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Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

The best free kayaking NYC families love

Suit up for the best free kayaking NYC has to offer. Summer is incomplete without a few East River paddle sessions!

Written by
Danielle Valente
Allie Early
Hannah Doolin

Getting out on the water is one of the best ways to beat the summer heat. The fact that you can do it without paying a dime, that's just icing on the cake. 

At the best free kayaking NYC has to offer, the whole family can get in a little paddling or canoeing at boat houses around the city's waterways. Get out on to the Hudson River with the Manhattan Community Boathouse or on to the East River at Pier 4 Beach and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Red Hook, North Brooklyn and Staten Island have free kayaking set ups, too. If you've never kayaked before (and even if you have), the crew will get you and your little ones oriented and get you into a life vest just in case. Some of the boating opportunities are open to the public daily while others occur only on certain days of the week or during special events. And, while some allow sign ups on site, others require advance registration to secure a spot. Kids (in some cases, anyone under the age of 18) require a an adult guardian to participate. 

If you're craving more outdoor fun for you and the fam this summer, you're in luck: NYC is home to some of the best outdoor activities for kids. Head out just an hour or two beyond the boundaries of the city and you'll find even more to including great family weekend getaways and PYO adventures in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Free kayaking NYC families love

North Brooklyn Boat Club
Photograph: Courtesy North Brooklyn Boat Club

2. North Brooklyn Boat Club

No need to escape the city to paddle in a 25-foot canoe. There are some right in the city that journey down Newtown Creek, often out toward the East River! Unlike kayaking, this experience encourages visitors to get to know their neighbors on a teamwork level (you are sharing a boat, after all). The North Brooklyn Boat Club boasts different opportunities in a variety of locations: The Barge at Milton St and the East River includes kayaking and canoeing, Manhattan Ave Street End Park and Dutch Kills offer canoeing and Annable Basin works in tandem with Long Island City Community Boathouse to offer both canoeing and kayaking. In order for children to participate in the fun, they must have an adult sign a waiver and share a boat with them. Minors must be over 4’10″ tall to enjoy the kayaks. 

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Kayak Staten Island
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + Zbysiu Rodak

3. Kayak Staten Island

So what's the best recipe for a fun summer afternoon? Borrow a life-jacket, paddle and snag one of KSI’s sit-on-top kayaks! Kids are free to oar around a delineated embankment area in the bay for 15 minutes at a time, and are welcome to get back in line if they fancy a second voyage (which they most likely will). Don’t worry about the waves—experienced rowers are in the water to help if paddlers start to feel anxious. All kayakers under 18 must have an adult present who must sign a waiver on their behalf.

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Hudson River Park
Photograph: Courtesy Downtown Boathouse

4. Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park offers two great opportunities for visitors who are anxious to start paddling. Pier 96 provides free kayaking with advanced reservations organized by Manhattan Community Boathouse. Park-goers can take advantage of 20-minute free rentals on weekends. 

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Red Hook Boaters
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

5. Red Hook Boaters

From Red Hook's dining scene to its family-friendly activities, the Brooklyn fishing town has a heavy focus on the water. Since 2006, adventurers have taken in the city from a new vantage point thanks to Red Hook Boaters' complimentary first-come, first-serve kayaking service. All that's required is putting your name on a list. From there, members of the organization will provide safety tips and equipment before paddlers make your way into the water of the Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park, which is a protected area. Note that kids under 14 cannot use the kayak without an adult. There isn't storage space available, so leave the valuables at home. 

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