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 are core destinations for the center’s on-the-water programming.

Got an idea for your scout troop or community group? The Onset Bay Center is happy to work with you to develop a program that will get everyone outside. Our on-the-water programs were created to follow all COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the state. To discuss options, please contact the OBC Director, Kat Garofoli, at garofoli@savebuzzardsbay.org or by phone at 508-999-6363 ext. 227.

Onset Bathhouse Headquarters

The renovated Onset Bathhouse opened as headquarters for the Onset Bay Center in late June 2020 and immediately began serving as the base of operations for a full slate of outdoor programs for children adults and families.

The Coalition transformed 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.

The Onset Bathhouse officially opened 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 offers a full range of outdoor and on-the-water programs, including sailing, kayaking, swimming, and exploration of the coastal environments encompassed by the Onset Bay Center. Details on upcoming programs can be found at the Onset Bay Center web pages and on our calendar of events page. Also, Nemasket Kayak operates from the ground floor of the Onset Bathhouse headquarters.

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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: