swim spots

Swim Spots We Love: Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, RI

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!

Contributed by Bridget M.M. Simpson, Adirondack Masters

WESTERLY, RI — The first time I saw the ocean was at Misquamicut State Beach when I was a little girl. About ten years ago, I started making the trek back from northern New York state each summer with my kids. The bathhouse is new and features a daughter-approved play area, there is plenty of sandy beach, and the dune has been left to grow sea grasses.

Bridget Simpson surveys her domain at Misquamicut State Beach (photo by Quinn Simpson)

Bridget Simpson surveys her domain at Misquamicut State Beach (photo by Quinn Simpson)

The beach: The beach features lifeguards, coin-operated hot showers, composting toilets, and a concession stand. A Rhode Island seasonal beach parking pass is well worth it to access all of the state’s beaches and their well-maintained facilities. The Misquamicut lot will fill on a weekend morning—I once went to Mass on a Sunday morning and had to wait until about mid-afternoon to park. After hours, the parking lot is open at no charge and the on-beach cold showers may still be working.

Where to swim: I swim between Paddy’s Beach Bar and the Westerly Town Beach, just past the breakers. The swim area is marked by widely spaced buoys far from shore. I have seen a few boats come close to the buoy limits, but I swim about midway between beach and buoy line. I feel safe, but do pay attention. Past Misquamicut, the beaches are guarded, and I may swim past a few more along Atlantic Avenue this summer.

Water conditions: The guards like my bright tow buoy. I swim in deep water, but I can see the ripples in the sand below me. It is brisk—usually in the mid-to-high 60s—but last summer had days in the low-to-mid 70s. There are occasionally rip currents; I once swam for about a half hour with no progress. It was a good workout, and the guards could tell I was not in distress.

Wildlife: Occasionally, seaweed floats on the water in patches or clouds, and last summer there were a few days in August with periodic moon-jellies. Like small, clear jellybeans, they made the water feel like tapioca. While weird, they only caused a problem when some got stuck in my suit and made me itch. Newer, snugger suits had kept them out. In a race or event, I’d have kept going, but since this was a vacation swim, I swapped my goggles for the sunglasses in my tow float and enjoyed a walk on the beach instead.

The Simpson children enjoy the sandy beach

The Simpson children enjoy the sandy beach

Refueling: My tow float can hold a sundress (in a Ziplock bag), a small snack, and water. I can take a break along the way, and maybe go for clam cakes or a bowl of chowder from Two Little Fish, a great place for lunch just across Atlantic Avenue from the east end of Misquamicut. The dry bag closure can clip around the belt, so I don't have to carry it. Ever so stylish!

Where to stay: Sometimes I make three trips to Misquamicut during the summer. I tent at nearby Burlingame Campgrounds in Charlestown. Sites will book solid on a weekend or holiday, but I risk a walk-in space on weeknights for spur-of-the-moment trips. I check email and fill my cooler on my way to the beach. There are lovely motels and hotels in the area, but I like my cot and tent.

How to join me: I am a solo swimmer, but would be happy to meet up with swimmers when I am in the area. Some trips last a few days, but I have been known to drive down, sleep the night, swim all day, and get back in the car to drive home. Contact Bridget here.

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!

Swim spots we love: Jenness State Beach in Rye, NH

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!

Contributed by Guy Davis, GBM & NELMSC Vice-Chair

RYE, NH — I'm very lucky to live within an easy drive to Rye, NH, and have been swimming at Jenness State Beach—also known as Rye Beach—for the last decade. The north section is also known as Cable Beach (confusing, huh?) because it is the place where one of the the first trans-Atlantic communications cables came ashore in 1874. It's a wonderful venue for open water swimming, but of course as an ocean venue, we need to respect and understand the weather, surf and other conditions and take the appropriate safety precautions. 

Getting there: The beach is about a mile long, with the State Beach parking lot at around the midpoint. This area becomes busy during the summer so my pod usually swims from the north end of the beach, where there is access to the beach and plenty of street parking even during busy weekends, though a short walk might be required on those days. Take care to respect the Rye parking notices and rules; your car wheels must be outside the white lines (completely off the road) to avoid a ticket.

The beach: The beach is protected by rocky headlands at either end but, other than a few rocks close to the state parking lot which are well-submerged except at low tide, generally hazard-free. It is lifeguarded during the summer. The water is usually very clean but sometimes seaweed piles up at one end of the beach so we occasionally need to wade or swim through some of it to the clean water.

Water temperature: The water is cool or cold throughout the summer and can vary widely from day to day depending on wind conditions. When there are consistently strong offshore winds the water can drop into the 50s even at the height of summer and the temperature rarely exceeds the mid 60s. A good proxy for the temperature you can expect is the reading at NOAA's Wells buoy.

Most of our pod swims in a wetsuit throughout the season, but we have a few hardy “channel” type swimmers who swim skins for most or all of the year.

Surf: Rye Beach is a popular surf spot. The beach conditions can be checked on the surf cam of the local surf shop. Surf conditions vary a great deal from dead calm to over head-high, so checking ahead is a good idea. When surf is up, we make sure to swim outside the surf line and away from the surfers for calmer water and to avoid any risk of collision. On these days, particular care needs to be taken when swimming out through the surf or back into the beach. Getting through the surf can be challenging, so be sure to swim within your experience and capabilities. Although uncommon at Rye, riptides are always a consideration in ocean beach swimming, so take care to understand these and other hazards of ocean swimming. Consulting with the lifeguards and letting them know of your swim plans is always a good idea when swimming in a less familiar venue.

Boats: Boat presence is very unusual, but on calm days a couple of fishing boats may approach the shore, usually at the ends of the beach.

Wildlife: There has never been a recorded “big fish” incident on NH beaches and I have never heard of any jellyfish problems from local swimmers.

When we swim: We swim fairly regularly on Saturday and Sunday mornings at about 7am throughout the summer. Come join us! (If you need more information, check out the Great Bay Masters group on Facebook.)

Please note: These swims are informal, unsanctioned, and at your own risk.

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!