Are you on the hunt for a new hobby to help you get active? If so, kayaking may be the right choice for you! It’s the perfect way for the wanderlust to relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery. Thus, our team decided to create this in-depth guide on kayaking in NJ! We’ll show you the best kayaking places you can see today, and teach you everything you’ll need to know. So, grab your paddle, and let’s dive right into the wonderous waters of New Jersey!
Where To Go Kayaking In New Jersey?
Now that you’ve decided to embark on a kayaking adventure, the next step is to ask yourself: “Where can I go kayaking in NJ?.”
Well, the Garden State has a plethora of fabulous kayaking destinations to explore. We handpicked over 30 lakes, rivers, and coasts for kayaking near you to discover. We’ll start our journey in Northern New Jersey with the Cranberry Lake and work our way down to the south in Atlantic City.
What you will find in this guide:
Kayaking In Northern New Jersey
1. Cranberry Lake
Cranberry is among the best lakes for kayaking in NJ. Its region is one of the largest remote areas in New Jersey, with 55 miles of shoreline. Visitors can relish in over 40 designated campsites and public campgrounds. There are a few businesses on-site which offer kayak rentals for relatively low prices. Moreover, you don’t even need a kayaking license. Most of the campsites’ lots provide limited parking, but you should be able to find a free spot somewhere. The public campground area charges around $4 or $5 per car, but it’s located in the wind slot. If you decide to visit the preserve, make sure to be respectful to their guidelines: no fishing and no pets.
2. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
This park extends along 40 miles of the Delaware River. It cuts through a ridge in the Appalachian Mountains, forming the “Gap.” Hence, the park is a huge attraction for kayak aficionados and other tourists. The campground acts as an ideal destination for a family vacation. It offers a lot of other amenities aside from kayaking. Visitors can park at the campsite, as well as other free spots along the Delaware River.
3. Delaware River
Give the Delaware River kayaking a try and revel in the delightful panorama of the Atlantic coast. Like the other northern Delaware sections, the river comes with a few bigger waves to enjoy. Hence, visitors will often experience some exciting class II rapids. The destination offers a couple of different rental businesses to choose from, none of which require a permit. For instance, Kittatinny Canoes is amongst the best kayaking agencies along the river. Their roaster has a bunch of different tours to explore, with prices starting at around $40. Members at the resort get access to a native parking lot to take advantage of. Yet, other tourists should be able to find free spots along the river’s coastline too.
4. Kittatinny to Belvidere (Delaware River)
One of the most popular tours you can find for kayaking at the NJ Delaware River. You get to paddle your way through seven sets of class I & II. Though some of the waves can be a little stronger, it’s still safe for newbies.
The Kittatinny Ramp is located close to the visitor center. About a hundred yards upstream from it, you can walk your kayak down from the parking lot. The Belvidere Ramp is 50 yards south of the Delaware River Bridge.
5. Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve
This natural preserve is one of the best places to kayak fish in NJ. There are kayak and paddleboard rentals during the warm weather months. The Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve has over 140 acres of land, and it’s great for hiking in NJ.
6. Greenwood Lake (NJ/NY)
Those searching for kayaking lessons NJ should check out the resorts at Greenwood Lake! Visitors can pick from a few different rental stores, the most popular one being Paddle Boards. Single kayaks start at $25 per hour, while tandem kayaks are $35 per hour. Moreover, they offer their launch site and have professionals who are always willing to help. The Greenwood lake area provides a few free parking zones, so finding a spot for your vehicle shouldn’t be hard.
7. Hackensack River Water Trail
If you’re looking for places to enjoy some river kayaking in NJ, we’ve got you covered! Visit the Hackensack River Water Trail and bask in the calming ambient this kayaking destination offers. Now with over 50 canoes and kayaks at your disposal, you get access to explore the river and the Meadowlands and Overpeck Lake. Prices for a kayak rental start at around $20 and go up, depending on the kayaking center you choose. Kayaking permits aren’t required, and the river access is free, but a buddy system is enforced.
