As the snow melts away, New York City finally becomes a wonderful place to spend time outside. While your mental image of NYC may consist of images of skyscrapers and cramped streets, hidden in the city are pockets of trails, streams, and rivers that make for perfect outdoor adventures. An afternoon spent kayaking in NYC can take you through fresh streams winding through urban settings or in the Hudson River (and most of these areas are free to paddle in!).

What we love about canoeing and kayaking is that it is an activity for everyone: you can be a “natural” without even taking a lesson! That being said, we highly encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of the beautiful scenery in the city, and what better way than on the water? We wrote this guide to our top recommendations for the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in New York City.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking Around NYC

A panoramic view  of kayaking in New York City with the picturesque skyline on the horizon.
Enjoy panoramic views of the city while kayaking the coast!

The Downtown Boathouse

As an all-volunteer non-for-profit with the goal of giving city residents access to outdoor recreational activities, The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking throughout the summer at Pier 26 and Governors Island. With views of the New York skyline and even the Statue of Liberty, this free option makes kayaking around New York City convenient and stress-free!

Pro-Tip: Boats are rented out for 20 minute intervals, but it is usually not busy in the mornings, in which case you can paddle for as long as you want! And if you are over eighteen, you can hop out of the boat and swim too.

How to Get There: Located off West St, between Hubert St and N Moore St.

Hudson River

With over 500 acres of park land, Hudson River Park offers a range of canoeing and kayaking experiences, from free to guided tours (recommended if you are a new paddler). If looking to fill an open afternoon, Hudson River Park will not disappoint; with trapeze on lush open lawns and kayaking the shoreline, it is sure to be an exhilarating time.

If nervous about paddling on higher-speed waters, Manhattan Kayak +SUP offers guided tours from Pier 84 ranging from three to 30 miles, depending on how far you want to adventure. And with views of the Statue of Liberty from downtown and the Empire State Building from Midtown, you’ll want to adventure far.

Manhattan Kayak operates from Pier 84, Downtown Boathouse from Pier 26, and Manhattan Community Boathouse from Pier 96.

Pro tip: Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free kayak rentals on a first-come, first-served basis during the summer and fall!

How to Get There: Visitors can experience the river and tours from three different locations: Pier 96 (cross at W55th Stat Pier 96 in Clinton), Pier 84 (cross at W44th St at Pier 84 in Maritime Entertainment District), or Pier 26 (cross at N Moore in Tribeca at pier 26 in Tribeca). If not driving, the nearest subway stops are 8 Av/W 12 St; W 14 St/9 Av; 11 Av/W 15 St; or 11 Av/ W 18 St on the A line.

Inwood Canoe Club

Offering a number of events throughout the spring and summer, The Inwood Canoe Club is a West Manhattan canoeing organization known for a free public paddling program along the Hudson River. Attendees learn paddling skills, gain access to the city’s waterways, meet other members of the community, and contribute to cleanup efforts along the Hudson’s shore.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the club welcomes the public for guided 20 minute tours of the Hudson River. To cover the insurance associated with your visit, the club charges $4 for one day, or $15 for a season’s worth of kayaking. Having been a staple in the community for 100 years, the Inwood Canoe Club is the place to go for avid canoers and kayakers.

How to Get There: Near Inwood, next to Fort Tryon. If not driving, you can take the A or 1 train to Dyckman Street and walk west toward the Hudson River.

Two blue kayaks rush through the water with the New York skyline behind them in the distance.
Explore the urban outdoors by paddling around New York City! Photo Credit: Kam (Flickr CC)

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Located at Pier 2, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse offers some of the most convenient kayaking in New York City, and a newly redeveloped park creates beautiful atmosphere to experience the river.

The Boathouse has summer programs for kids, and has 50 specially planned trips to make your experience kayaking around NYC great!

