Free Kayaking Options in NYC(Top 7 Places & FAQs)

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: November 24, 2022
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Some of the places where you can kayak for free in NYC are The Downtown Boathouse, Inwood Canoe Club, Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, Red Hook Boaters, LIC Community Boathouse, Kayak Staten Island, Long Island City Community Boathouse, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking services along the Hudson River
  • While kayaking in the Hudson River, you will have a distinguished view of the Lower Manhattan
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse has kayaking sessions on Saturdays and alternating Thursdays in addition to free fitness classes
  • Kayak Staten Island opens from 9-9 on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer

Where Can I Kayak For Free in Newyork City?

Serial.LocationKayaking PlaceExtra
1.ManhattanThe Downtown BoathouseYou can borrow a boat for about 20 minutes and then use it again if you need to.
2. ManhattanInwood Canoe ClubThe club charges $4 for one day or $15 for a season’s worth of kayaking. Before your visit, pay the appropriate amount to cover any minor unforeseen event (such as trip cancellation due to weather).
3.BrooklynBrooklyn Bridge Park BoathouseBBB has kayaking sessions on Saturdays and alternating Thursdays in addition to free fitness classes.
4.BrooklynRed Hook BoatersThe Red Hook Boaters has initiated a kayaking program to get more beach cleanup volunteers on the boardwalk. Come enjoy a day of serenity, free of charge…for you!
5.QueensLIC Community BoathouseThere’s a free kayaking session lasting 20 minutes and it ends when there are no longer any other people waiting for boats.
6.Staten IslandKayak Staten IslandIt is open from 9-9 on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer (except for tours that last 15 minutes).
7.Long Island CityLong Island City Community BoathouseOutdoor recreation enthusiasts and health-conscious plant enthusiasts can enjoy a session of kayaking on the river in the LIC Community Boathouse. Sessions are 20 minutes long and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Apart from the Downtown Boathouse, there are a lot of places where we can start kayaking or practicing it for free or without little to no cost.

For sure, this place is one of the best you can enjoy free paddling with your friends or family. The company (Downtown Boathouse) has been promoting public access to water recreation since 1994, with operation locations at Pier 26 and Governor’s Island.

Other than the Downtown Boathouse, however, there are other places you can kayak without having to pay a penny. Some of them include-

1. Long Island City Community Boathouse,

2. Manhattan Community Boathouse,

3. North Brooklyn Boat Club,

4. Red Hook Boaters,

5. Kayak Staten Island.

Common Questions On Free Kayaking In New York

1. Do You Need A Permit To Free Kayaking

Well, not really. As we have just said, you don’t even need money to kayak in New York. Companies like The Downtown Boathouse provide kayaks, paddles, and safety gear for free. They operate as a non-profit organization from the generosity of volunteers and donations from well-wishers [like you].

If you would like to use your own boat, however, you might need to get a safety certificate to show it’s seaworthy. Also, most of these free launching points will accept hand-powered boats, or else Kayaks.

2. When Is The Best Time For Free Kayaking

Technically, Kayaking is an all-season recreation activity. You can indulge during the warm weather of the summer and even in the cold months like February.

Nonetheless, most free kayaking organizations operate during the summer period, starting late May to early November. Even then, they are usually available on specific days and hours.

For the question of the best time to visit, we would recommend a few minutes before the specified opening hours. During then, you will probably find fewer or no people on the wait. Thereby granting you the advantage of an extended paddling period.

3. What Happens If The Weather Gets Bad?

That will depend on how bad it’s. As a water sport, most kayakers are still able to cope with light rains and the tour companies will remain operational. For a heavy downpour with lightning or over 10mph winds, though, it can be risky to be out in the waters. Thus, prompting the cancelation of the scheduled activities.

So, whether you are new or a regular to any free kayaking NYC program, you need to revisit the provider’s calendar before your outing. Otherwise, you might end up walking to the Pier, only to realize they canceled the evening because of strong winds.

4. Is It Illegal To Kayak At Night

That’s a no, but it will also depend on where you are kayaking. If it’s New York, the majority of these free program providers close at 7 pm. That’s a fair deal considering they don’t ask for any payment unless you wish to donate. Which, of course, is a good gesture to appreciate their efforts and also support them in keeping the boathouse running.

