While every festive occasion is royally celebrated at The Ocean House in Watchill, Rhode Island, none is more so than Christmas. Picture: Supplied
Since childhood, John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” has struck a chord: “I must  go down to the sea again for the call of the running tide is a wild call and a
clear call that cannot be denied.” 

As a grown sybarite, I now substitute " sea" for “Ocean House”, a nineteenth-century landmark, built by a  discerning sea captain, on a spectacular stretch of Rhode Island coastline  that has lured Victorian steamboat passengers and modern-day travellers,  to her butter-yellow tower, like moths to a flame.

Despite decades of being  ravaged by floods, fires and hurricanes, this architectural beacon has  weathered all storms and stood the test of time, largely thanks to the  passion of local landlord, Chuck Royce, who to the tune of $146 million  has painstakingly restored The Ocean House to majestic Golden Age,
former glory, with as much dedication to artistic detail and desire to  dispense indelible joy as Father Christmas. 

The result is a hotel whose stellar reputation has floated to distant shores, and where  merely stepping over the threshold matches the  magic of opening a Christmas present .

Of course, The Ocean House’s location at the lighthouse end of a nature  reserve on East Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the affluent  community of Watchill  is a huge part of the equation. 

I arrived  late on an autumn afternoon at low tide and felt compelled to run down the  wide wrap-around veranda and to follow the boardwalk past bull rushes,
croquet lawns and surrounding dunes through the striped gazebo and  loungers of the Cafe Bar - a brand new beach addition - to join the  fishermen and their rods parked for pristine kilometre after kilometre together with smart  SUVs, poised for psychedelic sunsets, rather than the next silvery catch.


Returning from an exhilarating ramble, shell collecting, wave watching  and boat counting, I found myself still adrift, this time waylaid by the  magnificent collection of original marine art  lining the broad passages of every carpet coated floor of this  porticoed mansion. 

Royce is a collector of Ludwig Bedelmans  and Sem – both nineteenth-century caricaturists – the former of Madeline C hildren's Book fame. Bedelmans’ sketches have seeped onto Ocean  House Menus and stationary, like butter on hot bread – a testimony to  Victorian humour and European omnipotence. 

Resident artists and  artisans are encouraged at The Ocean House to celebrate art and to foster  art education. This creative predeliction extends to local cuisine that  must please the eye, as well as titillate the "palette". Dishes are designed by  executive chef, Jennifer Backman, handpicked all the way from  Los Angeles, to add flavour and fame to the farm to table, fine dining  restaurant, Coast, where all ingredients, not least of all turkeys, are  seasonally sourced from the best of nearby New England farmers.

Ensconced in my nautical-themed, Spode blue suite, facing Watchill  lighthouse, I wallowed in a foam bath, big enough to harbour a whale,  before morphing into one, contemplating what to eat or not to eat pre- dinner. 

This post a private cooking lesson on how to sear fresh scallops  and steak. One is spoilt for choice in these “Madeline moments”: jars of  giant chocolate malt balls, Japanese crackers, homemade cookies or a  charcuterie tray, resembling a Miro painting, delivered to your butler’s  station?   Laced hot chocolate and High Tea in front of that legendary stone  fireplace, or cocktails and canapees lounging at the Bistro Bar? This is  the constant epicurean dilemma that one is confronted with beyond soap  suds, swan soft towels and Molten Brown amenities, and to which the  answer is you succumb to all. 

If necessary you can appease your  conscience by swimming it off in the heated lap pool, while watching a  cherry pink sunrise – or of course hitting that endless shoreline at the  gallop.

There are a constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants on the East  Coast but few with a view to match Coast’s,  and somehow good food  tastes even better when you are a stone’s throw from whence it  originates.  Seared scallops and giant red lobsters, that melt in your mouth.


While  every festive occasion is royally celebrated at The Ocean House, none is  more so than Christmas.  And If The Grinch Did Steal Christmas as Dr Seuss would have us believe,  then he has brought it back from the North pole to the North shores with  even more reason to celebrate: Santa checks in here on almost a weekly  basis over the festive season and you can book your beautifully decorated  tables under those iconic blue lanterns to have brunch, tea, dinner  and a Christmas cabaret all with the ubiquitous bearded man himself  presiding over the celebrations.

This is Disneyland meets Dr Seuss meets  Chuck Royce, Bon Vivant all wrapped in one, and your own elves will never  have been kept busier or happier: There is a Gingerbread Village and  workshops ranging from Feast Of Fishes, to yule log making, to holiday b everages and cookie and cupcake decorating all interspersed with c arols and fireside cocktails – a cacophony of swirling gulls - and food  glorious food to make the Grinch go green with envy and your eyes light up  brighter than that vermillion lighthouse. 

If there is no snow outside to  sprinkle the dunes like iced puddings, then there is a White Christmas  movie night inside to reincarnate every halcyon memory of Christmas’  past...

And quite frankly it would be almost impossible to improve on the  Christmas present, because you are in the ultimate hotel in the ultimate  location which is why, with apologies to Masefield – “I must go back to  The Ocean House, to the glorious mansion and skies, where the call of the  wave is a wild one but always full of surprise...”