About this Itinerary
The East Bay Bicycle Path (EBBP) is a scenic, 14-mile paved rail-trail that hugs the shores of Narrangansett Bay between Providence and Bristol in Rhode Island. This pathway offers trail users stunning views of the bay and marinas as it trundles past coves and marshes, weaves in and out of neighborhoods and connects to several parks and conservation areas. The multi-use trail is popular with families and recreationalists of all ages. It regularly intersects minor urban roads and several intersections require a full stop. If you are a cyclist looking for a fast, uninterrupted ride, consider another route. For the trail user interested in a relaxed slice of nautical New England life, however, the East Bay Bicycle Path is an excellent choice.
The EBBP was developed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation on the former rail bed of the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad. There are many amenities along the trail which make it easy to relax on a bench, enjoy a lemonade slushy, ride a carousel, or dine on a patio overlooking the marina. As the trail is along the bay, however, the chances are pretty good that you will encounter strong winds during your ride so you will want to plan accordingly. Providence is home to several bicycle shops and Dash Bicycle and NBX Bikes are two that offer rental packages.
There are numerous modern hotels in downtown Providence; see the Providence Visitor Bureau’s website for a thorough listing. For a hotel with a historical twist (built in 1911 and once a brothel), check out the hip Dean Hotel; while there, walk a block to the visitor information center if you need assistance deciding which of Providence’s copious attractions to take-in . There are also boutique inns, such as the historic Christopher Dodge House B&B, an 1858 three-story brick Italianate mansion located just outside the downtown district.
The northern terminus of the East Bay Bicycle Path is at Providence’s India Point Park. Turn left into the park and look for the trailhead on the right; a ramp leads up to the bridge crossing the Seekonk River where the path begins as a separated corridor alongside traffic. The park, built on scrap metal yards, was originally a port for trading ships bound for the East and West Indies in the 1700s. With the arrival of the rail line in 1855, it became a debarkation point for new immigrants to America.
It is actually easier to start the EBBP about a mile down the trail in East Providence where there is a large free parking lot next to the path off of Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. To the west you see Bold Point Park and Fort Hill, the site of the remains of military defenses dating back to the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The trail parallels the parkway for a mile before the old rail corridor slices between Watchemoket Cove and Providence River for a half-mile-run. A half-mile farther is an intersection with Squantum Road which, if followed east, takes you past Squantum Woods State Park, the third of eight parks in the vicinity of the East Bay Path.
The EBBT veers inland throughRiverside, a southern neighborhood of East Providence and 4 miles from Indian Point. Its Crescent Park Amusement Park, which operated from 1886 to 1979, was a major tourist attraction during the early 20th century. The only part of the park that remains in operation today is the Crescent Park Looff Carousel, built in 1895 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is worth the half-mile detour from the trail (head west on Crescent View Avenue) to appreciate the beautifully carved figures and a few moments of nostalgia. While there, you can also enjoy a cup of clam chowder at the Blount Clam Shack.
Continuing south down the peninsula, the trail stays inland, leaning eastward toward the first of Rhode Island’s East Bay towns, Barrington. A half-mile beyond the intersection with Crescent View Avenue in Riverside, the EBBT passes through Barrington’s Haines Memorial State Park. There are restroom facilities, a boating ramp and playing fields; it is also the site of a seasonal farmers market. Next, keep a look out for Barrington’s Brick Yard Pond in Veterans Memorial Park. This pond was once a clay pit whose deposits supplied a strong local brick industry. If you are riding the trail on a weekday, East Bay Paddle will deliver kayaks to you right at the pond— a great chance to paddle calm waters and explore the area’s wildlife.
Crossing the Barrington and the Palmer Rivers, you enter the historical whaling port and ship-building town of Warren(mile 10). At the boundary of the two towns, the EBBT touches the site of the Massasoit’s village where Providence’s founder, Roger Williams, was sheltered in 1635 during his flight from the Massachusetts’ authorities. Warren claims to have one of New England’s oldest working waterfronts and, with 16 miles of shoreline, you’ll definitely want to leave the trail for a stretch to wander down its charming seaside streets. Take Market Street west a block to get to Main Street or two blocks to Water Street for boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and eateries.
