Looking for a great summer outing that’ll float the family’s boat? A ride in a paddleboat (sometimes called a pedal boat) or rowboat offers panoramic views of New Jersey's scenic parks and lakes, and an opportunity for family time that may actually be peaceful.
Paddleboat rentals are available throughout the state. Check the specific paddling locations for any age or weight restrictions, then sit back and enjoy the ride. (And don't forget the sunscreen!)
Feeling more adventurous? Find the best places for tubing and rafting in and around NJ.
Pick a swan, dragon, pelican, or flamingo at Asbury Park Pedal Boats.
Asbury Park Pedal Boats – Asbury Park
Wesley Lake not only offers swans, but also dragons, pelicans, and flamingos. A boat costs $20 for a half-hour and can accommodate two adults and one child, or one adult with two children. Other options are available for larger groups. The lake is conveniently located minutes from the beach and boardwalk area, so make a day of it.
Colonial Park – Somerset
There’s so much to do in this busy, well-maintained park, including a recently renovated playground, flourishing gardens, fishing, a putting course, a dog area and paddleboating on Powder Mill Pond. Paddleboats are rented for $8 for a half-hour, and for those with disabilities, hand operated pedals are an option. The almost-square-mile park has so much to offer, so pack a picnic lunch and explore.
Echo Lake Park – Mountainside
You’ll see a lot of green when you visit this Union County tree-lined oasis, which houses a pond for both fishing and boating. Take in the park’s views from the paddleboats, for a fee of $10 for an hour. Plan to spend some time at the park, which is also complete with a snack bar, shady playground, walking paths and a popular dog area. In the summer, Echo Lake hosts weekly free concerts.
Lewis Morris Park – Morris Township
This expansive 1,000+–acre park is home to Sunrise Lake, where you’ll find all kinds of water adventures. Visitors can swim, sail, or play on a crazy inflatable obstacle course, known as a Wibit. (Wibit explorers must be over age 7 and pass a swimming test.) Paddleboats can be enjoyed by all family members at the cost of $5 for a two-person boat or $7 for a four-person boat. See website for lake activity and beach access fees. In addition to water recreation, visit the park’s picnic areas, walking paths, a dog park, equestrian trails, and the colorful Saturn Playground.
Mercer County Park – West Windsor
The scenic marina in this sprawling park features paddling, kayaking, rowboating, and fishing on Lake Mercer. Paddleboat and rowboats rentals are $16 an hour, and two-person kayaks are available for $20 an hour. You can also see the lake’s sites from the pontoon boat tour, which lasts 50 minutes for a fee of $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and children under 11. Surrounding the lake are tons of park activities, including walking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, a snack bar, and special events throughout the summer.
Monmouth County Parks Boat Rental – Various locations throughout the county
Monmouth County offers several spots to get out and enjoy the summer weather on the water, including the Manasquan Reservoir in Howell, Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold, and Thompson Park in Lincroft.
RELATED: The Best Lakes for Swimming with Kids in New Jersey
Pedals and Paddles has a variety of water toys to choose from, including paddleboats, kayaks, and Aqua Trikes.
Pedals and Paddles – Seaside Heights
The calm waters of Barnegat Bay is the perfect place for a family adventure. In addition to paddleboats, you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or the incredibly cool-looking Aqua Trikes. There's also an inflatable bounce platform known as Jump Island, where you can bounce on water trampolines, try the Tarzan Swing, run on the Spinning Wheel, and more.
Redbank Marina – Redbank
With fantastic views and several watercraft options to enjoy, the Redbank Marina is a great way to beat the summer heat! Choose from kayaks, rowboats, and stand-up paddleboards. Motorboats and pontoon rentals are also available.
Row Your Boat – Newton
Located in Swartswood State Park, Row Your Boat offers rowboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and more are available at various price points. Open daily till 6pm throughout the summer.
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Ride or relax by the water and watch the action at the South Mountain Recreation Complex.
South Mountain Recreation Complex – West Orange
I used to envy Bostonians who were able to ride awesome boats shaped like swans. Now swan boats have found their way to Northern New Jersey right by Turtle Back Zoo. Paddleboats are available for a half-hour at $17 for a two-person boat or $21 for a four-person boat, with discounts for Orange residents. After touring the banks of the Orange Reservoir, stop by the zoo or mini-golf course for a full day of fun.
Verona Park – Verona
With its beautiful scenery, lush landscaping, and tranquil lake, Verona Park is one of my favorite New Jersey spots to spend outdoor time (and take pictures). Check out the park from all angles from the paddleboats (two or four seats) and rowboats on the 13-acre lake at the center of the park. Boat rentals are available for a fee of $15 a half hour or $20 for an hour. The park also features walking paths, a children’s garden, tennis courts, a playground, and boathouse with a snack bar.
Warinanco Park – Elizabeth/Roselle
Like Union County’s own version of Central Park (and designed by the same firm), Warinanco Park boasts flower gardens, walking paths, a playground, spray ground, fields, and a pond for paddling. Observe the park’s vibrant backdrop from the paddleboats, which cost $10 to rent for an hour.
Call or visit parks' websites to confirm prices and guidelines.
Updated for 2018.
Photos courtesy of the venues.