That’s a paddlin’: Three places to go kayaking for free

Who needs marshes for kayaking? Photo via Flickr’s ceoNYC.

It seems like about eight years ago, New Yorkers finally discovered they were surrounded by water. Since then parks, high rises and “beaches” have been popping up all along the coasts. We’ve even begun participating in water sports in our questionable waters. As a brokester, your best investment in water sports this summer is going to be kayaking, because it’s mostly free. Here are our favorite spots in Brooklyn and Manhattan to get your kayak on for absolutely free this summer.

Where: Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park, Red Hook
Free kayaking: Sundays 1pm – 5pm through October 7; Thursdays, 6pm – 8pm through Aug. 23

This all-volunteer organization is committed to providing free water access for kayakers and raising awareness about our coastal environment. These kayakers launch from the Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park in Red Hook and provide you with all the equipment you’ll need to get started. While most kayaking organizations require boaters to stay with the group, Red Hook Boaters allow you to explore the protected cove on your own; however your trip will be limited to 15-20 minutes.

As part of its mission to maintain a clean and healthy coast, Red Hook Boaters encourages you to lend a hand in their beach cleanups which take place during every paddling session (they’ll provide the bags and gloves). If you volunteer with them and are an experienced paddler, they do host a few open water tours throughout the season.
Red Hook Boaters calendar

Where: South end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights
Free kayaking: Thursdays and Saturdays through Sept. 15

Using DUMBO Cove as it’s rowing area, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse offers entirely free kayaking on Thursdays and Saturdays for the entire season. Another volunteer-based program, BBPB is dedicated to encouraging human-powered boating as an environmentally sound form of transportation (and fun).  The Brooklyn Bridge Park is yet to be finished but BBPB is up and running between Piers 1 and 2. Since the actual boathouse (set to be a 5,000 square foot boathouse to be created by re-purposing a large existing maintenance shed) is yet to be finished there are no lockers, so don’t bring anything you don’t mind leaving ashore.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse calendar

Where: Piers 40, 96 and 72 in Manhattan.
Free kayaking: Various times and days, mostly on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Check the calendar for more details.

Downtown Boathouse is a volunteer-run organization out of Manhattan providing free access to the harbor for kayaking. They use Piers 40 and 96 and 72nd street as access points. If you’re a kayaking newb and firmly believe that knowledge really is power, Downtown Boathouse offers free, on-water kayaking classes every Wednesday at 6pm.

To learn more about the program you can attend their monthly meetings held on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm. Classes and monthly meetings are both at Pier 96, but check out their calendar to find out what they have going on elsewhere on the Hudson. There’s no time like the present to work through your fear of 3-hour tours and Downtown Boathouse offers free 3-hour kayaking trips almost every Saturday and Sunday all summer long.
Downtown boathouse calendar


  1. lindsey

    I went on a trip with Long Island City Boathouse last summer that was amazing! And I’ve heard great things about North Brooklyn Boathouse, too. There’s an event at Governors Island and Liberty State Park with a lot of paddling and free stuff, City of Water Day on July 14th.

    • havilah

      Ach! Darn it! Sorry we don’t get to Canarsie much, Sharon. I did look into Sebago, actually, but found their membership was paid so decided to leave them off. They do have a lovely “open paddle” program complete with environmental lectures which is awesome, but it’s not entirely free, actually. There is a $10 insurance fee. But it’s still a cool program and worth trying out! Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Reply