Kayaking in and around New York City: The 10 Best Places to Paddle and Canoe

Admittedly, New York City isn’t the first place to think of when going kayaking. But despite the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, the many waterways and general enthusiasm have made kayaking more possible than ever. No matter if you’re a local or a tourist, you can find a whole lot of places to kayak in New York City.

For more kayaking destinations nearby, check out our post on the best places to kayak in New York State here.

1. Jamaica Bay, NY

Located on the southwestern end of Long Island, Jamaica Bay is home to a multitude of different environments, including a salt marsh and a wildlife refuge. Dotted with islands and sheltered by bridges, this area offers a calm place to experience nature right in the city.

Access to the Bay is easy at the Floyd Bennett Field seaplane launch or the Idlewild Kayak/Canoe launch. Renting a kayak can be easily achieved at Bay Boat Rental or South Shore Kayaks.

2. The Hudson River, NY

The Hudson River is perfect for either shorter or longer kayaks and can cater to paddlers of any skill set. The river extends far beyond the reaches of the city as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean right at the south end of Manhattan. 

The upstream portion provides a distance for longer treks, ideal for anyone with endurance and stamina. The river can be a little crowded with motorized boats within the city itself but is doable for even beginner paddlers. 

As the Hudson comes to empty into the ocean, the waters grow a little choppier than upstream. However, these waters should not reach above a Class 2, meaning even an infrequent kayaker should be capable of staying afloat.

For those who have never kayaked before, going out on the river with a guide is essential. Fortunately, there are plenty of kayak guides and rentals available all along the Hudson. These include Manhattan Kayak Co and Manhattan Community Boathouse. The latter provides free kayaking off of Pier 96 in Hudson River Park.

3. Breakneck Pond, Harriman State Park, NY

Located about an hour north of the city, Breakneck Pond provides the perfect atmosphere for a nature-immersion paddle. The calmer waters are ideal for beginner kayakers and a restful experience for any experienced paddler. The pond is a total of 64 acres, big enough for an entire day out on the waves.

You can find Breakneck Pond within Harriman State Park, which includes trails for hiking. The waters and surrounding shores are home to a variety of birds and animals. Any nature-lover or bird-watcher will love spending a day out on the pond.

You can rent kayaks nearby at Hudson River Expeditions or Annsville Creek Paddlesport Center. 

4. Brooklyn Bridge Park, East River, NY

Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY by Charlie (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Leaving from Pier 2 on Brooklyn Bridge Park, you can kayak right between Manhattan and Long Island, with spectacular views of the city and the Statue of Liberty. The Park itself is located on Long Island in Brooklyn, of course.

Home to a lovely riverfront with plenty of park opportunities for picnics, barbecues, and the like, Brooklyn Bridge Park is a popular spot for all kinds of activities. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and even the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse have free kayaking available from Pier 2, as well as family sessions in the same location. 

These free sessions are normally twenty minutes apiece and only allow for paddling between Piers 1 and 2, where the water is calmest. Between the piers, paddlers are sheltered from stronger currents and motorized boats. This area is one of the best for learning to kayak right in the middle of the city.

If you have your own kayak, it is possible to paddle the length of the East River for a more arduous outing. However, you will be sharing the waters with more boats and higher waves. If you’re not a fan of bobbing past motorized boats, you might want to stay in the Brooklyn Bridge Park area.

The East River is also accessible from Dumbo, Brooklyn launch points.

5. Upper Bay, Governor’s Island, NY

Historic Governors Island New York City

Upper Bay is just where the Hudson and East Rivers meet, home to the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island. Free kayaking is available from Governor’s Island or Pier 26, hosted by the Downtown Boathouse, or Red Hook, Brooklyn.

From any of the launch points, you can paddle into the bay or simply stay around the piers. The further you go into the bay, the more you will have to contend with motorized vessels and powerboats, including ferries and freight so it’s not recommended for beginners on their own.

