While New Jersey may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of kayaking destinations, it’s actually got a number of great spots for all kinds of water sports. New Jersey has legendary rivers storied with American history, world-famous beaches and ocean landscapes, and beautiful parks and wildlife refuges.
There are too many to mention in one blog post, but we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best places to kayak in New Jersey to give you some inspiration.
1. The Delaware River, NJ
The Delaware River is one of America’s Great Waters, with a central role in the history, economy, and ecology of the nation, and one of the country’s most popular rivers for recreation. Over 419 miles from The Catskills to the Atlantic Ocean, the Delaware offers calm paddling and tubing, or challenging rapids for more adventurous kayakers, all within easy distance of the big cities of New Jersey.
The most popular recreational access point to the river is from Kittatinny Valley State Park, which offers campsites, outfitters, fishing, and trips and overnight tours for novice or advanced kayakers.
2. The Hudson River, NJ
Up next we have the famous Hudson River which is another legendary river that runs along the border of New Jersey. Starting in upstate in New York, it flows for 315 miles until it meets the Atlantic ocean and it’s this point that we recommend for kayaking.
The kayaking around Liberty Island offers an incredible perspective on one of the most iconic sights in America, the New York City skyline. This is a challenging trip, best for the experienced kayaker as you’re out at sea and the tides and currents can be hard to paddle in.
There are lots of places to hire kayaks from as well as guided tours, but if you bring your own kayak, it must be 13 feet or longer, and have spray skirts, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime view of the iconic American landmark.
3. Atlantic City, NJ
Atlantic City is more frequently associated with casinos and urban nightlife, but the Jersey Shore is just a few meters away, with gorgeous seascapes, an incredible view of the skyline, and all kinds of water recreation. It’s a great way to take a break from your urban city life and hit the water for some much needed downtime.
Jackson Avenue provides public access to the designated kayaking and windsurfing area, and ample outfitters and rentals are available, just walking distance from the busy heart of the city.
4. The Black River, NJ
For those of you looking for some more whitewater rapids, The Black River – also known as the Lamington further down stream – is a great little river to check out. It begins up in Randolph, NJ before eventually flowing into the Raritan River.
It’s very remote at points and even though it’s only a 12 mile river, you can go for hours without seeing a soul as it winds through woods and marshland.
Depending on the water level it’s around a class III as rated by American Whitewater. The section between Coopers Mill and Pottersville is where you’ll want to head for the most fun but check the water level first and watch out for fallen trees which can mean you might have a bit of difficulty.
5. Rancocas Creek, NJ
The Rancocas Creek was a critical waterway for Native Americans and early European settlers, and now wanders through the beautiful Rancoas State Park. While the creek itself is about 30 miles long, the canoe trail offers about 14 miles of quiet pinelands stream to a steeper-banked, slightly more challenging waterway deep in closed-canopy forests.
The area is a paradise for birdwatchers, hosting birds from bald eagles, hawks, and sandpipers, along with beavers, otters, and deer in the forests. While this is a calm and serene kayaking trail, the distinctive color of the water obscures sand bars and obstacles in the stream bed, so some care is required.
The most popular access point is at nearby Mount Holly, but the creek offers multiple access points with outfitters and shuttles available.
6. The Delaware and Raritan Canal, NJ
The 70-mile Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park is a beautiful recreation corridor that once carried goods from New York to Pennsylvania. Today, the corridor connects multiple fields and forests, providing valuable habitat for birds and wildlife.
The canal is deeply historic, offering views of hand-built stone arches, 19th century tinder houses, historic waterworks, and cobblestone spillways. It passes through many of New Jersey’s scenic and historic towns and villages, giving rare views of the past.
Due to its origins as a canal, the water is calm, smooth, and straight, making for a calm and relaxing paddling experience for beginners of all ages. There are multiple access points along the length of the canal, and you can rent boats at places in Griggstown and Princeton.
7. The Mullica River, NJ
Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey park system, covering about 125,000 acres of coastal pine barrens. The forest is the site of a 17th century industrial village, as well as historic buildings and monuments. The forest is home to abundant birds and wildlife, including eagles, hawks, herons, owls, beavers, otters, foxes, and wild turkeys.
The park is crisscrossed with abundant streams and wetlands and ample opportunities for paddling, but most experienced kayakers opt for the Mullica River. The Mullica has a great mix of wide open pools and ponds and narrower, technically challenging passages, and tours and treks are available that last anywhere from 5 hours to multi-day excursions.
The forest also offers camping, hiking, fishing, and tours and interpretive programs for the historic sites.
8. Cape May Harbor, NJ
Cape May Harbor is a fantastic destination for beginning or advanced sea kayakers. There are abundant launch spots, and you can circumnavigate the harbor itself, or head inland to explore the quieter creeks and wetlands.
Advanced kayakers who can manage tougher currents, winds, boat traffic, and tide may want to head up the canal to the gorgeous Delaware Bay, while beginners may prefer to quietly paddle the cape’s protected wildlife areas.
Either way, the site offers multiple public access points (although parking can be a challenge), and there are several tours, guides, and places to rent kayaks too.
9. The Musconetcong River, NJ
Up next we have the Musconetcong River, a 45 mile long river that is a tributary of the Delaware river. It’s incredibly remote as remains largely unaffected by human development with a section of it being designated a National Wild and Scenic River.
As you’ll see in the video above, it’s a calming and serene paddle right in the midst of nature. You might even seen some black bears so keep an eye out and stay safe.
If you do visit this river, be sure to look out for the Musconetcong River Mantis Man, an urban legend in the area that is said to be a humanoid insect creature. Let us know if you see him!
10. Paulins Kill River, NJ
And lastly, we have the Paulins Kill River, a tributary of the Delaware River than flows for 41 miles from its source up near Newton. Despite sounding quite sinister, it gets its name from the dutch word for stream: kill.
For kayakers, it’s a class I – II river with most people launching from the bridge near Stillwater General Store. From there head down stream for 4 miles of flat water although there are still a few dams that you’ll need to portage around.
It’s also a very popular river for fishing having lots of different species of trout and is kept well stocked. It used to be home to Shad but due to the dams that were built in the 18th century they’re a lot rarer to find now. If you catch one you should report it.
Summing Up Kayaking in NJ
From sea kayaking to white water, calm flat water rivers to marshy swamps, New Jersey has a huge range of kayaking experiences available. Whether you want the bright lights of Atlantic City, the majesty of the Statue of Liberty, a trip through Native American and early colonial history, or an escape to pristine wilderness, New Jersey has the paddling adventure for you.
It’s a fantastic kayaking destination for paddlers of all ages and abilities, with excellent services and access to some of the most beautiful places on the east coast.