The Boathouse offers walk-up kayak rentals and lessons – no experience necessary! This is the perfect choice for families looking for an outdoor adventure, as certain days are specifically set aside for children- and family-focused sessions.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and exit onto Old Fulton St. Take this to the boathouse. If not driving, the park is accessible by several subway lines (A/C, 2/3, 4/5, F, R) and bus routes (B25, B61, B63, B67). Visitors can also arrive via the NYC Ferry at Fulton Ferry Landing.

Kayakers surround New York City's harbors with the New York City skyline on the horizon.

Red Hook Boaters

Located in Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park in Red Hook, the Red Hook Boaters offers free 20 minute kayaking trips beginning early June, first come first serve. This location is protected by the harbor, and therefore is pretty calm paddling- perfect for beginners!

Pro Tip: The kayaks provided by Red Hook Boaters are unsinkable and sea-bailing, meaning water that gets into the boat will immediately drain. Take advantage of this no-risk operation, it is 100% free!

After paddling, kayakers join the volunteer crew in beachfront pickup as a way to pay for their lesson- a pretty great way to get involved with the community!

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and take I-27B south. Take exit 27 onto Columbia st. Scoot over one street west onto Van Brunt St and continue until Van Dyke St, where you will take a right and head down to the pier. follow signs for Ikea Plaza to Coffey St. If not driving, take the B61 to Red Hook and get off at the intersection of Coffey and Van Brunt Street, then walk two blocks west to the park pier.

Sebago Canoe Club

Located on Avenue N and Paerdegat Avenue North, the Sebago Canoe Club is the place for small boat enthusiasts. With the a huge kayak committee, the club hosts numerous events throughout the season, like tours of Jamaica Bay (free on Wednesday and Saturday) and Full Moon paddles.

With sailing, rowing, canoeing, and kayaking, Sebago Canoe Club certainly has it all! If planning to paddle with Sebago more than a few times a month, the membership fee is totally worth it. Members get unlimited access to equipment and use of the club’s cabin Harriman State Park for low cost.

Kayaking around New York City at the “grand-daddy of canoe clubs” is the perfect way to escape the city. Trips do have a low coast, but Sebago Canoe Club gives longer tours (about an hour) and paddles to streams other places do not offer.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and continue along Belt Pkwy until exit 13. Then turn left onto Seaview Ave. If not driving, take the #2 or #5 line to last stop Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College. Connect to the B6 to Flatlands & Ralph Ave.

Kayaking in New York City turns into a fun adventure when you add a sail! Cruise the waves with this kayak-sail hybrid.
Cruise the waves of Jamaica Bay with this kayak-sail hybrid! Photo Credit: Kam (Flickr CC)

The Gowanus Dredgers

Located on 2nd Street in Red Hook, The Gowanus Dredgers have started many projects aimed at making the NYC waterfront safer and more accessible. Although they do very under-appreciated work, they take on the important task of educating the community about the shoreline and avoiding overflow and sewage problems.

Kayaking in NYC with this educational lens, the tour guides are ripe with knowledge on the city and how to help clean these beautiful waters. Said to be a unique experience very different from kayaking the Hudson River, this paddle tour is sure to be an eye-opening experience.

Participants are able to take a 20 minute paddle down the Gowanus Canal for free on Saturdays and Sundays from May through November. During your trip, participants are asked to join in the canal cleanup efforts by removing trash that has washed ashore.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge, then continue on Boernum Pl until you can take a left at Atlantic Ave. Take a right on Hoyt St and then finally, make a left on 1st St. If not driving, take the F or G Line to Carroll Street & exit to front of Bklyn-bound train, cross Smith St. Walk three blocks down 2nd Street to the dock.

Red and yellow kayaks sit on the rocky shore beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a very convenient launch spot for kayaking in New York City.
Access this awesome launch spotlight beneath the Brooklyn Bridge! Photo Credit: Charlie (Flickr CC)

North Brooklyn Boat Club

Located on Newtown Creek between Ash Street and McGuinness Boulevard, the North Brooklyn Boat Club offers both walk-up free paddling sessions in addition to private events for your corporate team or organization.

Paddling tours go through East River and Newton Creek, a tour favored by recent participants Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Murray (no biggie…). The only tour to go into Newton Creek, North Brooklyn Boat Club’s knowledge on this slice of paradise is vast and fascinating. This is a great way to see Manhattan- kids and pets welcome! Memberships for year-round activities are a steal- only $40 per year!

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and continue on 27B until exit 33. Head north on McGuinness rd until you reach Pulaski bridge. The boathouse is right before the bridge. If not driving, you can take the G train to Greenpoint Ave. or 7 train to Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave. Alternatively, B32 or B62 bus to Green St. and Manhattan Ave. or McGuinness Blvd. and Freeman St. will also bring you close to the boathouse.

Salt Marsh Nature Center

  • Location: Brooklyn
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at The Salt Marsh Nature Center

The Salt Marsh Nature Center is Brooklyn’s largest park, with flora and fauna that transforms the urban space. From Gerritsen Inlet, you can paddle through the quiet creeks and marshes for a few miles. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can head all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean or the Rockaways.

NOTE: You’ll need a permit to launch a kayak on your own here. The Nature Center also offers Ranger programs if you really want to expand your nature vocabulary. The Salt Marsh Nature Center is especially loved by families, birdwatchers (American Kestrels spotted here), and photographers.

How to Get There: If driving, take the Belt Parkway to Kings Plaza exit (11N) the go north on Flatbush Ave. Turn left on Ave U and continue west for 10 blocks. Pass East 33rd Street and look for a parking lot on the right. The Salt Marsh nature center is located on the left side of the street. If not driving, take the N, F, B or Q train to the Avenue U stop and transfer to the eastbound B3 bus to Burnett Street and Avenue U.

Paddle board and kayak in New York City to see the skyline in a whole new way.
Paddle boarders and kayakers can enjoy New York City’s views from the water! Photo Credit: Dan Nguyen (Flickr CC)

Kayak Staten Island

Located on South Beach, just beyond the northernmost end of the expansive Boardwalk, Kayak Staten Island is the perfect place for free kayaking in NYC.

Kayak Staten Island is a great local resource and over the years has fostered a community focused on preserving local waters, Signing a waiver is the only thing standing in your way from making a memorable kayak trip this summer.

All equipment is free, and paddle sessions last 15-20 minutes long. This is the perfect place for a last-minute water adventure! Pro tip: Kayak Staten Island is one of the only places open on the island to rent kayaks until 7 pm, the perfect time for a sunset paddle.

How to Get There: If driving, take Belt Pkwy into Staten Island and then exit onto Goethals Rd. Make a U turn underneath the overpass and continue until the river on the right. If not driving, take S78 bus to Hylan Blvd and Page Ave walk south, towards the water, to the end of Page Ave (from Staten Island ferry terminal) .

LIC Community Boathouse

Located on Hallets Cove (31st Street and Vernon Avenue), the LIC Community Boathouse offers free walkup kayaking on weekdays and weekends, with views of Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.

LIC offers a special one-hour paddle to Anable Basin for paddlers 18 years and older. Kayaking some of New York’s more challenging water, this epic journey is a great activity for intermediate paddlers. (Oh, and it’s FREE!)

Besides sponsoring awesome trips to Anable Basin, the LIC Community Boathouse plays a vital role in rejuvenating Long Island City, and educating the community on the local ecology. Said to be the all-around best boathouse for any interest, kayaking with LIC should definitely be on your list this summer.

How to Get There: If driving, take the Queens and head north on Vernon blvd. Turn left on 46th ave and the boathouse will be on the left. Midtown tunnel If not driving, take the #7 subway heading to Flushing / Main Street and get off at stops ranging from Vernon Blvd / Jackson Ave to Queensboro Plaza. At Queensboro Plaza, you can transfer to the N or W to reach points along the East River waterfront.

