March 23, 2020
5 Great Narragansett Bay Daytrips
Boaters on Narragansett Bay have it pretty good. The bay’s islands, rivers and coves provide paddlers and powerboaters with protection from the wind, while the consistent summer breezes are beloved by sailors in vessels ranging from Sunfish to ocean-going catamarans. Then there’s the fishing, for striped bass, bluefish, fluke, sea bass, tautog and scup. And when it’s time to take a break from the water, the bay is surrounded by interesting places to visit, all of them offering sustenance and, in many cases, shopping and sightseeing. Here’s one way you could fill a week on Narragansett Bay—although we recommend savoring its many flavors over the course of a season.
Day One: Wickford Cove
Scenic Wickford Cove, on the southwest side of the bay, welcomes boaters with free dockage (up to two hours) at the town landing, steps from the heart of the village’s shops and restaurants. If you’d rather leave your boat on a mooring, the town also maintains a handful of free moorings just behind the breakwater.
Among the town’s culinary offerings is Wickford on the Water, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the head of the harbor. Also nearby is the delightful Tavern by the Sea and its Mediterranean-inspired dishes, served on the outdoor patio overlooking a scenic canal.
Cool shops and galleries near the waterfront include Teddy Bearskins and Wickford Village Antiques. Nearby Mill Pond is worth exploring in a dinghy, SUP, or kayak, and you can visit the famous Smith’s Castle for a tour of this rare and wonderfully preserved colonial home—a true Rhode Island secret.
Day Two: Providence
Few Rhode Islanders know that they can access the heart of the state capital in a small boat. Granted, the water gets pretty thin north of the Hurricane Barrier, especially at low tide, but you can usually take a dinghy, skiff or kayak far upriver for a unique perspective on the city. Granite landings along the river provide a place to tie up and explore the revitalized downtown area, up to and including the Providence Place Mall.
If you want to stick closer to the Hurricane Barrier, you may find an open spot to tie up in front of the Hot Club restaurant and bar, or at the Foxpoint Marina, which provides access to Whiskey Republic and other local eateries in the revitalized Fox Point neighborhood. You can dock for free if you show a receipt for $20 or more from Whiskey Republic.
Day Three: Barrington/Warren
Barrington presents an interesting boating conundrum: Most of the marinas, launch ramps and marine services are located in this Upper East Bay town, yet the majority of waterfront shops and restaurants are in neighboring Warren, on the east bank of the Warren River. But fear not, as boaters can enjoy the best of both worlds!
On Tyler Point, just below the Route 114 bridge, you’ll find the Blue Water Bar & Grill, which serves lunch and dinner. You can usually find a place to tie up—seasonally, overnight, or for just a few hours—at Striper Marina, which also offers a launch ramp. From Tyler Point, it’s just a short walk or bike ride over the bridge to Warren’s historic waterfront district, home to numerous restaurants, galleries and shops.
Just downriver, the Warren Town Wharf offers 30-minute tie-up, but longer stays are possible on one of the town’s transient moorings. Contact the harbormaster, (401) 245-6341, for information.
If you want to enjoy some delicious fried seafood, chowder and lobster rolls, tie up at the Blount Clam Shack, which serves these summer favorites in a lot next to Blount Seafood. Or walk across the street to the Blount Market, which sells fine soups and sauces, breaded calamari and, of course, fresh clams landed right in Warren.
Also nearby and offering small-boat dockage are the intimate Tav-Vino restaurant and The Admiral’s Pub—both local favorites. Last but not least is the Wharf Tavern, a Warren River institution that also allows boaters to dock alongside the restaurant.
Day Four: Bristol Harbor
Bristol is one of the loveliest and most historic harbors on the bay, and boaters can now tie up for a generous 3 hours at the Thames Street Landing, home to the Waterside Bar & Grill and the DeWolf Tavern, along with several shops and boutiques. (Note that you must be a patron of one of the Thames Street businesses to dock here.)
Hourly dockage is also available for a reasonable fee at the spacious Town float. Town moorings are available as well, but you’ll need to contact the harbormaster on VHF channel 9 or call (401) 253-1700 to check on availability. Reservations can be made. Dinghies can be left at the Town Dock/Marina next to the red firehouse building. Bristol Marine, on the west side of the harbor, also rents moorings, and their launch can give you a lift into downtown.
The shady, shop-lined streets of downtown Bristol boast over a dozen restaurants, including Aiden’s Irish Pub, Quitos (fresh seafood in the rough, right on the water) and Leo’s Ristorante (pizza and sandwiches). Feeling overheated? Cool off with a homemade ice cream or cabinet (a.k.a., frappe) at The Daily Scoop, behind Independence Park, or Gray’s on Thames Street Landing.
A bit farther south in the harbor, the Lobster Pot restaurant is a dock-and-dine option adjacent to the Herreshoff Museum, which maintains an extensive collection of beautifully restored wooden boats designed by master naval architect Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. The museum also has a public dock and moorings to accommodate visitors arriving by boat, but hail them on VHF 68 first.
Day Five: Jamestown
Daytrippers who want to explore Jamestown, on Conanicut Island, have several places to keep their boat while they go ashore and explore. The east side of the island has two boatyards and a large marina. Both Clark Boat Yard and Jamestown Boat Yard offer transient moorings with launch service and facilities, and are about a mile from the shops and restaurants of the downtown area. Conanicut Marina, on the other hand, is centrally located on the downtown waterfront and has transient dockage, moorings and fuel. Hourly and half-day accommodations can be arranged.
If you want to take your own dinghy ashore, you can leave it at the East Ferry Town Wharf, just north of Conanicut Marina, for up to two hours. Passengers can also be dropped off here, but larger boats may not be left unattended.
From this point, you have a number of restaurants and shops within easy reach. Directly on the water, Grapes & Gourmet sells wine, beer and cheese at the Conanicut Marina. Spinnakers on Ferry Wharf serves ice cream and sandwiches, while you can order delectable lobster rolls, fried clams, gourmet sandwiches and more at the East Ferry Deli.
A short walk up Narragansett Avenue will bring you to the Narragansett Café, a popular bar and restaurant with live music and a Sunday brunch. Nearby is the Simpatico Trattoria, an al fresco-style Italian eatery.
Another option in Jamestown is Dutch Harbor Boat Yard, on the west side of the island. The marina rents half-day transient moorings and is the home of The Shack restaurant, where you can order mouthwatering Tallulah’s Tacos and shrimp cocktails. Downtown Jamestown is roughly a mile from the marina.