Rhode Island is the called the “Ocean State” but it also has a lot inland waterways and coastal salt ponds that are great for stand up paddleboarding. Rhode Island also has four very distinct seasons that help keep the paddleboarding experience fresh, giving you new stuff to look forward to year round. It’s also easy to visit many different places and try different types of paddleboarding in Rhode Island, like surf and open water, all in one day! Here’s a closer look at a few different areas of the state that offer great paddleboarding opportunities.
Open Water Paddleboarding
Open water access in Rhode Island can be had anywhere along the shores and banks of Narragansett Bay and the southern coastline. The best places for access can be beaches, state parks and boat launches. On the upper sections of the bay are numerous coves and islands that can be explored. Goddard Park in Warwick has a great beach to launch from that and one can paddle around Greenwhich Bay for hours and never lose sight of the beach. And just south of Goddard is Sandy Point where you can also launch right from the beach and head across the widest open section of the bay to Prudence and Patience Island. In between these islands you’ll find Coggeshall and Sheep Pen Coves, which are really nice spots to take a break and refuel.
Heading further south down the bay you’ll find Conanicut Island (home of Jamestown), which splits the bay at the mouth into two passages. You can put in at the URI Bay Campus beach to access the West Passage or go across the bridge to Jamestown and put in at Fort Wetherill State Park, Cove 1, to access the East Passage. Heading south from either one will lead to the Rhode Island Sound and the open ocean. Along the way there are stunning coast line features such as Beavertail Point, Bonnet Cliffs, and Mackerel Cove.
Stand Up Surfing
One of the most fun things you can do on a paddleboard is surf. And Rhode Island has a lot of great stand up surfing spots. Narragansett beach offers some easy access and it’s usually about $8/person from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Other great spots to surf include Point Judith, Deep Hole in Matunuck, 1st and 2nd Beach in Newport, and Misquamicut Beach in Westerly. It’s strongly urged that if you are going to surf as a beginner it’s a good idea to take some lessons first and have a good understanding of surf etiquette and the nature of the water in the area you plan on going to. Safety first- as always.
Salt ponds are shallow bodies water that usually reside right behind beachheads. They are fed by the tides, rivers and streams. Some of the best flatwater paddleboarding can be had at these areas. Ninigret Pond is one of the most well known spots. It’s about 4 miles long and sits right behind Charlestown beach.
Another awesome salt pond is Point Judith Pond that is also about 4 miles long and has many islands and harbors. It also connects to Potter Pond that sits right behind Matunuck Beach. Good access points for Point Judith Pond are at Route 1 in Narragansett for starting at the north end or at the boat launch in Gallilee for entering the south end. Salt ponds are great places for touring and checking out native wildlife although in the summer they can get quite busy with boat traffic during the weekends.
Other awesome salt ponds to paddleboard on include Westerly’s Winnapaug and Quonochotaug Ponds. It’s also a good idea to check tides, at low tide there might not be enough water to get through certain sections of any given pond.
Tidal rivers in Rhode Island are a lot of fun to paddleboard. Some of the more prominent ones include the Potowomut River, Providence River, Narrow River and the Sakonnet River. The Sakonnet River is easily accessed from Third Beach in Newport and offers a long paddle up towards Tiverton. The current and wind can be quite strong so take it easy when first exploring this area.
Narrow River leads out to Narragansett Beach and starts in Saunderstown (North Kingston). It is another long river with quite a number of boat launches and some harbors. It’s a great place to see a lot of wild life but can also get crowded with boat traffic in the summer especially down towards the Narrow River Bridge and the Narragansett Beach. Again, the current, especially out towards Narragansett Beach can be so strong it will sweep you backwards if you’re not a strong paddleboarder- so do your homework before you go.
Potowomut River runs inland from Narragansett Bay and on the south side of Goddard Park. You can easily access it from Sandy Point beach if you paddle south for a short distance you will find yourself at the mouth of the river. It’s not as long as Narrow River or the Sakonnet but it is quiet and offers a very peaceful and scenic experience.
There are a lot more great places along the coast to paddleboard in Rhode Island and we’ll be getting into those as the summer goes on. We’ll also be posting on our inland adventures including lakes large and small, and rivers, now that we have some awesome inflatable stand up paddleboards. So stay tuned!