Even if you aren’t hungry yet, you might reconsider this as you pass Eli’s Kitchen on Market Street. It offers a delectable menu featuring locally sourced goods from the region’s diverse artisanal market. The Coffee Depot is on Main Street if you just need a quick jolt of energy. For a more leisurely sit-down with a bay view, there are lots of options on Warren’s waterfront including the long-standing Wharf Tavern. Staying on the trail, past Market Street, you’ll see the ice cream shop Fruity Cow and a lemonade slushy stand, Del’s Lemonade.
Before leaving Warren, dip your toe in the river at Town Beach at the southern end of Water Street or just stop at Burr’s Hill Park for a scenic water view and, perhaps, to hear some live music coming from the park’s band shell. The path goes through a tunnel at Bridge Street. The EBBT begins to border Jacob Points Salt Marsh and intersects with another path that leads east to the Rhode Island Audubon Society's Environmental Education Center. (Just under a mile beyond the tunnel, look for an intersection marked by bike racks.) The center, situated on the 28-acre McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, has walking trails with a quarter-mile boardwalk that winds through fresh and saltwater marshes. It also features a state-of-the art natural history museum and aquarium.
The EBBT continues another 2 miles along Bristol’s waterfront to the entrance to Colt State Park. If you have to choose just one of the parks along the EBBT to explore off trail, this might have to be the one. Many consider this park to be the state’s finest, with its western border an open panorama to Narragansett Bay and hundreds of acres of lawns, trees and gardens as well as four miles of bike trails. Follow Asylum Road west to the park entrance. While there, visit the Coggeshall Farm Museum at the southern end of the park; this is a working farm and living history museum depicting agrarian life during the late 1700s.
Back on the East Bay Path, you are just 2 miles from the trail terminus at Independence Park at Bristol Harbor. Thank the sea gulls and keep an eye out for broken clamshells on the path. There are public restrooms at the park. Stretch, breathe in the sea air and get ready to explore Bristol, another historical and charming seaport town. Founded in 1680, Bristol is famous for holding the oldest Fourth of July Parade in America and for its enduring passion with sailing and ship building. The Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame pays tribute to this maritime legacy. Bristol’s well-preserved historic waterfront district, beginning at Thames and Hope Street, is full of architectural gems and historical buildings. The museum is a mile down Hope Street from the trail terminus; on the way there, expect ample distraction as there are restaurants, galleries and unique specialty shops aplenty.
If your energy-reserves are low, you are in luck as the Beehive Café is just beyond the trail terminus at Independence Park. It is open for breakfast and lunch daily and serves dinner Thursday through Saturday. If not in a hurry to eat, it is worth investigating Bristol’s eclectic range of culinary offerings. Quito’s, also at Independence Park, is on the bay and offers sea food fare in a cozy and low key setting. La Central is a popular neighborhood restaurant open for lunch and dinner, and Persimmon is fine artisanal dining at its best.
You may be heading back to Providence for a round-trip day ride. If the opportunity to book a harbor tour, go fishing, or visit the Blithewold Mansion Gardens & Arboretum is too tempting, however, you’ll be looking for overnight accommodation. The Bristol Harbor Inn on Thames Street offers a waterfront setting that is hard to beat and houses the historical DeWolf Tavern. Also in the historical district is William’s Grant Inn, a Colonial Federal style home built in the early 1800s by a sea captain. I’d linger if I were you.
Founded in 1636 as one of the original 13 colonies of the United States, Providence is chock-full of early American historical sites to explore today. Add to this the city’s more recent emphasis on art, culture and education and you have many places, events and attractions to visit. Begin your adventures by taking a self-guided walking tour of the eastside neighborhood and the oldest section of the city.