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
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.
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 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
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.