Best Water Activities in and around New York City

| July 27, 2012 4:00 AM

Now is the time to seize the day for fun in the water before summer passes you by.  With 500 miles of shoreline and plenty of water oases in parks, the city has been offering more and more places to test your paddling skills before heading into the wilds beyond — but nearby — New York City. For fresh water adventures away from the city’s overcrowded swimming pools, we’ve prepared a list of the most worthwhile water activities in and around New York City, with the furthest place only four and half hours away.

Paddling in NYC

Consisting of 34 islands of all sizes, New York City is  rich in water. The city’s Water Trail connects 160 square miles of rivers, bays, creeks, inlets and ocean in the five boroughs, giving kayaks, canoes, and openwater rowing craft plenty of territory to explore.

On the River

Pier 40 on City of Water Day 2012. Photo courtesy of Downtown Boathouse.

Free Walk-up Kayaking

Downtown Boathouse, Manhattan - Simply walk up to any of its three locations – Pier 40, Pier 96, and 72nd Street – sign a liability waiver, put on a life jacket, grab a kayak and a paddle, and you’re set for a 20-minute, free kayaking trip on the Hudson River.  However, you must know how to swim. The organization, all volunteer-run and not-for-profit, also offers free kayaking lessons for public on Wednesday nights, and public three-hour trips from Pier 96 most weekend mornings from mid-June until mid-September.

  • Pier 40 at Houston Street – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends and holidays; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.
  • Pier 96 at 56th Street – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends and holidays; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays.
  • 72nd Street – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends and holidays.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, Brooklyn – Free seasonal kayaking and rowing programs are available at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River. It currently runs only two days a week, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and after 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The organization suggests you sign up at least an hour in advance since free opportunities are always popular and limited.

Long Island City Community Boathouse, Queens – Besides free paddling programs, on most weekends through October 7, you can also enjoy an hour-long, one-way paddling trip from Anable Basin to Hallets Cove with no cost. This Long Island City program run by volunteers.

If prepared with your own boating gear… The city provides nearly three dozen kayak and canoe launch sites across Manhattan (11), Brooklyn (12), Queens (8), Bronx (7) and Staten Island (7). But in order to be legally eligible for boat launches to assure safety on the water, you need to apply for permit. For more information about how and where to apply, as well as directions, hours, rules and suggested paddling routes for boating, see the  NYC Parks website.

In the Park

Rowing in Central Park. Flickr/gferny.

New York has several large parks that provide ample room to paddle.

  • Central Park – Rowboats and nine-foot ocean kayaks, $12 for first hour plus $3 each additional 15 minutes, are rented out daily at the Loeb Boathouse from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m, April to October. The lake is located off the East Drive at 74th Street.
  • Flushing Meadows – Hydrobikes, rowboats and paddleboats are rented at the boathouse on the east side of Meadow Lake.
  • Clove Lakes Park – Rowboats and paddleboats cost $10 per hour, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May to October. Visitors can access the lake club at 1150 Clove Road.

Paddling Near NYC

Photo courtesy of Delaware River Tubing.

Delaware Water Gap, PA/NJ

Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes by car.

Quietly flowing through the Delaware Water Gap at the boundary of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware River offers kayaking, canoeing, rafting and tubing. Whether you would like a leisurely three-hour paddle with fishing and swimming stops, or a three-day trip with overnight camping, the scenic national recreation area doesn’t disappoint.

Cost: For organized trips, $42-$55 per adult.

Recommended Outfitters: Adventure Sports in Marshalls Creek, PA;  Shawnee River Trip in Shawnee, PA; Edge of the Woods in Delaware Water Gap, PA; and Delaware River Tubing in Frenchtown, NJ.

 

Lehigh River Gorge, PA

Photo courtesy of Pocono Whitewater.

Approximately 2.5 hours by car.

Located in eastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh River begins as the outflow of Pocono Lake and flows south into the Delaware River. Its upper course has numerous whitewater rapids and supports all kinds of recreational water activities, including whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

  • Mild: Bring along your family and friends to the Poconos, only slightly farther away in northeastern Pennsylvania, where easy three-to-four-hour family raft trips are run through Lehigh Gorge State Park on weekends, when no dam releases are scheduled.
  • Medium & Wild: On the dam release weekends, the Lehigh River becomes a much more exciting destination for both experienced paddlers and dauntless novices, providing a 12-mile trip and five hours excitement through either the Gorge or the Gateway section. The upcoming dam release dates are: July 28 & 29, August 4 & 5, 11 & 12, 18 & 19, 25 & 26, and daily in September and October.
  • Special: If you’d love to give nature a closer embrace, book a special moonlight rafting adventure on one of the full moon nights between June and September.

Cost: Normally $60-$65 for a regular dam release trip for adults; prices for non-dam release trips can be lower.

Recommended Outfitters: Pocono Whitewater in Jim Thorpe, PA; Whitewater Challengers in Weatherly, PA; Adventure Rafting in Nesquehoning, PA.