8. Kayak on the Hudson River in Hoboken
The Hudson River is a perfect choice for kayaking in Hoboken. The Hoboken Cove Boathouse is one of the best kayaking centers in the area and offers free kayaking activities. There are plenty of free Hudson River kayaking programs available during the season to go around, and the equipment is provided by them too. Visitors under the age of 16 must have an adult companion. Moreover, the closest parking lot is located within walking distance of the Boathouse and is free as well. All in all, it’s an incredible destination for those who are looking for free kayaking in NJ. Not to mention you get to see the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
9. Ken Lockwood Gorge
Located just a bit north of High Bridge, the Ken Lockwood Gorge is one of the most scenic and serene areas the Raritan River has to offer. The majority of the river is class I, making it perfect for kayaking in NJ for beginners. Yet the Gorge itself is a bit more rapid. There are no boathouses around to rent from, so visitors need to bring their equipment. As long as you use a non-powered kayak, there is no need for a permit. The parking situation includes a gravel spot located at the head of the lake, along the river road.
10. Lake Hopatcong
Lake Hopatcong can be an excellent choice for anyone who wants to enjoy some kayaking in northern NJ. The site has a myriad of kayak rentals to choose from. The prices start at around $25 for a single kayak. Guests don’t need a permit; all they need is a vessel to guide them through the water. The parking situation isn’t flawless since weekends tend to be crowded.
We also must mention that the lake was closed last year because of a massive case of harmful algal bloom in the water. So, tread lightly.
11. Meadowlands Commission’s River Barge Park and Marina
Kayaking in the Meadowlands gives you access to a 5.5-acre tract on the Hackensack River. The park consists of docks, launch points for paddling and rowing, a picnic area, as well as a boat ramp. The marina also provides a public access point to the western shore so that visitors can go kayaking in Bergen County. You can rent a kayak from the local shops, or come with your own. Regardless, you can still partake in the ongoing tours.
12. Merrill Creek Reservoir
The Merril Creek Reservoir offers the best kayaking in NJ. You get to paddle past cedar-lined forests and fields, filled with waterfowl and wildlife in Harmony. Here, you’re bound to see bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and pileated woodpeckers. The area is opened year-round, so grab your kayak and enjoy it!
13. Monksville Reservoir
Those who want to go kayaking in Ringwood should check out the Monksville Reservoir. Situated right by the Ringwood State Park, this lake is the perfect spot for a lovely kayak adventure. The reservoir itself is horseshoe-shaped and extends around three miles. The undeveloped shore along the lake ensures a serene and tranquil ambient. Visitors can park their vehicles at the north boat ramp, anytime they wish. You can bring your kayak or rent one from the surrounding businesses. Some of which, by the way, give organized kayak tours.
14. Overpeck Park Kayak Center
Kayaking through the lake in Overpeck Park is a genius way to spend your day. Many people consider this trail to be a hidden gem, so take out a few hours of your day to find out for yourself! The Overpeck Park Kayak Center rents out both kayaks and canoes and has its parking lot for customers. Yet, they don’t work with reservations, so it’s in your best interest to show up a bit earlier. Children under 12 aren’t allowed on a kayak without an adult present, while toddlers aren’t allowed at all. However, the center has an excellent playground that can double as a parking lot too. It’s also a brilliant choice to go kayaking in NJ for beginners since it’s very protected, and the waters are quite calm.
15. Passaic River – Two Bridges Road
Located between The Great Piece Meadows, the Passaic River is a breathtaking section where man meets nature. Since the entire area is very bordered, it boasts beautiful scenery filled with a lot of wildlife to see. So, if you adore foxes, deer, hawks or herons, and love kayaking in northern NJ, this is a must-see! Yet, visitors mustn’t kayak past the first bridge. This is a point where the two rivers meet, and the waterfalls can be quite dangerous. If you decide to visit, your best bet is to bring your kayak. Also, the park’s parking area can get filled up quickly. But, there’s no need to worry since there are many other lots nearby.
