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Photograph: Etienne Frossard

Free kayaking in NYC for outdoor adventure and gorgeous city views

Take to the city’s waterways and enjoy some free kayaking in NYC

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about summer in the city, but when you need to beat the heat, why not give free kayaking in NYC a try? We’ve got plenty of water, from the Hudson River to the East River, and these waterways offer some of the best views of many of New York’s attractions.

If you own your own kayak, you’re all set to paddle. For the rest of us, there are many organizations around the city that aim to reconnect urbanites to nature and the aquatic ecosystems that surround us. Groups of boaters and paddling enthusiasts lead small groups around New York’s waterways, offering a cool, relaxing and educational adventure. Best of all? It’s free!

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island City all have boating opportunities for you this summer. Most are first-come-first-served or by reservation only, so be sure to check before you head out. After all that paddling, you can absolutely treat yourself to a hearty NYC brunch afterwards.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do outside in NYC

Free kayaking in NYC

  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Greenpoint

Located at the tip of Greenpoint, Brooklyn boaters offer free canoeing and kayaking throughout the warmer months from 51 Ash Street by the Pulaski Bridge. Walk up paddle days are typically the second and fourth Saturdays of the month (check the calendar for details). You can also volunteer to become a deckhand or a trip assistant if you have a good amount of experience and training.

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Red Hook Boaters
  • Sports and fitness
  • Red Hook

RHB’s upstanding coordinators have a double purpose: Get urbanites out on the water and help breathe life back into Brooklyn’s aquatic ecosystem. Like many other organizations, RHB has a free walk-up kayaking program—but there are no idle hands here. While you’re waiting for your turn at Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, volunteers have gloves and trash bags available, so you can pitch in with RHB’s ongoing mission to pick up refuse on the beach. Knowing that you’re helping keep the area thriving will make your 15-to-20-minute paddle in RHB’s protected cove all the sweeter.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Tribeca

The granddaddy of NYC’s free-kayaking scene, Downtown Boathouse offers gratis walk-up outings on Pier 26 and walk up kayaking on Governors Island. Once you’ve signed a waiver and donned a life jacket, you can take your kayak out in designated areas for 20 minutes at a time—or longer if others aren’t waiting. The schedule is by far the best at Pier 26: Free kayaking is offered on weekends and holidays from 10am to 3pm until October.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Staten Island

For a decidedly less urban paddling experience that’s still within the five boroughs, hop the ferry to Staten Island for free kayaking on Sundays. Wait for one of KSI’s Sit-on-Top kayaks (similar to traditional ones except you seat yourself in a depression on top of, instead of inside, the hull) at the company's new location at 850 Page Avenue. From there, you’re 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 you fancy a second voyage. Don’t worry about the waves—experienced rowers are in the water to help if you get tripped up.

  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Hell's Kitchen

Head out to the Hudson River for a chance to enjoy some time on the water. Reservations are required. After you sign a waiver and strap on a life vest, climb into your kayak from the water-level floating dock and float away for 20 minutes. You will get wet, so wear the right clothing (and try not to drink anything)! You can also volunteer to help out at the boathouse as well as become a member by making a donation of $20 or more.

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