NYC Guide

Free kayaking in New York City

You did not misread: free kayaking in New York, yes, without spending a penny. Hudson River and East River have special spaces for this practice during the summer. And this is another activity to add on your to-do list during the warmer months. I had never been kayaking in life, can you believe? I had read some articles about the activity here in the city and wrote down on my list of things to do. Then, a friend tried and she told me that I should try the experience. I had no doubt – on July 4th, Thiago and I went to check out! And I loved it!

We chose Manhattan Community Boathouse – Pier 96 (but there are other places in the city, as you can check the end of the post). Manhattan Community Boathouse is a nonprofit organization that provides free kayaking in New York City. The process is simple: all participants must sign a liability waiver and you should know how to swim. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Paddlers under the age of 16 must share a boat with an adult.

After signing the term of responsibility, you can get a key to a locker for your stuff. I recommend you have at least an intimate piece and shorts/skirt to change after practice, because you may get wet. After choosing your lifejacket, it’s time for fun! You can opt for a kayak alone or you can share it with somebody. There is an enclosed area – very large – for practice. The time limit is 20 minutes – but if there are no lines, you can stay longer. I do not recommend taking a camera along – unless you have a waterproof case.

The experience is fantastic! It is a delight kayaking and you still have the beautiful view of Manhattan as bonus. I felt amazed to be there contemplating all that beauty, enjoying a cool breeze, and further reinforced my idea that this city is fantastic.

Manhattan Community Boathouse has two locations – at Pier 96 and 72nd Street near Riverside Park. The season begins at the end of May and continues until October on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, the place is open from 5h30pm to 7h30pm. No kayaking on Thursdays and Fridays. If you want to avoid lines, arrive early, and prefer weekdays. For more information, visit the website. Manhattan Community Boathouse accepts donations. If you have some money, be sure to contribute to support initiatives like this!

See more places for free kayaking in New York:

  • Long Island City Community Boathouse – they also organize small trips, which provide incredible views of Brooklyn, Queens and Roosevelt Island. Address: 46-01 5th St. For more information, visit the website. Check the calendar!
  • North Brooklyn Boat Club – located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the place offers not only practicing with kayaking but also with canoes. Address: 49 Ash Street at McGuinness Blvd. For more information, visit the website. Check the calendar!
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse – line up between Piers 1 and 2 to take a kayak out in the majestic shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. The wait is often long (show up early!), but it’s worth it: They have a 25-vessel fleet, and you can play skipper on the East River for twenty minutes. The place is open from the first weekend in June through the end of August, on Saturdays (from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM) and Thursdays (from 5:30 PM to 6:45 PM). Address: 334 Furman St. For more information, visit the website.

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