With the solstice just around the corner, long summer days are begging you to enjoy them – so why not embark on an outdoor adventure that’s only available a few months out of the year? June, July, and August are perfect months for watersports one of the many bodies of water in the greater New York area. This round-up touches on kayaking, paddle-boarding, surfing, and tubing opportunities in shoreline towns, bucolic upstate hamlets, and familiar state parks which longtime hikers can experience through a different lens. Whether you’re practicing downward dog on your paddleboard, exploring a challenging new waterscape, or a helping a child paddle solo for the first time, there’s a memorable moment for everyone here.
The Delaware Water Gap
Spanning New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Water Gap is an expansive recreation area surrounding one of the area’s grandest rivers. You may have traveled there to hike Mt. Tamany or Mt. Minsi; but in the summer months, you can be on the water instead of looking at it. Tubing, rafting, canoeoing, and kayaking are on offer from local rental companies, so whether you’re looking for a child-friendly afternoon outing or a longer trip, there’s a trip to fit your needs.
A quieter alternative to busier vacation towns on the Hudson, Saugerties offers access to the river without crowding or hassle. Local companies rent out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, with which you can venture out on the river or inland on the winding Esopus Creek – if you’re lucky, you might spot a blue heron or bald eagle! Finish the day at a local eatery with Instagrammable small-town charm.
A scenic and sleepy town stretching along the banks of the Hudson, Cornwall is perfect for a relaxing day on the water. After renting kayaks, take in the view from the river or explore one of the Marshes in Storm King State Park or Plum Point Park. Ambitious paddlers can venture far out on the Hudson to the tiny Pollepel Island, home to an impressive abandoned 19th-century warehouse known as Bannerman’s Castle.
Surfing on the Jersey Shore
Surfers have been catching waves on the Jersey shore since the beginning of the 20th century, and last winter the region gained notoriety as a haven for cold water surfers – but right now, you don’t have to brave icy waters to enjoy the ride. Most towns on the Jersey shore are surfable, but some are better than others when you want to avoid beach crowds. Manasquan Inlet is home to several surfing competitions throughout the year and offers ideal conditions for dedicated surfers, while Long Beach Island’s 70th Street Beach is always reserved for surfing. When you’re ready to take a break, the boardwalk is waiting to tempt you with froyo, fudge, and fries.
Pine Barrens, NJ
The drive from NYC to the Pine Barrens is on the longer side, but twisting inlets and unique marshy waterscapes make the trip worth it. Pick one of the many waterways to explore, or sign up for a guided trip. A great introduction to the area is the four-hour route from Quaker Bridge to Batsto Lake, which takes you along a gentle and narrow river with trees almost closing in overhead. Deer, turkey, heron, and beaver sightings await quiet paddlers; the more experienced can opt for an overnight trip, using one of many public campgrounds.
Monksville Reservoir, NJ
Located in Long Pond Ironworks State Park, this horseshoe-shaped artificial lake is less than an hour from Manhattan but also happens to be one of the least developed bodies of water in New Jersey, letting you enjoy the best of both worlds. A leisurely exploration takes three to four hours. You can choose from paddle board or kayak rentals – or, if you’re feeling particularly agile, sign up for a paddle board yoga class!
Wissahickon Park, PA
Just outside Philadelphia, Wissahickon Park provides a welcome respite from the concrete jungle and invites visitors to dip their toes (or their boats!) into the Wissahickon Creek or the Schuykill River. If you’re looking for guided trips or more inspiration, the Philadelphia Canoe Club – the country’s oldest paddling organization – is an excellent local resource and regularly holds events open to non-members.
Island Beach State Park
Island Beach State Park is located on a barrier island between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an isolated and scenic spot perfect for experienced kayakers who are comfortable forging their own path. Within the park, the Sedge Island Conservation Area offers some twisty waterways and interesting landscapes to explore. Access to the ocean is also available, but it’s important to be aware of the marine forecast before you go.