Where to Go Paddleboarding, Canoeing, or Kayaking Near Philadelphia
We all know what Philly is like in the summer—hot. A large part of surviving is going in search of water.
The obvious choices are local public pools, splash pads and spraygrounds, or an escape to the shore. But if you're looking to do something a little out of the ordinary, there are also several great places to go paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking near Philadelphia. These activities are simple enough that kids can learn them quickly, which makes them a great activity for the family.
We've put together a list of seven places to take your kids paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking near Philadelphia. We also tell you where you can find paddleboard, kayak, or canoe rentals if you don't have your own equipment. So get ready to cool off, have fun, and enjoy some great views from the water!
If you're looking for the quickest and easiest place to go, your best bet is the Walnut Street Dock at Philly's Schuylkill Banks. Bring your own kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, or hit up Hidden River Outfitters to rent one—they operate both from the Walnut Street Dock and from a spot in Manayunk. Hit the river on your own or sign up for a formal kayak tour.
Within an hour of downtown Philly lies the tranquil, flat water of Marsh Creek Lake, located within Downington's Marsh Creek State Park. This manmade lake prohibits motorized boats, so it’s quiet and there are no buzzing jet skis to contend with. Marsh Creek Watersports offers tours, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and even a kids’ summer camp. Try one of the outfitter's well-known night tours, during which you’ll kayak with glow sticks for a memorable summer evening experience.
3. Brandywine River
The Northbrook Canoe Company in West Chester offers kayaking, canoeing, and tubing trips of varying lengths along the Brandywine River. The staff will help load you on the bus, then assist with put-in at a spot upriver. Once you get going, you can float, paddle, or do a combination of both. The shallow, calm, and shady river is an ideal introduction to paddle sports for kids, and there are plenty of places to beach your vessel and get out for a splash or a swim.
4. Darby Creek
Darby Creek runs through the southeastern part of the city and meanders through John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, the first refuge established in the United States. Launch your own vessel from the Darby Creek Watershed or rent a canoe or kayak from the Ridley Township Marina, then head out on one of the scenic water trails that offer a variety of paddling opportunities for beginners. After a day of paddling through surprisingly lush forests, history buffs can tour the Lower Swedish Cabin and the Blue Bell Inn, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Lake Nockamixon, located within Quakertown's Nockamixon State Park, is Southeastern Pennsylvania's largest lake. It boasts 1,000 acres of waterfront scenery, six put-in spots for boats, and a bustling tent and cabin campground—all of which make for a great day trip or weekend getaway from Philly. You can rent kayaks or paddleboards from Nockamixon Boat Rental for up to four hours. If you bring your own, the best spots from which to launch are Three Mile Run and Haycock Run. Anglers will be thrilled to know that the lake is chock full of fish.
6. Delaware River
The most beautiful state line around, the Delaware River separates Philadelphia from New Jersey. But it’s more than just a dividing line—it’s a wide, flat river that makes for excellent paddling and floating if you know where to go. If you’ve got your own boat, there are put-ins along routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. From there, paddlers of all abilities can cruise lazily down long stretches of the river and make camp along the way at a variety of campgrounds on either side. If you do need to rent a boat (or a tube!), try Adventure Sports or Twin Rivers Tubing.
If you're more comfortable having your family take lessons before hitting the water on your own, the Philadelphia Canoe Club offers canoe, kayak, and paddleboard lessons for adults and kids (though children must be age 12 or older for paddleboard lessons and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian). Experienced paddlers can join one of the club's trips or events (no club membership needed), but you'll have to bring your own equipment—the club does not offer paddleboard, kayak, or canoe rentals.
Places featured in this article:
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Lower Swedish Cabin