16. Passaic River – Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Bordered by the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, this section of the river is one of the most jaw-dropping kayaking spots in NJ. The water is somewhat timid, making it an excellent location for kayaking in NJ for beginners. Aside from kayaking activities, guests get access to a picnic area as well. If you’re looking for a rental, then head over to Somerset County. They offer a plethora of kayak trips, perfect for anyone.
17. Split Rock Reservoir
The Split Rock Reservoir is a down-right gorgeous water body surrounded by hills and rock cliffs. The State of New Jersey owns the reservoir and the surroundings. Hence, anyone who wants to go kayaking in Boonton gets access to the water. The same goes for the public parking lot that’s just down the dam. However, since it’s open to the public, come early as the parking area can get filled up rather fast. Side street parking is not allowed. There are no kayak rentals around, so it’s every man for himself.
18. Swartswood Lake
Kayaking for beginners in NJ can be a great adventure in the waters of Swartswood Lake. There are a couple of rental businesses around, so you’ll have no problem getting your hands on a kayak. Row Your Boat Rentals is happy to provide this service to newcomers, offering both single and tandem kayaks. Their launch point is the ideal spot to take off from, and travelers don’t need a permit. We must mention that the park entrance costs $5 per car on business days or $10 on weekends. Your kayaking adventure will be filled with beautiful scenery to enjoy, and you’re sure to see white swans roaming around the area.
19. Wawayanda Lake
A magnificent destination for autumn kayaking in Sussex County. Wawayanda was formerly a glacially formed lake. Now, it’s in the middle of an Atlantic white cedar swamp and mixed oak forest. Visitors can bring their own kayaks, or rent from the businesses there. They get access to two designated parking areas, as well as a sweet picnic nook.
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Kayaking In Central New Jersey
20. The D&R Canal – Griggstown
Built-in the 1830s, the D&R Canal provides a gorgeous and vivid landscape to kayak through. The canal is somewhat timid, with only a minor current. This makes it a perfect place to learn kayaking in Central NJ. More experienced kayakers can try out the Millstone River D&R Canal Loops for a more exciting experience. The Griggstown Rental shop has both single and twin kayaks, that start at $19 and $23 per hour, respectively. Visitors are advised to manage their reservations online, as well as complete the prepayments that way too. This kayaking destination is top-rated and gets filled quickly, but are a few parking lots to go around.
21. D&R Canal and Carnegie Lake – Princeton (Byram, Kingwood, Lambertville, Bull’s Island, and Fireman’s Eddy)
Go kayaking in Princeton and explore the serene waters of the Princeton canal section. Located 10 minutes away from the Princeton University train station, you’ll get easy access to a myriad of waterways. The Princeton Kayak Rental has a plethora of kayak tours on their menu. For instance, you can choose the two-hour-long trip from Carnegie Lake to the D&R Canal Loop. The prices at the canoe rental in Princeton are the same as Griggstown. The rental shop has a parking lot, but it can get crowded quickly.
22. Navesink River
Wondering where to go kayaking in Monmouth County? The Navesink River is a great choice! The river is often described as shallow and tidal and has a plethora of beautiful homes along its waterfront. Those who’ll go kayaking in Monmouth County can rent a kayak from the local shop or bring their own. The launching point is located at the end of Maple Avenue and is free to the public. Accordingly, there’s a free parking area that’s often crowded.
23. Sandy Hook Bay & Shrewsbury River
Kayaking in Sandy Hook is a grand adventure for kayak enthusiasts. There’s a lot to explore, and it’s perfect for anyone who wants to relax under the sun. Newbies can enjoy a calm trip from the Bay to the Old Wharf Park in Oceanport. Those with more experience, however, can follow the river out to the bay at Sandy Hook. The tides under the bridges can be very rapid, so be careful. There aren’t many rentals around, so your best bet is to bring your equipment. As for parking, there are plenty of lots around Sandy Hook.