6. Arthur Kill, NY

If you’re an experienced kayaker and feeling particularly adventurous, you can attempt the Arthur Kill strait between Staten Island and New Jersey. 

Though the water grade is fairly constant as mostly a Class one to Class two experience, the strait is tidal, and there are plenty of obstacles to be wary of. These factors make Arthur Kill unsuitable for beginner kayakers.

Most famous for being a boat graveyard, Arthur Kill is littered with tons of deteriorating boats and ships. Their existence in these waters makes for an eerie and exciting paddle, but they are also dangerous to approach. 

To kayak at Arthur Kill, you must be aware of all safety regulations and stick to the proper zones to ensure you and your crew remain safe. 

Carrying a VHF marine radio in case of an emergency is a good idea. Arthur Kill is an industrial shipping channel that often has large ships traveling up and down its length. If you attempt this paddle, it’s vital to remain vigilant and stay out of the way of all motorized boats for your safety. 

Arthur Kill can be accessed by the Woodbridge Municipal Ramp or Carteret Waterfront Park, both in New Jersey.

7. Old Place Creek, Staten Island, NY

Old Place Creek on Staten Island can eventually lead you out towards Arthur Kill or further inland towards the wetlands. This creek is the perfect place to get away from motorized boats or freight carriers, providing you with a gentle water experience surrounded by nature.

Accessed by the Old Place Creek Access Kayak Launch Site, the creek lets you explore 70 acres of the Old Place Creek Tidal Wetlands Area. 

Though there is no kayak rental place at this site, it is ideal for learning to paddle under the instruction of a guide. Intermediate and experienced paddlers will enjoy a relaxing, lazy kayak in either direction.

 The creek is a slow-moving, shallow body of water that bleeds into the tidal wetlands. You can experience all kinds of wildlife in this area, including waterbirds, wading birds, fish, and other aquatic animals. 

8. Freshkills Park, Staten Island, NY

Further south along Staten Island is the Freshkills Park. Another marshland, the Freshkills takes you through the restored former landfill and empties into Arthur Kill beyond. You can explore the inland rivers of Neck Creek, Springville Creek, or Vreeland’s Creek from the Main Creek access with ease. 

The Freshkills Park Alliance provides a free kayak tour of two miles into the Freshkills waterways. Perfect for beginner to intermediate paddlers, the tour takes you through wildlife habitats where you could spot ospreys or painted turtles.

More experienced paddlers can travel up and down the interior wetlands for as long as they please, with gorgeous restored views and quiet, undisturbed waters.

9. Great Peconic Bay, Long Island, NY

Sunset along the beach at Towd Point in Southampton, Long Island, New York.

The Peconic River empties into the Great Peconic Bay at the east end of Long Island. This sheltered spot is larger than any pier-to-pier experience, so you can easily spend an entire day out on the water. 

There are larger waves in the bay thanks to winds that come off the ocean but fewer motorized boats to share the water with. You can easily learn how to kayak or explore the bay and its neighboring marshland to your heart’s content. 

The water gets very still at sunrise or sunset, so if you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing paddle, those are your best times to get out in your kayak.

You can easily rent a boat from Peconic Paddler or Long Island Canoe Kayak Rentals and launch from the Peconic River Park Access point just upstream of the bay.

10. Long Island Sound, NY

The Atlantic Ocean between Long Island and the state of Connecticut provides a huge open area for sea kayaking. You can either travel along the coast of Long Island or attempt to paddle straight across the sound into Connecticut.

Along both sides of the sound are plenty of sheltered bays or marshes that are better suited for river kayaks. If you go out into the sound proper, a sea kayak will keep you more stable on the ocean.

The bay areas of Long Island provide plenty of launch points for you and your party. You can also find rental stores along the park area, including JK Kayak.

Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in New York City

Whether you’re just getting into the kayaking game, or you’ve been at it for years, there are plenty of options around New York City for a great paddle.

From ponds to rivers, wetlands to the Atlantic ocean, whatever waterway strikes your fancy, you can get out on the waves and paddle to your heart’s content.