Located approximately 32 nautical miles south of Boston, the shallow, protected waters of Duxbury Bay serve as an aquatic playground for all types of boaters. From marsh-lined creeks to expansive sand flats to surf-pounded beaches, Duxbury offers a bit of everything. However, be sure to study a chart of the area and pay close attention to the channel buoys, or you may end up spending more time on the sand than you planned.
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If trailering or cartopping, you can access the bay at several spots, including the Duxbury town landing, in the northwest corner of the bay; Howland’s Landing (on Kingston Bay); and the Kingston town landing near the mouth of the Jones River (see “Names & Numbers” for more detail). Be aware that these are small ramps with limited parking.
The best place for non-residents to launch is the state ramp in Plymouth Bay, which can accommodate boats up to 35’ and has lots of parking. See Names & Numbers for more details on area launch spots for both trailerboats and kayaks.
If arriving by water, you can overnight on one of the town moorings, or rent a slip or mooring at Bayside Marine. Anchoring is also possible in certain areas. Launch service is available via VHF 9 and 10. Again, see “Names & Numbers” for more details on transient options.
Be aware that while Duxbury offers several good restaurants, shops and B&Bs in its pretty waterfront district, the town dock has a 30 minute tie-up limit. In other words, if you simply want to go ashore for a few hours to grab an ice cream, a meal or simply stretch your legs and see the town, you’ll need to arrange for a mooring and launch service.
Of course, Duxbury’s aquatic charms are the real draw, and the best time for newcomers to explore the bay is around the top of the tide. However, be aware that the water drains surprisingly fast on the ebb, so watch the water level and plan an escape route.
On the other hand, plenty of boaters choose to intentionally beach themselves on one of the bay’s sprawling sand flats, such as Browns Bank or the area known as the Cowyard, where they can have a huge stretch of beach all to themselves (at least until the rising tide chases them off). You can dig clams (with a permit), explore the tidal pools or fish the channels for stripers, bluefish or flounder. Just be sure to keep an eye on the tide to avoid being cut off from your boat by the rising water.
Obviously, shallow-draft vessels offer the best mode of transportation for exploring the bay’s flats and backwaters, although those in larger craft can anchor along the channel edges and wade or dinghy ashore in certain spots.
Kayakers are uniquely positioned to enjoy the bay’s shallow waters, especially the Back River, the Bluefish River and the Jones River. ‘Yaks can be rented at nearby Billington Sea Kayak in Plymouth and launched at several spots around the bay, including the town landing, the base of the Powder Point Bridge (parking is available on either side) and Howland’s Landing. Kayakers can also access Kingston and Duxbury Bays via the launch area at the Jones River Landing, on the Jones River in Kingston, as well as the Kingston public landing near the mouth of the Jones River (town sticker required for parking).
A note of caution when kayaking the open bay: Note the forecast prior to setting out, and know your limitations. The bay has a lot of fetch, and strong winds can kick up steep chop, particularly when they blow against the tide. Always plan to paddle back to the launch site with the wind and tide, and carry appropriate safety gear. Additionally, note that Duxbury sees a lot of boating traffic, so be sure to use extra caution when crossing channels, and display some type of flag. Fog can also be an issue, so bring an airhorn or whistle (see: Cold-Water Paddling Tips).
Aside from the aforementioned Cowyard, other popular spots for beaching a boat and going ashore include the backside of the 6-mile-long barrier beach (Duxbury Beach) that extends from the Power Point Bridge to Gurnet Point, and the aforementioned Browns Bank, opposite Saquish Head. Note that the bank disappears at high tide, and many boats have grounded on it when their skippers failed to keep an eye on the channel markers. Make a note of it when running in and out of Duxbury and Plymouth.
Small-boaters and paddlers can also enter the Back River, drop the hook, and dinghy ashore for burgers and ice cream at Blakeman’s, located in the lunchroom of a weathered wooden bathhouse on the barrier beach. Another good spot to visit by small boat is small, family-friendly Ellison Beach, at the foot of Ship Yard Lane, which features a float moored a short distance offshore. The adjacent salt marsh invites exploration, and reveals why Duxbury Bay serves as an important nursery for all sort of marine critters.