What It's Really Like to Vacation Next to Taylor Swift's 'Holiday House' in Rhode Island

Pulling up to Ocean House in Rhode Island, a sprawling, butter-yellow, Relais & Châteaux estate perched high on a coastal hill, the first thing my Uber driver asks me is, "Are we in the Hamptons?"

Not quite. We're about 3+ hours and a ferry ride away from the East End of Long Island but thanks to Taylor Swift, Westerly, Rhode Island has gone from a locals-loved beachside community to an A-list-approved summer vacation destination—and I happened to be checking into the posh hotel next door to her $17.75 million manse. 

Swift purchased "High Watch," formerly known as "Holiday House," in 2013—reportedly in cash—and it's still the most expensive private home in Rhode Island to this date. The mansion, which was built in 1930, earned its moniker from its 16 Bluff Avenue address. This is the highest point of Watch Hill, the affluent part of Westerly where Swift's swanky summer house resides, along with Ocean House.

Pulling up to the grande dame of Watch Hill, Ocean House<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
Pulling up to the grande dame of Watch Hill, Ocean House

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

Related: 'I'm a Travel Writer Who's Been on the Same Bahamas Trip as Taylor and Travis—Here's Why She Probably Chose It'

To be fair, I can see where my driver's confusion lies, however. We left Connecticut a few hours ago and drove through scenic hamlets, along beautiful shorelines and past some very $$$$ looking houses, but the similarities between Watch Hill and the Hamptons end there. Plus there's the matter of one very famous neighbor Rhode Island has that Long Island does not: Taylor Swift.

America's favorite tortured poet usually heads to her holiday house for America's favorite holiday, the 4th of July, where her legendary "Taymerica" parties are filled with famous faces and perhaps, a pool full of Champagne. This would be a cheeky nod to the home's former owner, socialite and Standard Oil heiress, Rebekah Harkness. 

Swift was so inspired by "Betty" (as she was known around town) that she wrote the song “The Last Great American Dynasty" about her—and the house—on her 2020 album, folklore. After Betty's husband William Hale "Bill" Harkness passed away from a heart attack, she lived quite the lavish life at 16 Bluff Ave, spending her $27 million inheritance "on the boys and the ballet" as Taylor tells it. Which would be a reference to the parties she would throw with a pool full of Champagne and the Harkness Ballet company she founded. 

Although we're not entirely sure what Swift's pool is filled with these days, we are 100% sure she always has the best guests on the 4th. Selena Gomez, Blake Lively, Lorde, Gigi Hadid, Lena Dunham and Ed Sheeran have all visited but has Travis Kelce? We'll have to wait until photos from future festivities surface to see if a certain tight end will be in attendance, but it won't be this year, as Swift will be in Amsterdam for the Eras Tour on July 4, 2024.

Related: Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce Hold Hands in Loved-Up Vacation Photos

But back to Ocean House, where I was staying for a sisters' trip. It's as close as you can get to Taylor's without sleeping on East Beach or owning one of the few (slightly) smaller mansions next to hers.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with a glass of bubbly and given a tour of the grounds, which consist of a green-as-can-be championship croquet lawn, a Forbes Five-Star Spa, Ocean & Harvest, a 59-foot lap pool that's sadly not filled with Champagne, but rather soothing saltwater and a lower gallery level that's dedicated to one of the greatest writers and illustrators of all time, Ludwig Bemelmans.

Original Bemelmans artwork at Ocean House<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
Original Bemelmans artwork at Ocean House

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

Fun fact: Ocean House houses the largest permanent private collection of work by Bemelmans on public display in North America with over 100 pieces around the property, plus a suite inspired by the Madeline author, aptly dubbed The Bemelmans Ocean View Suite.

After learning that it was occupied and not available to tour (le sigh), I was allowed a look inside a few of their other signature suites, one of which happened to feature a bird's eye view of High Watch—Taylor's version.

Pondering how I can live in the Tower Suite at Ocean House<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
Pondering how I can live in the Tower Suite at Ocean House

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

I've seen some pretty impressive hotel rooms in my day, but not one compares to the two-story marvel that is the Tower Suite at Ocean House. 

For starters, there's a massive, spiral staircase in the middle of the wood-paneled suite that leads to more sitting areas, dining rooms, roof decks, a gorgeous kitchen and the historically replicated "widow’s walk" at the tippy-top. And come on, there's even a tea-for-two tub in this place! 

It is, by all means of the phrase, jaw-dropping, but the one detail that might interest Swifties the most is that has one of the best views of Tay's abode. So, if you're in your YOLO era, dropping $10-20,000 a night for this palatial pad in the prime summertime season might seem worth it.

Hi Taylor!<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
Hi Taylor!

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

If you're not willing to splurge that much to surmise whether or not the "Cruel Summer" singer is home, the next best place to ponder this is on the beach, where I headed next. 

East Beach happens to be one of the best beaches in Rhode Island—and the East Coast for that matter—with soft, powdery dunes and gently crashing waves. Even if you're not spending the night at Ocean House, it's worth renting one of their Beach Cabanas for the day or sunbathing in between Ocean House and Taylor's house a very pleasant and free—stretch of sand open to the public. 

That's also where people like to wander over on sandy strolls to snap a pic beneath "Taylor Swift's." Yes, her house is a geotagged location on Instagram. As expected, there are a million miles of gates and a million forms of security, so this is as close as you get, but it's still pretty cool to be next door to Taylor, whether she's home or not. Same beach, same ocean breeze, am I right?

High Watch, Taylor's Version<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
High Watch, Taylor's Version

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

After following the winding boardwalk back up to my room, it was time for dinner and an actual glass of Champagne. My sister and I headed down to The Bistro, Ocean House's more casual fireside restaurant and bar that's open year-round and has the best burger in town, IMO.

Here you're more than likely to hear a whisper or two, from a local barfly or returning guest recounting tales of seeing Ms. Swift at one of her favorite in-town haunts. We have it on good authority that Taylor, like anyone else who has visited Watch Hill, likes to frequent the Olympia Tea Room for dinner, St. Clair Annex for ice cream and The Cooked Goose for breakfast, where she's been spotted with Selena Gomez and pal Ashley Avignone on numerous occasions. 

Then there's the members-only lounge at Ocean House, where she most likely dines when she visits. Although you can't access this part of the property if you're not a member—or staying in one of the signature suites—it is on the same level as their fine-dining restaurant Coast, so there's always the off chance you could bump into her.

The Members-Only Dining Room at Ocean House<p>Kelli Acciardo</p>
The Members-Only Dining Room at Ocean House

Kelli Acciardo

The next morning, we went out for a bike ride and popped into a few shops. While perusing a counter filled with mermaid-shaped soaps and books about Sea Shanty songs, I overheard a few people asking the owner if she's seen Taylor yet. She said that she hasn't but she usually visits around the 4th of July.

I have to admit, I've thought about bumping into her around town. After all, she was the first celebrity I ever interviewed back in my Seventeen magazine days and I've been rooting for her ever since. I can see why she chose the idyllic coastal village of Watch Hill to purchase her Holiday House too. With its storied charm, history and plethora of adorable places to visit, it's a no-brainer for the 4th of July weekend, or any other one for that matter. 

Although I missed Tay on this trip, a beautiful Ocean House stay and a shared beach are still good enough for me.

Going for a spin on Ocean House's complimentary cruisers<p>Courtesy Kelli Acciardo</p>
Going for a spin on Ocean House's complimentary cruisers

Courtesy Kelli Acciardo

Next: A Look Inside Taylor Swift's Historic $25 Million Beverly Hills Mansion