That old line comes, of course, from an ad for the old Narragansett beer (now reborn as a craft beer). But it works pretty well for those looking for fun and interesting places to explore by boat along the New England coast.
Narragansett Bay is Rhode Island, stretching all the way from the urban center of Providence to the north to the rocky shore outside Newport Harbor at the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean to the south. And all along the 256 miles of shoreline in Narragansett Bay, 147 square miles of ocean, and 30 different islands large and small… there are numerous places to stop, anchor, explore and enjoy.
Here are some of the best places to visit if you’re thinking of boating up into Narragansett Bay.
The City by the Sea has welcomed mariners for more than 400 years now. The huge, circular harbor protected by Fort Adams to the southwest is a busy place in the summer months, with hundreds of private moorings, a handful of anchorages, and the constant traffic of launches, tour boats, America’s Cup 12 meter racers, and a few commercial vessels. Heads up… eyes open!
For visiting boaters, anchorage fields are located in Brenton Cove in the lee of Fort Adams, just north of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club docks, and just off The Point neighborhood north of Goat Island and east of Rose Island. Contact the Newport City Harbor Master (401) 845-5815 or VHF Channel 16 for information and availability.
There are a limited number of moorings available for visiting boaters within the harbor. Try Oldport Marine (401) 847-9109, Ch. 68; Newport Mooring Service (401) 846-7535, Ch. 9; or the Harbor Master.
Once you’ve found a place to stash the boat, all of Newport awaits. A launch or your dingy will take you to the wharves along America’s Cup Avenue filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, and more, and on nearby Thames Street, there are even more places to dine and shop. And all of Newport’s array of historic buildings, churches and the extravagant “cottages” along Bellevue Avenue are there for exploration.
Also known as Jamestown, this island lies directly across from Newport, south of the soaring Pell Bridge which takes auto traffic from Newport, across Conanicut, over the Verrazzano Bridge to the mainland on the western shore of the Bay.
As in Newport, Jamestown is abuzz all summer long with visiting and resident boaters. There are transient moorings available on a limited basis. For full information and contacts, visit the town government website here.
Jamestown has its own collection of shops and restaurants, most collected on Narragansett Avenue which runs up the hill from the waterfront. They are all busy in the summer, but not usually as crowded as Newport.
There’s a nice anchorage at Potter’s Cove just north of the Pell Bridge, and another in Dutch Harbor on the island’s west side.
Heading north into the Bay from Newport, the large island of Prudence sits just off of the town of Bristol. While there are a handful of full-time residents on Prudence, it’s still mostly a summer-camp kind of place, a delightful atmosphere of sun and beach without many people around.
There’s another Potter’s Cove on Prudence, this one on the island’s northeast shore. Because it’s sheltered, this cove is popular with boaters who anchor off the beach on weekends and party hearty! The fishing is good, you can go clamming if the tide is out, and you can easily get ashore and explore a little.
There’s a ferry over to Bristol which has a quaint waterfront, some excellent restaurants and shops, and, of course, the nation’s oldest Fourth of July parade.
Over on the west shore of the Bay, the village of Wickford defines the word “quaint.” We’re talking lovely cottages bedecked with flower gardens, cobblestone streets, and that “wish I lived here in the 1700s” vibe. The Wickford Art Festival, held every year in mid-July, is a popular event.
There’s a breakwater that defines the harbor at Wickford Village, and some marinas offer transient moorings and slips inside. Contact the Harbor Master at (401) 294-3316, ext. 8255, or Hail on Ch. 16. There are some anchorage places available outside the breakwater, and more moorings and slips at nearby Allen Harbor.
Those are just the highlights of Narragansett Bay. You can transit under the Mount Hope Bridge south of Bristol and enter Mount Hope Bay where the Taunton River flows past Fall River, MA, and then empties southward through the broad tidal Sakonnet River into the sea at Little Compton. There are plenty more places to explore here as well.
So bring your boat and have a ‘Gansett! It’s a rewarding cruise destination.