Free Kayaking, Canoeing, and Rowboat Options in New York City

Kids can join parents in kayaks at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo courtesy the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
Boating for Kids: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx

With all the water surrounding New York City, it's no wonder there are so many sightseeing cruises and fun ferry rides to great kid destinations. If you want to be your own captain, NYC offers many seasonal opportunities for NYC families to get out on the water by themselve—kayaking, rowing, canoeing, and sailing. Much of the fun kicks off Memorial Day weekend or early summer.

We've rounded up 11 great New York City organizations that offer boating sessions on our wonderful waterways—and they're all FREE. Ahoy!

Remember to call ahead or check the individual organization's website or Facebook page before heading out. Weather, special events, and repairs can put things in flux at these mostly community-run spots.

Kayaking

Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse – Dumbo, Brooklyn
Embayment between Piers 1 & 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Saturdays & Sundays, 9:30am-2pm; Thursdays, 5:30-7pm
May 30 through August

Anyone above the age of 14 can kayak alone (if a parent/guardian accompanies them in another boat), and younger kids can ride in some of the double kayaks with a parent. One child and one adult are allowed per boat. Organizers recommend that kids measure at least 36 inches high to get into the boat.

Kayaking at the Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse is a popular activity, so the lines can get pretty long; be prepared to wait and remember that your rowing time is limited to 20 minutes. When you do get out on the water, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan as you row. Afterward, check out all of the things to do in this awesome park, including a carousel and an incredible water playground.

RELATED: Free Summer Sports and Outdoor Programs for NYC Kids


Kayak on the Hudson River with Downtown Boathouse to take in the gorgeous harbor and cityscape views.

Downtown Boathouse – Manhattan & Governors Island
Pier 26 on the Hudson River and Pier 101 on Governors Island
Manhattan: May 18-Oct 13, Saturdays, Sundays  Holidays, 9am-5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evenings, 5:30pm-7pm.
Governors Island: June 15-Sept 4, Saturdays 11am-4pm.

On weekends, holidays, and select weekday evenings, the Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking on the Hudson River at Pier 26. The same group manages free kayaking on Governors Island on Saturdays.

Expect to get a little wet when you kayak. The Boathouse suggests wearing a bathing suit, but we didn't and found that on a hot summer day, we dried off quickly. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult and only one kid is permitted per boat. If you'd like more supervision, the volunteer organization also runs kayaking classes on Governor's Island. Both locations offer lockers for your things, but you'll need to bring a lock with you.

Kayak Staten Island – Staten Island
850 Page Avenue
Select weekdays and Sundays
June 2 through August 25

After years on the water at South Beach, Kayak Staten Island moved to a new location in 2017. The all-volunteer organization provides kayaks, paddles, and life jackets, as well as basic launch, land, and paddling tip. Experienced kayakers are on the water to observe and assist. No registration is required. Dry bags are available for sale ($10). Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and everyone must sign a waiver. Time on the water is limited to 15 minutes, but you're welcome to get back in line for another go.

2019 Schedule:
June 9, Sunday 1pm-3pm
June 23, Sunday 12pm- 3pm
July 12, Friday 5pm- 8pm
July 21, Sunday 11pm-2pm
July 28, Sunday, 4pm-7pm
August 9, Friday 5pm-7pm
August 11, Sunday 4pm-7pm
August 25, Sunday 3pm-6pm
 


Join the Long Island City Community Boathouse on family days. Photo courtesy of the boathouse

Long Island City Community Boathouse – Long Island City, Queens
Hallets Cove, 31st Drive and Vernon Boulevard
May 27 through September 1

The L.I.C. Community Boathouse offers family kayaking on select days during the summer in Hallets Cove in the wonderful Socrates Sculpture Park. Lockers are available (bring your own lock). Water time is limited to 20 minutes.

2019 Schedule:
May 27, Monday 1pm-4pm
June 9, Sunday 1pm-4pm
June 23, Sunday 1pm-4pm
July 7, Sunday 1pm-4pm
August 4, Sunday 1pm-4pm
August 18, Sunday 1pm-4pm
September 1, Sunday 1pm-4pm
 

Manhattan Community Boathouse – Midtown West
Pier 96 at 56th Street in Hudson River Park
Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-6pm; Mondays-Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30pm
May 25 through October 7

Manhattan Community Boathouse runs walk-up kayaking at Pier 96 Saturdays through Wednesdays. Paddlers under 16 must share a boat with their parent or caregiver. You will find lockers to stash items at both locations and changing rooms at Pier 96.

