Six Best Spots for Kayaking in Rhode Island
Explore the state's rivers, ponds and shores.
Additional Reporting by Nicole Boucher.
As the Ocean State, Rhode Island might be renowned for its beaches, but it has a lot more to offer than just swimming and sunbathing. With hundreds of miles of waterways, ponds galore and placid bays, it’s a kayaker’s dream come true. Whether you’re completely new to paddling or an old pro, there’s something for all levels of experience.
Upper Wood River
With more than fifteen miles of winding waterways, the Wood River threads through some of the most biologically diverse landscape in the state. The wildlife includes everything from painted turtles and blue herons to beavers and muskrats. Besides the flora and fauna, paddlers can admire the ruins of two mills along the lower section of the river. This trip isn’t for novices — the length of the river and handful of dams can be challenging to newcomers.
Departure: Arcadia Management Area (half trip) or Barberville Dam (full trip).
Rental: Queens River Kayaks, 21 Glen Rock Rd., West Kingston, 284-3945, queensriverkayaks.com.
Not far from Watch Hill, this sandy spit of land is the southernmost point of mainland Rhode Island. Kayak along the shore of Napatree and enjoy views of one of the state’s most unspoiled beaches. If you go ashore, investigate the abandoned fort that sits at its tip, which was built more than a hundred years ago. Sea kayaking is not for everyone, but the semi-protected waters off of Napatree are perfect for paddlers trying to get a taste of the open Atlantic.
Departure: Right behind the shop.
Rental: Watch Hill Outfitters, 157 Main St., Westerly, 596-7217, watchhilloutfitters.com.
Providence’s rivers and canals, with their gondolas and bonfires, have lent the city a certain Old-World charm. Now you can explore these iconic waterways on your own private kayak. Paddle through Waterplace Park, which is the epicenter of festivities during WaterFire. Enjoy a unique view of downtown or skim past the city’s industrial shore.
Departure: Dockside at Waterplace Park, 10 Memorial Blvd., Providence.
Rental: Providence Kayak, Waterplace Park, 10 Memorial Blvd., Providence, 829-1769, providencekayak.com.
Ninigret Pond, a large coastal lagoon, is another great option for paddlers who are giving saltwater kayaking a try. Large and relatively calm, it lets you explore a coastal environment while still staying safe. Foodies will appreciate the thriving oyster and quahog population, and enterprising fishermen are free to ply the waters for everything from striped bass to flounder.
Departure: Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, Charlestown.
Rental: The Kayak Centre, 562 Charlestown Beach Rd., Charlestown, 364-8000, kayakcentre.com.
If a trip to Block Island is in the cards, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the island’s Great Salt Pond. Whether it’s your first time out and you’re just taking it easy, or you’re advanced and adventurous enough to take an ocean kayak out past the pond, it’s a fun water activity that the whole family can enjoy.
Departure: See website for additional information.
Rental: Block Island Fishworks, 40 Ocean Ave., Block Island, 466-5392, sandypointco.com.