Visit by Boat: Bristol, Rhode Island

Text by Tom Richardson of New England Boating and New England Fishing

The Narragansett Bay town of Bristol, Rhode Island, which prides itself on being home to the longest-running Independence Day parade in America, also boasts a lovely waterfront and lots of shops and restaurants. Better still, the town recently opened a Maritime Center, complete with showers, laundry, reading room, free WiFi, ice and other resources for visiting boaters. The facility occupies a former armory and shares space with the harbormaster’s headquarters. Nearby is a long dock for daytrippers. Overnight moorings can be rented for $40 per night, while space at the transient dock is $3 per foot, per night. Arrangements can be made through the harbormaster’s office, and reservations can be made online.

Transient moorings are also offered by Bristol Marine, on the opposite side of the harbor, with launch service available directly to the Bristol waterfront. Dinghies can be left at two locations: the town dinghy dock behind the municipal marina at Rockwell Park, and at Independence Park, at the southern end of the harbor, where the town launch ramp is located.

Yet another spot for daytrippers to dock are the floats at Thames Street Landing, next to the Waterside Bar & Grill.  This float is free to use if you plan to dine at Waterside or the highly acclaimed DeWolf Tavern next door, or if you visit the Landing’s shops. There are at least a dozen eateries within walking distance of the waterfront—far too many to detail here—but some noteworthy mentions include Quito’s, a great spot for seafood in the rough, Aidan’s, a cozy pub with craft ales and authentic Irish fare, and the Bristol Oyster Bar.

Aside from dining, there’s a wealth of interesting things to see and do in this historic town. Bristol was home to the Herreshoff Manufacturing Corporation, which designed and built some of the loveliest sailing and cruising boats in the world under the direction of its founder and groundbreaking naval architect, Nathanael Green Herreshoff. Today, a museum is dedicated to Herreshoff’s legacy and at the northern end of the harbor there are beautifully restored vessels of every size and shape. Visitors arriving by water can dock at the stone wharf in front of the museum, but it’s best to call ahead.

Other area attractions include Blithewold Mansion and Gardens and Colt State Park, where you’ll find walking trails, a beach and picnic facility. And if you carry a bike aboard your boat, you’ll want to take a ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which runs between Bristol and East Providence.

Gregg Marsili, Harbormaster
Bristol Maritime Center (401) 253-1700

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