November 13, 2019
Mattapoisett holds a special place in my heart, as it happens to be my home port. When I moved to this small, salty town on the western shore of Buzzards Bay back in 2001, it didn’t take long to realize why so many boaters choose to live and play here. Text & Photos By Tom Richardson
Mattapoisett’s nautical roots run deep, too. The town was a major shipbuilding center in the 1800s. The last whaling bark to sail out of New Bedford, the Wanderer, was built in Mattapoisett by Holmes Shipyard, in 1878 (she wrecked off the Elizabeth Islands in 1924).
In more recent times, Mattapoisett served as home to Brownell Boatworks, Dexter Boats and Edey & Duff. Other homegrown marine businesses continue to thrive here, including Triad Boatworks, the Mattapoisett Boatyard, Peinert Boatworks, Brownell Systems and the Wooden Tangent.
The inner harbor is well protected from winds out of the southwest, west and north (easterly winds are another matter). It features a series of massive stone wharves dating back to the 1800s, with pump-out, floats for short-term visitor tie-up and a dinghy dock, as well as an excellent double-wide launch ramp that offers good access to boats of all sizes throughout the tide.
A good anchorage can be found in the shelter of Mattapoisett Neck, but boaters who want a mooring can call Triad Boatworks, which maintains several moorings that can be used free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. The Mattapoisett Boatyard also offers transient moorings (for a fee), as well as fuel and service on the eastern side of the harbor. Their launch can give you a ride to the wharf, but it’s not a far walk into town.
Ashore you’ll find a quaint, classic New England village peppered with Victorian-era ship captains’ homes; a well-groomed waterfront park where concerts, dances, and other events are held during summer; an ice-cream/snack stand (the Seaport Slip), and the tidy, well-staffed harbormaster’s office. Just across the street from the harbor is the Inn at Shipyard Park (formerly the Kinsale Pub and the oldest seaside tavern still operating in its original structure) for a drink or some good food. The Inn has live music throughout the year, and offers guest rooms, as well. A few doors down, you can also book a room at the cozy and comfortable Mattapoisett Inn.
A short walk will bring you to the commercial center of town, home to more restaurants and shops. A great rainy-day option is Bowlmor Lanes, a throwback bowling alley from the 1950s featuring mini duckpins and candlepin-size balls. Next door is the popular Ying Dynasty restaurant, which serves Chinese fare. Local favorite Nick’s Pizza is on the other side of Rte. 6.
Kayakers will also find plenty to love about Mattapoisett. You can launch at several spots along the Mattapoisett shoreline to explore the inshore waters. The Mattapoisett River, which enters the harbor on its western side, winds north for a half-mile before ending at Rte. 6. At high tide, you can beach a dinghy or kayak here and walk across the road to the Mattapoisett Diner or the Lebanese Kitchen.
Other terrific kayaking spots can be found outside the harbor, such as along Pine Island and Aucoot Cove, the latter on the Marion/Mattapoisett border.
Yet another option for paddlers is Brant Island Cove, on the western side of Mattapoisett Neck. The cove comprises a shallow, expansive marsh system that’s home to numerous species of shorebirds and waterfowl. Lastly, freshwater paddlers can launch at the small park at the junction of River Street and Rte. 6 to explore the freshwater portion of the Mattapoisett River, which winds for 11 miles into neighboring Rochester. The river becomes quite narrow and shallow as you work your way upstream, so be prepared to portage around some low spots.