24. Manasquan River
If you’re on the hunt for a superb quest, why don’t you go kayaking in Manasquan? The area itself is entirely preserved and provides excellent river access for kayakers. Visitors can choose between four different points to launch your watercraft from. Luckily, all of them have their designated parking lot. Moreover, you can either bring your kayak or rent from the surrounding shops.
25. Sedge Island, Island Beach State Park
A great spot for anyone who wants to go kayaking in Central New Jersey. Along with your paddling, you’ll enjoy the view of the pristine islands, neighboring nature, and wildlife. Yakkity Yaks Kayak Rentals is a go-to for anyone who wants to lease a watercraft. They charge $50 for a single and $65 for a tandem kayak, and you get to use them all day. You can choose to partake in a guided group tour, or they can deliver the kayaks right into the state park. There’s a bay-side parking lot, perfect for everyone who plans to go into the water.
26. Point Pleasant Beach
Kayaking in Point Pleasant is an excellent way to spend your afternoon or weekend! There’s a public boat ramp located at the end of Bay Ave. It’s quite easy to find since there are plenty of signs around the complex to guide you. You can find a few rental shops along the beach, or bring your kayak. However, you need to pay an entrance fee before you access the beach. Additionally, there are a few different parking lots in the area.
Kayaking In Southern New Jersey
27. Jackson Ave. Beach, Atlantic City
Those who want to go kayaking in Atlantic City should check out the beach on Jackson Avenue! Even though it’s one of the few beaches in Atlantic City that allow kayaking and other watersports, it’s a perfect choice! They have a designated no-bathing zone solely for kayaking and windsurfing. Unfortunately, there are no rental shops around. So, you need to bring your equipment. Parking definitely won’t be a problem, since there are plenty of garages within walking distance of the beach.
28. Spicer Creek, Cape May
Kayaking in Cape May is one of the most popular activities in the state’s south. Providing a gorgeous back bay kayaking adventure, Spicer Creek is the only public launch ramp in the area. Due to its wild popularity, especially in the summer season, the parking situation can get rather inconvenient. Visitors can choose to bring their kayak or rent from one of the surrounding shops.
29. Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Oceanville
One of the best places to go kayaking in NJ, point-blank. The NWR offers the best coastal kayaking in Barnegat Bay. You can bask in plenty of bird viewing and an over-all serene environment. The Scotts Landing Road will lead you to a gorgeous panorama on Landing Creek, but not before winding you through some dense cedar and maple swamp. Edwin also offers a small parking lot to take advantage of.
30. Long Beach Island
Visitors here get access to a public boat ramp for launching. Long Beach Island also offers a plethora of shops for kayaking rental in NJ. Yet, parking can be a bit of a hassle. Your best bet is to either park up at the north end or on the other side near the lighthouse.
31. Maurice River – Parvin State Park
A delightful upstream and a brilliant choice for experienced kayakers, this section of the Maurice River is a must-see! The river runs a somewhat trying route through a deciduous forest, making it perfect for fall river kayaking in NJ. The local rental shop is happy to deliver a kayak if you’re staying in Parvin State Park. Additionally, you won’t have any problem finding a suitable parking spot for your vehicle.
32. Rancocas Creek Rancocas State Park Bluewater Trail
The RCWT offers kayak rental services, as well as year-round kayak eco-safaris. One of the most glorious kayaking spots New Jersey has to offer, and very little-known, it comes with multi-use water trails. You’ll start kayaking in Pine Barrens and flow west towards the Delaware River. The parking situation is pretty good. Visitors can bring their gear or go to a rental shop.
33. Cranberry Inlet Marina, Seaside Heights
A gorgeous public boat ramp for launching your watercraft for kayaking in south Jersey. You can rent from Pedals and Paddles, whose prices start at $20/hour for a single kayak and $25 for a tandem. Parking is limited.
