October 12, 2019
A Wickford Good Time
Richard Smith knew a good thing when he saw it. In 1637, the intrepid settler from Massachusetts built a large house overlooking what is now Wickford’s Mill Cove, then known to the Narragansett Indians as “Cocumscussoc.” The structure, which was rebuilt in 1678 by Smith’s son after the original home was burned during King Phillips War, still stands on what remains one of the most idyllic spots in Rhode Island.
Just as Smith’s Castle (so named because it was large and fortified) has endured, so does much of what makes Wickford such a special place to visit, especially by boat. These days, several restaurants, four marinas, a host of interesting shops and several summer events make it one of the top boating destinations on Narragansett Bay.
Located just south of Quonset Point, Wickford is easy to reach from other Bay ports, as well as the open ocean, and offers one of the most protected harbors in the region. Shortly after clearing the pair of breakwaters guarding Wickford Harbor, you have the choice of entering either Wickford Cove to port or Mill Cove to starboard. Both provide easy access to Wickford Village.
Daytrippers have it pretty good here, as the Town Dock at the head of Wickford Cove allows a free two-hour tie-up. If you wish to stay longer, the town maintains a handful of transient moorings behind the southern breakwater that are available on first-come, first-served basis at a fee of $35 per night (3-night maximum stay). However, they are not exactly convenient to the waterfront.
If you’re willing to pay for that convenience, Wickford’s marinas stand ready to accommodate. At the head of Wickford Cove is the venerable Wickford Shipyard, offering slips for large boats, a fuel dock, showers, laundry, service, a pool and storage. A bit deeper into the harbor is the full-service Safe Harbor Wickford Cove Marina. It has space for transient boaters, but reservations are recommended. The marina features laundry, showers, fuel and other amenities, and can also service and store your boat.
Scenic Mill Cove
Boaters who find Wickford Cove too busy can always opt to stay on Mill Cove. Here, the NorthWick Boat Yard (formerly Johnson’s Boat Yard), welcomes visitors with slips and moorings. You can also tie up for a few hours or a week at Wickford Marina, which can accommodate boats up to 100’. If you need fuel or haul-out, Pleasant Street Wharf has you covered. Docking in Mill Cove also allows for spectacular views of the Quonset Air Show and the South County Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Once ashore, you’ll find an array of shops, galleries and boutiques in charming Wickford Village. Architecture aficionados will appreciate the well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings built during Wickford’s seemingly unlikely past as a shipping port, so a walking tour is definitely in order. If you visit in July, you can experience New England’s longest running art festival, with more than 200 artists showcasing their work in every medium imaginable.
Feeling hungry? Stop by Wickford By the Water, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner overlooking the water. Right across the street is the more upscale and romantic Tavern By the Sea, which features a Mediterranean-inspired menu and ambience. Indoor and outdoor seating are available.
During your stay, consider taking a kayak or paddleboard lesson, or renting one of these craft, at the Kayak Centre, known for its top-notch instructors and equipment. Mill Cove, Mill Creek and Fishing Cove in particular are scenic and protected paddling spots on the harbor, and you can beach your ‘yak or SUP on Cornelius Island for a swim or picnic.
If you boat with bikes, consider a ride down Post Road to nearby Davisville and the Seabee Museum, which pays tribute to the men and women who served as Navy Seabees from 1942 to 1994. The Quonset hut was developed at this very spot, and you’ll see plenty of them on the museum grounds. Military buffs can continue their tour at the Quonset Air Museum at Quonset Point, a former Naval Air station and strategic military post through the early 1970s and now home to a large collection of military planes and helicopters.
So whether your interest lies in military history or Colonial history, kayaking or fishing, sailing or powerboating, Wickford stands ready to accommodate all comers. Pay it a visit and see it for yourself.
Wickford Names & Numbers
Harbormaster (401) 633-5323
Dockage, Moorings & Service
Town of Wickford (401) 633-5323
Wickford maintains several orange transient moorings behind the southern breakwater. Cast per night is $35, with a 3-night maximum stay. Dinghies can be left at the Town Dock, or you can hail the Wickford Harbor Launch on VHF Channel 68. The Town Dock offers free tie-up for up to 2 hours (sometimes longer with permission from the harbormaster).
Wickford Marina (401) 294-8160
Full-service marina on Mill Cove. Accommodates seasonal and transient boats up to 100’. Offers showers, laundry, Jacuzzi, cooking facilities, patio and enclosed tent, kayak rental and winter storage.
Safe Harbor Wickford Cove Marina (401) 884-7014
Full-service marina with transient slips and moorings. Also offers storage, laundry, showers, picnic areas, free WiFi, fuel, pump-out, repair and a 70-ton Travelift.
Wickford Shipyard (401) 294-3361
Amenities include fuel, showers, laundry, pump-out, ice, pool, full marine services and repair. Transient slips and moorings available.
NorthWick Boatyard (401) 932-3613 http://www.northwickboatyard.com
On Mill Cove. Offers slips and moorings, launch ramp, dockside parking, restrooms and changing rooms, outdoor showers, patio and grill.
Pleasant Street Wharf (401) 294-2791
Storage, hauling, fuel dock, mooring services and seasonal dock rental.
Wickford Harbor Launch Service (401) 294-0021
Mooring shuttle service from Quonset Point to Rome Point; day rates and seasonal subscriptions available. Will even deliver Sunday brunch to your boat.
Wickford Yacht Club (401) 294-9010
Five moorings available for visitors on a first-come, first-served basis. Restrooms, showers, patio and trash services also available.
Mill Creek Marine (401) 294-3700
Boat sales, service and winter storage. Can accommodate boats up to 38’.
Anchoring is possible in the bight outside the Wickford breakwaters, in depths of 14’ to 17’. This area offers good holding ground and protection from westerly winds; not so much in a northerly or easterly breeze.
Concrete-slab ramp with tie-up float on Intrepid Drive. Free and ample parking, but limited access at low tide.
Pleasant Street Municipal Ramp
At end of Pleasant Street next to Pleasant Street Wharf. Gravel and dirt ramp with few on-street parking spaces available. Best for launching of skiffs and kayaks.
Boat & Kayak Rental
The Kayak Centre (401) 295-4400
Rentals, sales, kayak guided tours and lessons for adults and children.
Where to Eat
Tavern by the Sea (401) 294-5771
Mediterranean-inspired restaurant serving lunch and dinner on a scenic canal on the harbor. Menu includes seafood, gourmet burgers and sandwiches, salads and pasta, along with a full bar.
Waterfront dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with harbor views.
Things to See & Do
Juried fine-art festival featuring over 200 artists from New England and beyond. Admission is free for visitors. Held in mid-July.
Seabee Museum & Memorial Park (401) 294-7233
Home of the Quonset hut and WW II naval pontoons, the museum commemorates the Seabees, a military unit dedicated to building military infrastructure required during wartime, beginning in 1942.
Smith’s Castle (401) 294-3521
Colonial-era house and gardens on Mill Cove. Open for tours May through October. The home features a library, furniture and artifacts from the 1700s through the 1900s.
Self-guided and docent-led walking tours of nearly 20 historic 1700s and 1800s buildings in downtown Wickford.