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Kayaking in Connecticut: 10 of the Best Places to Paddle

Connecticut might not be the first state to pop into your head if you’re thinking about your next kayaking adventure. However, the state is full of pristine national parks with lakes and rivers that are perfect for any level of kayaker. You shouldn’t overlook Connecticut just because it isn’t famous for kayaking. 

In this article, we’ll go over 10 of the best places to kayak in Connecticut. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an expert; we’ve done the hard work for you and picked the best spots to hit the water. Whether you’re planning a vacation with the family or a river trip with friends, Connecticut’s excellent kayaking is waiting for you. 

1. Mystic, CT

Mystic, Connecticut by R Boed (CC BY 2.0)

Situated on the Connecticut coast, the historic town of Mystic has plenty of options for kayaking enthusiasts looking for their next adventure. Several islands and islets dot the area as you paddle out onto Mystic River, including Mason’s Island and Sixpenny Island. However, the waters do get pretty choppy on the Mystic River, so you might not be ready if you haven’t got a ton of kayaking experience. 

Kayaking the Mystic River is a relaxing way to take in the historic buildings and monuments the town has to offer. You can paddle either way on the Mystic, so if you’ve already been once before, then it might be time for a second go-round in the other direction. There’s a quiet launch area near the highway bridge where you can take off. Otherwise, you can follow the local boats out onto the water. 

Mystic has a few different options in terms of kayak rentals in the area, and Adventure Mystic offers tours and equipment rentals at reasonable prices. It’s located right on the banks with direct launch points up and down the river. 

2. Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven, CT

Lighthouse Point Park, CT by Versageek (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you’re looking for relaxing and idyllic scenery as a backdrop to your next kayaking trip, then look no further than Lighthouse Point Park. Located near New Haven, CT, this park offers its guests plenty of activities for a family with young children or novice kayakers looking for a beautiful nature getaway.

You can rent out an open space in the park for a barbeque after a full day on the water or take part in one of the marine biology programs about the wildlife in the area. The waters near Lighthouse Point Park are fairly tranquil for most of the year. Still, it’s always best to check in with a park ranger before heading out to make sure your skill level is up to the task. 

If you don’t have a kayak, you can participate in one of the tours offered by New Haven Parks and Recreation and Trees Department Outdoor Adventure. The qualified and knowledgeable rangers are there to teach you everything you need to know about kayaking, including safety and proper techniques to use while on the water. 

3. Farmington River, CT

Farmington River, CT

Offering a mix of activities for a range of experience levels, Farmington River is one of the most popular kayaking spots in all of Connecticut. It’s a tributary of the Connecticut River, with several different water types, including peaceful and raging up to Class 3 rapids. 

Most kayakers in the Farmington River launch from Satan’s Kingdom Recreation Area (we swear it’s kid-friendly despite the name!) The river can get pretty busy in the summertime, with tubers, white water rafting, and kayakers alike taking part in the many different watersports available. Be sure to show up early to hit the water before the tour groups show up!

If you need a kayak, there are a few different rentals to choose from that are dotted along the Farmington River. One of the best-rated ones is Collinsville Canoe and Kayak, which offers very reasonable rates for full-day rentals. Tell them we sent you!

4. Bigelow Hollow Park & Nipmuck State Forest, CT

Bigelow Hollow State Park by Morrow Long (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another one of the amazing national parks that Connecticut offers, Bigelow Hollow Park & Nipmuck State Forest, has several water bodies for you to explore with your kayak. The combined forested area is just south of the Massachusetts border and encompasses Mashapaug Lake and Bigelow, Griggs, and Breakneck ponds. 

The 300-acre lake is one of the largest in Eastern Connecticut, providing kayakers with plenty of space to roam around. After a couple of hours of kayaking, you can come back to land to enjoy a soothing nature hike on one of the many trails in the area. 

There aren’t many kayak rental places close to the park, so you may need to bring your own to explore the lake and ponds fully. This is a fantastic spot for bigger groups, so be sure to invite your friends along for the ride!

5. Pattaconk Lake Recreation Area, CT

Located in the Cockaponset State Forest, the second largest forested area in Connecticut, the Pattaconk Lake Recreation Area is a popular destination for kayakers and anglers alike. You can head out onto the tranquil waters and sit for hours, catching Largemouth bass, Channel catfish, and Yellow Perch. 

If you’re new to kayaking, then Pattaconk is an excellent place to improve your skills. The water is incredibly peaceful on clear days, while rainier days can provide a bit of challenge. However, if you want water that will fight you every step of the way, then this park probably isn’t for you. Whether you’re relaxing on your kayak or hiking the several forested nature trails in the park with friends or family, there’s a lot for you to do!

There are over 100 launch points around the lake, with many small kayak rental services available to help you get out there. Choose one that’s closer to your car park, so you don’t have to tire yourself out later in the day. 