 

Photo courtesy of Zoar Outdoor.

Deerfield River, MA

Approximately 4 hours by car.

The Deerfield River runs for 76 miles from southern Vermont through northwestern Massachusetts to the Connecticut River. On its Massachusetts course, the dams placed every seven miles give the river energy and speed to propel various whitewater activities. There are several key places along the river that provide different levels of whitewater kayaking and rafting, from mild to wild.

  • Mild: Beginners can find some easy fun at the Fife Brook Section of the Deerfield River (the lower course) where  plenty of half-day guided or unguided family-style float trips are offered.
  • Medium: Just a little farther upstream on the river, the Zoar Gap Section provides roughly six hours of intense-rapids rafting for willing novices and intermediate rafters. Minimum age is seven.
  • Wild: The farther up the Deerfield River you go, the more torrential the rapids. The five-mile rafting along the Monroe Bridge Section (also known as “The Dryway) is a popular run that draws a sizable crowd on its dam release days. Minimum age is 15.

Cost: $40-$50 for mild, $60-$95 for medium, and $105-$110 for wild trips.

Recommended Outfitters: CrabApple Whitewater and Zoar Outdoor, both based in Charlemont, MA.

 

Hudson River Gorge, NY

Photo courtesy of Adirondac Rafting Company.

Approximately 4.5 hours by car.

Come and discover the wildness of the north course of Hudson River in Upstate New York. With some of the best whitewater in the Eastern U.S., the river starts from the Indian River and continues through the scenic Hudson River Gorge, offering  incredible Adirondack rafting with up to 17 miles of running rapids, as well as the natural beauty at Saratoga, Lake Placid and Lake George. This river is well known for its unusually long continuous white water sections, where a wide variety of trips are offered by experts.

Cost: $80-$90 for individual adults; special rates are available for school, community and work groups.

Recommended Outfitters: Adirondac Rafting in Indian Lake, NY; Wildwaters Outdoor Center in Warrensburg, NY; Hudson River Rafting in North Creek, NY.

Water Theme Parks Near NYC

Children playing in the kiddie pool at Splish Splash Waterpark. Flickr/CaptainKidder.

Splish Splash Waterpark , Long Island

Approximately 90 minutes by car from Manhattan.

Voted as one of the best waterparks in America, Splish Splash offers 96 exciting acres of contraptions and rides meant to make the most fun out of water. Toddlers can play in the octopus pool, slide down the back of an elephant, take control of water cannons, and even climb ropes in an interactive shipwreck. There are also a dozen thrill rides for adventurous adults.

Admission: $38.99 for adults, and $29.99 for children under 48’’ tall and seniors over 60. Free for kids under two years old.

Hours: Open at 10 a.m. daily through September 3; closing time varies from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Dorney Park Wildwater Kingdom, PA

Photo courtesy of Dorney Wildwater Kingdom.

Approximately 2 hours by car.

Wildwater Kingdom features a collection of over three dozen slides, gigantic wave pools, lazy “rivers” and water play areas for all ages. Besides, you can also visit Dorney Park for roller coasters, thrill rides, and theme sections like Planet Snoopy and Dinosaur Alive!.

Admission: Daily tickets vary from $24.99 to $49.99, depending on ages and purchase methods. Discounted tickets are available for late arrivals.

Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekends. Starting August 20, the park  hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

A view from the top of one of the slides at Camelbeach Waterpark. Flickr/Gary Burke.

Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, PA

Approximately 2 hours by car.

Located next to Big Pocono State Park in Pennsylvania, this winter ski resort transforms into a waterpark in the summer. With over 37 rides, you can get your adrenaline flowing on waterslides or just lounge poolside on a hot summer day.

Admission: $36.99 for adults, and $24.99 for children under 48’’ tall and seniors over 65. Tickets are discounted for online purchases.

Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends, from May to September.

 

Mountain Creek Park, NJ

Approximately 90 minutes by car.

Photo courtesy of Mountain Creek Waterpark.

Mountain Creek is another ski destination turned summer waterpark, offering over two dozen rides, slides and attractions. If you are looking for some wild-and-wet combination, the Tarzan Swing is a must-try, where you can swing off a 20-foot long cable into a  pool below, which is fed by the springs at Mountain Creek.

Admission: General ticket for $36.99 while $26.99 for kids under 48’’ tall and seniors over 65. Children under three are free.

Hours: Open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. until August 12, after which hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

A couple slides down the King Cobra, a 25-foot plunge at a thrilling 50-degree angle. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, NJ

Approximately 90 minutes by car.

Although Six Flags is significantly smaller than some of the other waterparks on our list, it has still been voted as one of the country’s most popular water-theme parks for years. Six Flags offers 10 different rides, from splashy play areas for tots, to slippery slides with mild, moderate and max thrill ratings.

Admission: $39.99 for general, $31.99 for juniors under 48’’, and free for two and under.

Hours: From now through September 3, the waterpark opens from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

 

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