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Free kayaking in NYC for outdoor adventure and gorgeous city views

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

Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Shaye Weaver

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!

NYC Parks also hosts one-off free kayaking and canoeing events throughout the summer! 

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, treat yourself to a hearty NYC brunch.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do outside in NYC

Free kayaking in NYC

  • 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-4:30pm, no reservation needed.

Fun fact: It's the world's largest free kayaking program.

  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Hell's Kitchen

Head out to the Hudson River for a chance to enjoy some time on the water, no reservations required, courtesy of Manhattan Community Boathouse.

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. Kayaks are available on Saturday and Sunday, 1-6pm; and on Monday-Tuesday, 5:30-7:30pm.


All ages and skill levels are welcome at Long Island City Community Boathouse's free paddling sessions hosted on Saturdays at Hallets Cove. This free, walk-up paddling program offers a chance to explore the sheltered waters of Hallets Cove, from the beach at Vernon Blvd. at 31st Ave. Sit-on-top kayaks are available, and canoes are often an option (depending on wind velocity). 

A few tips: You must be able to swim. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Be sure to wear clothing and footwear that can get wet. 

Here's the full schedule.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Manhattan

Now is the time to take a kayak out in the majestic shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. On the East River Wednesday and Thursdays, from 5 pm-7pm, Saturdays from 10 am-3pm and Sundays from noon-2:30 pm. Advance registration is now required. 

Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse kayakers can paddle off Pier 4 Beach for 20 minutes with stunning views of the NYC skyline. They'll provide the boats, paddles, and life vests; you do the paddling.

  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Greenpoint

Located at the tip of Greenpoint, the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse offers public paddling from Manhattan Avenue Street End Park. Join trained guides for short trips in a canoe on Newtown Creek and often out toward the East River, where your group can pause to take in the view of Manhattan. Here's the 2023 public paddle schedule.

The boathouse also offers kayaking trips for all skill levels, with boats and equipment provided. Check out the calendar for details.

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.

Head to Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier for free, public kayaking offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Programming open on Thursday evenings, Saturday afternoons, and Sunday afteroons (find the full schedule here). After you explore the cove on a short paddle, you can join the group in its beach cleanup. Knowing that you’re helping keep the area thriving will make your 15-to-20-minute paddle even sweeter.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Staten Island

Kayak Staten Island is an all volunteer-run urban kayaking program, which provides free and low-cost public paddling to the Staten Island and beyond. The organization focuses on environmental stewardship, waterfront advocacy and providing access to a watersport. On select days, Kayak Staten Island offers free public walk-up kayaking at 850 Page Ave.

Here's the schedule for the summer. 

— Sunday, July 9: 12-3pm
— Saturday, August 5: 10am- 1pm
— Saturday, August 19: 10am- 1pm
— Saturday, September 2: 10am-1pm

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