiful land.
That spirit still exists here, where peaceful nature and sleepy beach towns coexist in a setting of visual beauty. General Managers Guillen and Beckman show a respect for the past and present of the area, running an establishment that blends in—while standing out in all the right ways. It’s easy to understand why even such a new hotel already has regulars in season and out: the seaside enchantment here is undeniable.