6. Quinnipiac River, CT

Quinnipiac River, CT by Arthur Dutra IV (CC BY-SA 2.5)

One of the iconic rivers of Connecticut, the Quinnipiac River, extends from Dead Wood Swamp all the way through New Haven Harbor. It’s a local hotspot for kayakers looking to take in the area’s historic scenery and unique ecosystem. 

In terms of required skill, the Quinnipiac River is generally very peaceful. It’s perfect for beginners but also has enough length to interest experts as well. According to many of the locals, it’s a new experience every time they hit the water. 

Because the Quinnipiac is so popular with tourists, many different kayak rental services are available along the river. One of the best is inside the Quinnipiac River Marina, where they offer four-hour rentals or half-day tours with one of their experienced kayak instructors. 

7. Squantz Pond State Park, CT

Squantz Pond State Park by Fbarczak (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Located about ten miles north of New Fairfield, Squantz Pond State Park is a popular spot for families and friends to enjoy nature year-round. Flanked by beaches, the large pond at the park’s center offers a beautiful opportunity for novice kayakers to get some experience under their belt. 

You can head straight out from the idyllic beaches onto the water with a kayak in hand; no need to drive through the park. However, keep in mind that there are only 250 parking spots available, and once those fill up, the park closes to more guests. So, plan to come early to beat the crowds, and you should have the whole pond to yourself for a little while. 

If you’re looking to rent a kayak, there aren’t too many options in the immediate Squantz Pond area. Just outside Bridgewater, though, is Gerard’s Marina. The staff there can get you set up with whatever you need, and it’s just a short drive back to the park from the shop. 

8. Candlewood Lake, CT

The largest lake in Connecticut, Candlewood Lake, is an incredible spot for kayakers, beginners or veterans, to explore. It features numerous inlets and smaller lakes that make the whole experience exciting and new every time. There is also plenty of space to find your private bay, so bring some friends to chart a new course to a hidden paradise!

Although experts might not have this problem, beginners often struggle in Candlewood Lake with wake from boats in the water. Lattins Cove boat launch is a great jumping-off point to solve this issue. It’s a no-wake zone, so you and your friends can head out with little to no effort. However, it’s a big lake, so if you’re more experienced, you might want to launch from another location. That way, you can get the challenge you’re craving!

Renting a kayak at Candlewood Lake is easy. The lake is right next to Squantz Pond, so you can simply head on over to Gerard’s Marina as well for all of your equipment. Remember, show up early to beat the crowds!

9. Mount Tom State Park, CT

Mount Tom State Park is located just outside Litchfield. It’s a popular place for picnicking and swimming during the summer months.

The park is well known for its hiking trail that leads to Mount Tom Tower. The stone observation tower sits atop the summit of Mount Tom, which at 1,325 feet above sea level is 125 feet taller than its Massachusetts counterpart. The trail to the tower is less than a mile long. You can take in views of the Catskills, Mount Everett, and Long Island Sound from the tower.

Mount Tom is one of the oldest parks in the state system and was established in 1915.

But kayakers are, of course, looking for water. They’ll find it at Mount Tom Pond. The pond is a popular destination for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and even scuba diving.

Mount Tom can get crowded on the weekends, so get there early on holidays. The park offers kayak rentals on site.

10. Bluff Point Coastal Reserve, CT

Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve lies in Groton, just across the Poquonnock River from the airport. Landside, the park area itself isn’t much–really just a parking lot at the boat ramp. There is a nice hiking and nature trail, too, if you want to stretch your legs before or after your paddle.

But once you hit the water, the scenery improves dramatically. Head downriver towards Long Island Sound, and you’ll arrive at some shifting sandbars. A thin barrier island protects the river from the sound. On that beautiful island, you can land and stroll to your heart’s content. Bushy Point Beach and Bluff Point Beach are some of the prettiest, most pristine places you can explore easily along the sound.

If the weather is calm and you’d like to paddle more into the sound, check out Pine Island, opposite the University of Connecticut Southeastern Branch.

Continuing to head east, you can work your way around Mumford Point and into Mumford Cove. The flats and winding sandbars at the entrance to the cove are beautiful and teaming with life.

If you’ve got a ride or are getting tired, you can load on Groton Long Point Main Beach or up the road off of Neptune Drive.

There are no rental kayaks nor an outfitter near Bluff Point Park, so you’ll have to bring your own boat to paddle these quiet and beautiful waters.

Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in Connecticut

We hope you found this list helpful for your next big kayaking trip. The lakes, rivers, and streams in Connecticut are some of the best in the Northeast and are worth checking out with a few friends. 

Don’t hesitate to contact any of the rental companies we’ve listed in the descriptions. They can set you up with whatever equipment you need to start paddling. Otherwise, investing in a high-quality kayak ensures you’ll never have to find a rental again!