About the Onset Bay Center

Everyone who lives on Buzzards Bay should have access to experience the natural wonders of our coast. The Coalition’s Onset Bay Center offers high-quality on-the-water programming for thousands of kids and adults and families every year. Through a variety of outdoor activities such as sailing, paddling, shellfishing, and shoreline ecology, the center will help community members of all ages build a personal connection with our local environment.

The Onset Bay Center draws on a complex of scenic, diverse natural lands on Onset Bay, all anchored and supported by the Onset Bathhouse headquarters on Onset Beach. Protected lands at Wickets Island, Burgess Point, and Shell Point Marshes will be core destinations for the center’s on-the-water programming.

Onset Bathhouse Headquarters

Computer rendering of the final Onset Bay Center

The Coalition is in the process of transforming the 19th century Onset Bathhouse into a 21st century facility that honors the building’s original intent while actively providing educational and community services.

The Coalition is transforming the 19th century Onset Bathhouse into a 21st century facility that honors the building’s original intent while actively providing educational and community services, including:

  • Reconstructing and expanding the original second level to serve as a classroom and gathering space for programs, meetings, administration, and daily gatherings.
  • Boat storage for a fleet of small sailboats, rowboats, kayaks, and SUPs on the main level, just steps from the water’s edge.

These plans were officially greenlighted in 2017, when the Wareham Board of Selectmen signed a 99-year lease of the bathhouse to the Coalition and Gov. Charlie Baker signed the town’s plans into law. Construction on the Onset Bathhouse began in fall 2018.

We are now in the final phase of the project, with finish work taking place during the spring. The Onset Bathhouse will come to life in time for a full slate of programs at the Onset Bay Center for summer 2020.

Wickets Island

people kayaking in Onset Bay near Wickets Island

The Buzzards Bay Coalition purchased Wickets Island in 2016, forever protecting this centerpiece of Onset Bay from development.

The centerpiece of Onset Bay is Wickets Island: a wooded, 4.6-acre island with 40-foot cliffs and sandy shores. In 2016, the Coalition permanently protected Wickets Island with funding support from the Wareham Community Preservation Fund. We’re currently working to restore the island to improve safety, public access, and natural habitats.

In fall 2018, we completed the first phase of improvements, which included the removal of invasive plants, poison ivy, and the dangerous remains of a house. The top of the island is becoming a community picnic area with trails and seating for a one-of-a-kind view of Onset Bay.

Looking ahead, a second phase of restoration will install a float, repair a crumbling stone pier, and replace the staircase to the top of the island.

Burgess Point

Burgess Point will become a core destination for Coalition-led ecology and sailing programs. Youth participating in summer programming will learn how to sail RS Quests, which can hold an instructor and up to four students. With a stable hull and spacious cockpit, these boats are an excellent choice for beginner sailors.

The land on the Point harbors a variety of coastal habitats, including maritime dunes, sandplain heathland, and pitch pine-oak woodlands. Its ecological diversity lends itself to support threatened and endangered species found in Onset.

Shell Point Marshes

Along secluded Shell Point Bay sit nearly 50 acres of rich salt marshes that will become a destination for kayaking, paddle boarding, and small boating adventures. This wide, scenic marsh will be open to both Onset Bay Center program participants and members of the public to paddle, fish, shellfish, and explore.

Onset Bay Center Programming

Four kids and a CBC instructor heading out on a white sailboat with green and white sails.

The Coalition is gearing up for another great summer of sailing, kayaking, swimming, and outdoor exploration on Onset Bay in 2020.

In late June, the Coalition will kick off its first full year of Onset Bay summer programming for youth. The children who participate will discover the best of Onset’s waters and coasts through week-long programs that focus on sailing, kayaking, swimming and shoreline exploration.

Explorers of all ages can also look forward to getting outdoors with the Coalition through a number of exciting Bay Adventures in Onset that will be scheduled this summer, including sailing, paddling, and quahogging. Nemasket Kayak will be open in the ground floor of the Onset Bathhouse headquarters.

Take Action

Become a Member

You can help save Buzzards Bay. Join the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and become one of more than 10,000 members who support our work to protect clean water.

Read More ›

Related Stories

10 reasons why 2019 was another great year for Buzzards Bay

As a supporter, you know that Saving Buzzards Bay is accomplished through ongoing pollution cleanup, focused land protection, active restoration and community engagement, in projects and initiatives like these 10 from the past year.

Full Story ›
Staff team hired to lead new Onset Bay Center

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is excited to announce that Katherine Garofoli and Tom Tucker have been hired to serve as the Onset Bay Center’s first Director and Program Manager.

Full Story ›
Wareham kids splash into second summer of outdoor exploration in Onset

This summer, more than one hundred kids will participate in the Coalition’s second summer of the Onset Bay summer program, featuring four weeks of outdoor exploration and discovery through the developing Onset Bay Center.

Full Story ›

Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: