Great Places for Free (or, nearly free) Kayaking in NYC
Throughout the summer boathouses and community groups across the city open their doors to the public for open kayaking and guided trips on New York’s waterways. From Staten Island to the Bronx, options abound for the aspiring kayaker. So take a look at the paddling options below and set aside some time to explore. We promise it’ll make your summer.
Photo Credit: Vladimir Brezina
Please keep in mind that the groups we’ve included below are largely not-for-profit organizations who operate with little direct assistance from the city. If you’ve enjoyed your experience on the water please ask how you can support their ongoing efforts.
The Downtown Boathouse
Want to go kayaking with one of New York’s original paddling outfits? Well, you’ll have plenty of opportunities because The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking throughout the summer at a number of NYC locations. Boats can be borrowed for 20-minute intervals and can be used again if others aren’t waiting. If you’re an absolute beginner consider taking one of their Wednesday evening safety classes. More experienced kayakers might appreciate their 3-hour guided trips on the Hudson. You can visit The Downtown Boathouse at Pier 26: Huberts Street and West Street. The Downtown Boathouse season begins mid May at Pier 26. Check out their full schedule at downtownboathouse.org.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
Located between Piers 1 and 2, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse is conveniently situated in the newly redeveloped, and strikingly beautiful, Brooklyn Bridge Park. On Saturdays and alternating Thursdays, the folks at BBPB offer free 30-minute kayaking sessions in the semi-protected waters along the Brooklyn Waterfront. In addition to their walk-up offerings, they also provide a Youth Kayaking Program and Kayak Polo–a Sunday event that brings new and experienced paddlers together to, well, play polo in kayaks. Show up early to enter your name in the lottery. The season at Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse begins in May with a Kick-Off party. To learn more, visit bbpboathouse.org.
LIC Community Boathouse
With the expressed goal of helping to revitalize the Long Island City waterfront, the LIC Community Boathouse is raising awareness about the ecology of the area through paddling and community programing. And while their sunset paddles might not have a particular educational focus, it’s not everyday you can witness the sun setting behind the city while sitting inches above the waterline. If interested in free walk-up kayaking, visit their Hallets Cove location from the beach at 31st Street and Vernon Avenue on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season. If looking for a bit more adventure, sign up for one of their Trip Paddles, which run on varied dates throughout the season. Check out their full schedule of events at licboathouse.org.
Red Hook Boaters
Taking advantage of the area’s protected harbors and undulating coastline, the Red Hook Boaters offer new paddlers an experience that is as safe as it is rewarding. From their home at Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park in Red Hook, the group offers free walk-up kayaking beginning early June. They also offer a number of special events throughout the summer on Thursdays and weekends. While the 20-minute paddle sessions are offered gratis, Red Hook Boaters ask that you help with a bit of beach clean-up afterward. Their full schedule of events is available at redhookboaters.org.
Kayak Staten Island
At their prime location on South Beach, just beyond the northernmost end of the expansive Boardwalk, Kayak Staten Island is the perfect place for free kayaking on Staten Island. During the summer this area is a popular destination for beach goers, so if you’re hoping to borrow a boat expect a short wait. Kayak Staten Island operates on alternating Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm throughout the summer. For their full schedule visit kayakstatenisland.org.
Urban Park Rangers
Back for another season, the Urban Park Rangers have introduced New Yorkers to the wonders of paddling for years. Deftly balancing fun and educational programing, the Urban Park Rangers’s free canoe and kayaking events have built a significant following from Brooklyn to the Bronx. With their offerings running the gamut of Basic Canoeing to the advanced Hudson River Canoe Adventure, the rangers succeed at making access to NYC’s waterways accessible regardless of age or skill level. For their entire schedule, visit nycgovparks.org.
Sebago Canoe Club
Since 1933 the Brooklyn-based Sebago Canoe Club has been a haven for urban paddlers. Drawing membership from throughout the NYC area, the club provides a broad offering of events spanning the year–including open paddles. On select Saturdays and Wednesdays during the summer, borrow from their fleet of canoes and kayaks and explore federally-protected Jamaica Bay from the launch behind their facility on Avenue N and Paerdegat Avenue North. $10 covers the insurance associated with your outing. Once paid-up, you’ll be led by an experienced member of their group on an hour+ tour of this unique estuary. The Sebago Canoe Club is always looking to grow their community, so feel free to ask about membership and exclusive perks like access to their camp on Lake Sebago in Harriman State Park. For more information on the Sebago Canoe Club, visit their site at sebagocanoeclub.org.
The Gowanus Dredgers
Equal parts advocacy and outing group, The Gowanus Dredgers have spearheaded many projects aimed at making the NYC waterfront safer and more accessible. From their launch site on 2nd Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn the group has introduced hundreds of paddlers to canoeing and kayaking during their open Estuary Stewardship Days on select Saturdays and Sundays from May through November. And, if you’re looking to learn more about clean up efforts in the Gowanus Canal, their website offers a wealth of information. To learn more, visit gowanuscanal.org.
Inwood Canoe Club
The Inwood Canoe Club has been a resource for the NYC paddling community for over 100 years. And, in that time they’ve solidified their place as the go-to spot for kayaking in northern Manhattan. On Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the group welcomes the public for guided 20-minute tours of the Hudson River from their boathouse just north of Dyckman Street on Manhattan’s west side. To cover the insurance associated with your visit, the club charges $4 for one day, or $15 for a season’s worth of kayaking. And, if you’d like to get involved, the Inwood Canoe Club is a membership organization that is always looking to grow. To learn more about open paddles and membership perks, visit them at inwoodcanoenyc.org.
North Brooklyn Boat Club
From their convenient location on Newtown Creek between Ash Street and McGuinness Boulevard, the North Brooklyn Boat Club offers a expansive series of events, workshops, open paddles and educational programing throughout the season. And, if you’re interested in learning how to build or rebuild canoes and kayaks, you’ll definitely be interested in checking out their ongoing restoration projects on select days throughout the summer. Open paddles and kayaking take place on varied Saturdays. To learn more, visit northbrooklynboatclub.org.