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34. Wharton State Forest – Wading and Oswego Rivers in the Pine Barrens
Visit the Wharton State Forest and relish in some relaxing kayaking in NJ Pine Barrens. You’ll get to paddle through beaver dams and beautiful hanging pitch pines. Even better, you can enjoy the peaceful panorama of the Pine Barrens forest, which borders the river. Mick’s Rental shop is trendy among visitors, offering both private kayak rentals and organized trips. You can find a couple of parking spots along the reserve.
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35. Sterling Harbor, Wildwood
While some enjoy paddling through rivers and forests, kayaking in Wildwood puts you right in open water. Often visited by joy-riders, this destination is an optimal chance for you to relax. The Sterling Harbor rental shop offers single and double kayaks, that cost $25 and $35, respectively.
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Kayaking Laws In NJ
For starters, kayaks must have a personal flotation device per person on board. Wearing the device is strongly advised, especially for children under the age of 13. Moreover, non-motorized kayaks don’t need any registration. However, depending on what part in NJ you go kayaking, you might need a permit.
Choosing The Right Kayak
To have the best kayaking in NJ experience, you need a watercraft that’s right for you.
Simply put, if you choose a sit-on kayak, you’ll get wet. So, it’s a better choice if you’ll be kayaking over warmer water. They’re straightforward to get on and have scupper holes that make them self-draining. Sit-on-top kayaks are an excellent choice for coasts, lakes, and rivers.
Sit in kayaks allow for your legs to be enclosed within a cockpit. Moreover, a spray skirt is attached so that no water will be going over the top. This is a huge advantage, as you’re able to stay dryer in cold conditions. Yet, a considerable drawback is the fact that if you capsize, exiting and re-entering the kayak is much harder. This makes it more suitable for lakes and even rivers.
Saying that inflatable kayaks are practical is an understatement. They’re easily folded, which makes them extremely portable. They help you save a lot of storage space, which is always a plus. Yet, they’re very sturdy and versatile. In most cases, you’ll get a recreational model. So, you’ll want to stick closer to the shore. They’re perfect for lakes but can pass for some river use as well. Here are some inflatable kayaks to choose from.
All in all, kayaking in NJ can be a fantastic recreational activity. As you can see, there are tons of places to choose from. From rapid rivers to magnificent lakes and breathtaking canals, we provided you with a hefty mix of locations fit for everyone. For a complete list of boating and sailing in New Jersey, visit the official NJ travel site.
So, instead of wasting any time, grab your paddle and head over to any of the 30+ kayaking destinations we listed for you.
Don’t forget to double-check the destinations for any restrictions caused by the pandemic. And, of course, come back soon to get the best and latest travel tips!
Kayaking in New Jersey FAQs
Where can you kayak in NJ?
The number of incredible kayaking spots NJ is abundant. So, instead of weighing yourself with the task of finding a suitable destination, let us do it for you! The list above contains the best kayaking places New Jersey has to offer in 2020. Ranging from lakes to rivers and other water trails, you’re sure to find something to your liking.
When is the best time to kayak in New Jersey?
It’s best to kayak from Spring through fall. Some locations close during the winter due to ice and snowstorms.
Do you need a license to kayak in NJ?
Kayaks do not require a license or permit. Some boats require license and registration in New Jersey. It’s best to check with the county laws to be 100% sure.
Do you need a life jacket to kayak in NJ?
Yes, a personal flotation device must be on board by law. Children under the age of 13 have to wear them, and adults are strongly advised too.
Which inflatable kayak should I buy?
There are a few essential facts to consider before making your purchase. Start by making sure you need to be buying one in the first place. Renting one may pay off more than you thing. Yet, some of the most popular picks include the 3.1 Sea Eagle Inflatable 380X Explorer, as well as the 3.2 Advanced Elements AE1007.