5. Do They Have Bioluminescent Kayaking In New York?

As we pointed out in our previous post, bioluminescence kayaking is one of the best experiences you can have. It involves paddling in darkness on magical waters that glow [mostly greenish blue] as you move along. The spectacle only occurs on oceans or rivers that have bioluminescent organisms, like dinoflagellates and comb jellies.

Sadly, the New York bays don’t have the phenomenon. But you can witness it on the other side of the Hudson River at Manasquan Beach, New Jersey.

6. I Saw A Review That Fiberglass Paddles Are The Best. How True Is That?

Fairy, fairy true. They are not the very best but if the difference you are looking for is the value, they are quite inexpensive and efficient. The advantage follows as fiberglass is lightweight and also stronger than aluminum or plastic. Hence, it can withstand quite a fair amount of abuse, while at the same time allowing faster paddling.

For high efficiency, though, the carbon fiber paddles are the best as they’re very lightweight and rigid. Hence, allowing faster stroking and serving you for a longer time.

7. Must I Know Swimming To Benefit From The Free Kayaking NYC System?

Unluckily, yes. Before you get to your specified boat, organizations offering the service require you to sign a waiver of a peril. The majority of them include swimming amongst an essential requirement due to the likelihood of falling into the water.

Even so, some groups do provide a life jacket, plus there are usually rowers nearby to help you if stranded.

8. Is My Daughter [7 years] Old Enough To Go Kayaking With Glass Bottom Kayak Tours?

Apart from bioluminescence, a glass-bottom kayak is another spectacular way to make your paddling more exciting. It allows one to see the ocean beneath, just as you would when snorkeling.

As for your question, your daughter can use the kayak but you will need to ride with her as required in the free kayaking programs. Another thing, don’t be very optimistic about these clear boats as they’re very common with payable tour companies.

9. What’s Usually The Weight Limit In One Kayak?

Just like the designs, these rowing boats come with different capacities and weight limits. The majority of them, though, is the single-person models that have a maximum weight capacity of around 400 pounds. And the double kayaks that can efficiently hold up to two people of up to 450 pounds.

Therefore, your recent weight is very crucial.

10. My Girlfriend Is Pregnant. Can She Kayak?

Yes, she can. Kayaking is not just for recreation, but also a great workout for the hands, chest, shoulders, and even back. Also, the activity can bring relief with the cool ocean breeze of the evening. Thereby, boosting the health of your lady and that of the unborn baby in a significant way.

But if you are afraid to let her out of your sight, maybe you can share a double kayak with her. Just make sure your total weight is not at or above the suggested limit.

11. I Will Be Traveling With My Adult Golden Retriever. Can She Share My Kayak?

Of course, you can. Why should you have fun in the waters all by yourself? But be aware not all of these free joints are pet friendly. Like the Downtown Boathouse, they don’t allow pets on their boat due to safety reasons [as they claim].

Others, such as North Brooklyn Boat Club do allow pets on board. So, you must do thorough research before you choose the Pier to use.

12. What Should I Bring With Me When Kayaking?

Simply saying, kayaking is all like hiking or any other outdoor experience. As such, you have to wear clothing that will be comfortable to push the paddle. You will also get wet several times. So, you can wear a bathing suit or a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

Most of these free kayaking places have a changing room and lockers to hold your stuff. They also offer floatation devices, mainly the life jacket. So, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

13. What Should You Not Do While Kayaking?

Well, just like any other driver, it’s illegal to cruise while under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, you should not bring alcoholic beverages on your trip. Furthermore, most of these free kayaking organizations are limited to short trips of about 30 minutes. Therefore, they don’t allow participants to paddle far away from the shore.

Final Verdict:

Water sporting is surely fun and of greater benefit than staying indoors bored with an air conditioner that only raises your bills. It’s a great way to bond with your family, plus there is the benefit of improving your cardiovascular fitness and increased muscle strength.

If you live closer to the Hudson River, there is also the advantage of free kayaking programs. In places like Pier 26 Downtown Boathouse, you get to have a chance to paddle without having to pay a single penny. The kayak, paddles, floatation device, and even guidance is 100% free.

This, however, doesn’t mean you should abuse their generosity. The non-profit organizations survive on donations and volunteer labor. So, you can slip in their box even if it’s five dollars as a way of appreciation.


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