Flushing Bay

Located at the World’s Fair Marina launch, Flushing Bay is a part of the 160 square miles of connected streams and trails of New York City’s Parks and Recreation. Besides endless streams of water perfect for an all-day adventure, you can also kayak passed Rikers Island, New York City’s main prison facility (we swear, it looks pretty from a distance!).

NOTE: A permit is required to launch your own canoe or kayak, but it is definitely worth it for some peace and quiet on these tranquil waters. And if you need a kayak, Wheel Fun Rentals has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Grand Central Pkwy and take exit 9E towards 25A. Then take exit 14 and turn left onto Linden Pl. Next, turn right on 120th St and then turn left on 18th ave. Take a last immediate left then right and continue until the bay. If not driving, you can take the 7 train to Willets Point, E, F, V & R trains to 71st Avenue past Meadow Lake or bus Q66 to Northern Boulevard.

Double kayaks are a great way to experience New York's waters with friends and family.
Grab a double kayak and explore New York’s waters with friends and families!

Esopus Creek

Esopus Creek offers some of the best intermediate kayaking opportunities in New York. With rugged terrain that flows clockwise around the Catskill Mountains, this day-trip from the city is a must for kayakers who want a challenge. With streams that reach Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, kayaking Esopus Creek is certainly full of scenic views and adventure.

There are several Class II, III, and IV rapids to explore, with launch points off Route 28 in Phoenicia and Allaben. Pro Tip- the further north you go, the more challenging and narrow the waters tend to be, so keep this in mind if a beginner!

Saugerties Marina provides kayak rentals and has guided outings down the lower end of Esopus Creek.

How to Get There: If driving, take FDR Dr. to Harlem River Dr. Then take I-87 N up to exit 20 to get to the marina. If not driving, there are buses and trains that leave from Penn Station and Port Authority that bring you to only a 15 minute taxi ride to the park.

Cold Spring

  • Location: Phillipstown
  • Cost: 3 or 4-hour tours $110
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Cold Spring

Located about an hour north of Grand Central Station, Cold Spring provides the perfect outdoor getaway for kayaking near NYC. With tours up to 4 hours, Cold Spring accommodates all levels, and paddles through the scenic Hudson Highlands.

Participants have the opportunity to see historic Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island, explore Foundry Cove, and paddle through Constitution Marsh to see an amazing waterfall. Longer trips include lunch, but all tours are not free. With so much to see, kayaking around Cold Spring makes a great day-trip for the family.

How to Get There: If driving, head up FDR and continue on I-87N until exit 5, where you will follow signs for Sprain Brook Pkwy N. Continue until exit 5 and take highway 9A into US-9N. Take the exit into 403, and then take the right onto 9D. Continue until Phillipstown and then follow signs to the river. If not driving, there is a Metro Train leaving from Grand Central Station that takes you directly to Cold Spring.

Letchworth State Park

Although it may be a bit of a trek, Letchworth State Park has so much to offer, and is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. With five-and-a-half miles of Class I and II whitewater kayaking down the Genesee River, and some gorgeous waterfalls on the south end, the park is truly a paddler’s paradise.

Because some parts of the river have a quick current, this paddle is best suited for intermediate level kayakers. However, there is still an abundance of quite waters found in the three gorges in the park that are perfect for novice paddlers.

Plus, the park is half an hour south of Rochester, which has lots of cool restaurants and museums to explore. The park also offers rafting, hiking, and hot air balloon rides if looking to add to your kayak adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-80W until you pass Tannersville, then head north on I-380. Continue onto I-81N, and then merge onto I-86W. Continue onto I-390N until you turn left onto Sonyea Rd. The state park is further down the road.

White rocky cliffs and lush green surround this beautiful getaway- a great destination for all abilities wanting to kayak near New York City.
Paddle through the lush green of Letchworth State Park on your next water adventure! Photo Credit: gardener41 (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources for Canoeing and Kayaking in NYC

What to Pack for Canoeing and Kayaking in NYC

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more comprehensive gear list, check out The Ultimate Kayaking Gear List for more ideas on what to bring on your epic water adventures!

Related Links to Kayaking in New York City