RELATED: Best Mini Golf Courses for Kids in NYC


Kayak off Valentino Pier in New York Harbor with the Red Hook Boaters. Photo by Sara Marentette

Red Hook Boaters – Red Hook, Brooklyn
Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, Coffey and Ferris Streets
Sundays, 1-4pm; Thursdays, 6-8pm (through August 15 only)
June 2 through October 22

The members of this all-volunteer group hold beach cleanups during every paddling session, so in addition to boating, it’s a great way to chip in to help keep the shore clean in Red Hook. Paddlers are welcome to explore the protected cove at their own pace, but rides are limited to 15-20 minutes to give everyone a chance.

Double kayaks, kid-size paddles, and life jackets make this spot very kid-friendly. Still, kids under 14 must ride with a caregiver, and parents must be present to supervise and sign the waiver for all minors. Check the calendar for full details and special events. Lockers are not available.

Urban Park Rangers – Citywide
Urban Park Rangers offer free canoeing and kayaking programs for children ages 8 and up. Advance registration is required and participants are selected through a lottery.

Rowboats


Enjoy a ride along the Bronx River in wooden rowboats crafted by local teens at Rocking the Boat.

Rocking the Boat – Hunts Point, the Bronx
Hunts Point Riverside Park, 1409 Lafayette Avenue between Edgewater Road and the Bronx River
Saturdays, 1-6pm
Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend

Explore the Bronx River in wooden rowboats crafted by local teens as part of Rocking the Boat’s youth development program. During the weekly community rowing sessions, participants head out onto the river with Rocking the Boat staff for 20-minute rides. No registration required. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Village Community Boathouse – West Village and Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Pier 40 at Houston Street and the Hudson River
Sundays at noon and Tuesdays at 6pm
May 5-November 3

In addition to rowing sessions in the New York Harbor and Prospect Park Lake in a Whitehall gig, this organization also offers free boat-building sessions to the public. Those under 16 must be accompanied by a parent, and parents must sign a waiver for anyone under 18. Check the calendar for a full list of events.

Canoeing


Take to the water on Newton Creek, between Queens and Brooklyn, with the North Brooklyn Boat Club.

North Brooklyn Community Boathouse – Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Broadway Stages Boatyard, 49 Ash Street at McGuinness Boulevard
May 11 through early September

On select Saturdays, you can paddle a 29' canoe on Newtown Creek, the body of water that narrowly separates Brooklyn and Queens. Members can paddle more often and try out challenging weekend kayaking trips. Children must be at least 4-foot-8, so it's best for older children. Visit the calendar for more details. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase.

Urban Park Rangers – Citywide
Urban Park Rangers offer free canoeing and kayaking programs for children ages 8 and up. Advance registration is required and participants are selected through a lottery.

Sailing

Rocking the Boat – the Bronx
Hunts Point Riverside Park, 1409 Lafayette Avenue between Edgewater Road and the Bronx River
Sunday, June 23 and Saturdays, July 6 & 20, and August 3. 1pm-5pm

Sail the Bronx River with Rocking the Boat staff and fellow water enthusiasts on 20-minute rides. No registration required. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

City Rules for Boating Solo

If you happen to have your own canoe or kayak and prefer to go it alone, there are several public launch sites throughout the city. Info about launch applications, permit requirements, a map of public launch sites and additional rules, regulations, and guidelines are all available on the NYC Parks Department website. If you're going to do it yourself, you'll also want to read the NYC Boating "Rules of the Road" and Clean Boating Guidelines.

This article, first published in June 2012, is updated annually.

Manhattan Community Boathouse
Pier 96
10019 New York , NY 40° 46' 13.7604" N, 73° 59' 43.3572" W
New York
Downtown Boathouse
Pier 26
10013 New York , NY 40° 44' 47.3064" N, 74° 0' 30.096" W
New York
Downtown Boathouse
130 Carder Road
11231 New York , NY 40° 41' 31.5564" N, 74° 0' 48.7728" W
New York
Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
Pier 2, East River
11201 New York , NY 40° 41' 55.2372" N, 73° 59' 9.3876" W
New York
Long Island City Community Boathouse
46-01 5th Street
11101 New York , NY 40° 44' 49.1496" N, 73° 57' 17.6652" W
New York
North Brooklyn Boat Club
437 McGuinness Boulevard
11222 New York , NY 40° 44' 19.1292" N, 73° 57' 11.9196" W
New York
Red Hook Boaters
104 Ferris Street
11231 New York , NY 40° 40' 41.844" N, 74° 1' 7.122" W
New York
East River C.R.E.W.
East 96th Street and the FDR
10029 New York , NY 40° 46' 58.9332" N, 73° 56' 38.5656" W
New York
Rocking the Boat
812 Edgewater Road
10474 New York , NY 40° 49' 4.3464" N, 73° 52' 59.4516" W
New York
Village Community Boathouse
353 West Street
10014 New York , NY 40° 43' 46.4268" N, 74° 0' 45.7164" W
New York
Kayak Staten Island
850 Page Avenue
10307 Staten Island , NY 40° 30' 9.3276" N, 74° 13' 46.038" W
New York