Kayaking In NJ (New Jersey’s Best Paddling Locations)

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New Jersey has a lot to offer paddlers, with miles of scenic coastline, wetland areas, and picturesque lakes with forest backdrops. It’s probably best known for its proximity to New York City, as well as its famous Atlantic City casinos and attractions.

When you want to escape the crowds and get a different perspective of the Garden State you can take to the water. To make it easier, we’ve listed some of the best places to go kayaking in NJ, from coastal to inland locations.

A view on the city of New York from the river bankPin

9 Best Places To Kayak In NJ

1: Liberty State Park

Paddling the Hudson river near NYCPin
Courtesy: Alec Perkins on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Liberty State Park can be one of the best spots to paddle if you’re after spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. There’s also a bridge connecting the park to nearby Ellis Island (although this is not open to the public).

The launch ramp is located at the southern end of the park and kayaks can launch for free. You can paddle around Liberty Island and Ellis Island, or head up the Hudson River along the Jersey City waterfront for views across to Greenwich Village.

Kayaks can be rented at Liberty Harbor in Jersey City, just across the Morris Canal Basin from the state park.

It can be important to note that there is usually a lot of boat traffic in this area, including ferries and large ships.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Liberty State Park Boat Launch, 275 Morris Pesin Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07305.


2: Parvin State Park

Parvin State Park features two lakes and a creek, giving you added paddling choices. Parvin Lake, the largest of the two, offers flatwater for relaxed paddling and can be great for beginners.

This can also be a good location to spot wildlife, including the state-endangered barred owl. The park is surrounded by pine forests and swamp hardwoods, making it a great place to enjoy nature. You can also fish in both Parvin Lake and Thundergust Lake, as well as Muddy Run. Bass, catfish, pickerel and yellow perch are generally the top target species.

Kayak rentals are available inside the park, next to the visitor center, where you can also launch from the adjacent beach. Alternatively, there’s a boat ramp at Fisherman’s Landing, just off Parvin Mill Road.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Parvin State Park Office, Pittsgrove, NJ 08318.


3: Horseshoe Cove

Horseshoe Cove can be found in Gateway National Recreation Area, which can offer many paddling opportunities. This protected area acts as a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and Sandy Hook Bay. The cove can be a more sheltered spot to paddle than out in the bay or the Atlantic Ocean. But it can sometimes be difficult due to the tide.

There are several places where you can launch your kayak within the park, with one being near Beach 1, about a quarter mile north of Parking Lot L.

There are many beaches where you can stop. You can also paddle around the various coves and inlets outside of Horseshoe Cove, including heading south to Highlands Reach and the Navesink River.

Kayak rentals can be found in Sandy Hook.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy to moderate)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Hartshorne Drive, Highlands, NJ 07732 (opposite campground parking lot).


4: Hackensack River

A woman paddling along Hackensack riverPin
Courtesy: Kai Schreiber on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Hackensack River can be a diverse location to paddle, with both urban and natural environments to explore. Launching at Laurel County Park, you can head either north or south, with views of Manhattan in the distance.

Heading upriver, you’ll find the Hackensack Meadowlands Conservation and Wildlife Area, which features creeks and marshes, as well as lots of bird life. There’s also a public boat ramp at the entrance to Mill Creek Marsh.

If you head downriver from Laurel Park, you can explore the Saw Mill Creek Marsh, which is actually over the state line in New York. Kayak rentals and tours are available in Laurel Park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Laurel County Park Boat Ramp, Laurel Hill Road, Secaucus, NJ 07094.


5: Delaware Bay

A dolphin and  kayak near Cape MayPin

Delaware Bay sits between New Jersey and Delaware, and offers excellent paddling opportunities, with wildlife viewing and coastal scenery. There are several places you can launch along the coastline, including at Norbury’s Landing, just north of the Villas in Cape May.

From this launch, you can paddle south toward Cape May. This lets you kayak alongside the ancient maritime forest at Higbee Beach as you head toward the Cape May Lighthouse. Just past Higbee Beach, you can see the wreck of the SS Atlantus.

From Norbury’s Landing, you can also choose to paddle north to explore the Dennis Creek Wildlife Management Area. However, the tide and the wind can affect how difficult it is to paddle.

You can rent kayaks from several locations in Cape May.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy to moderate)

Where to launch & how to get there:
2-98 N, Delaware Avenue, Villas, NJ 08251.


6: Round Valley Reservoir

Round Valley Reservoir can be an ideal place for a relaxing paddle or some kayak fishing - it’s stocked with lake trout.

The reservoir features clear water and beautiful natural scenery. With a motor limit of 10 horsepower, it can also be peaceful and great for families and new paddlers. The reservoir is surrounded by a state recreation area and is the only state park in New Jersey to offer wilderness camping, with the eastern shore campsites accessible only by boating or hiking.

There’s a public boat launch on the northern shore and kayak rentals are available off-site and can be delivered to the reservoir upon booking.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
County Road 629, Lebanon, NJ 08833.


7: Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir lies within Long Pond Ironworks State Park in the New Jersey Highlands. This beautiful reservoir benefits from calm, flatwater and beautiful surroundings. There are even a couple of sunken forests.

There are also historical sites to see inside the state park, including waterwheels and the remains of 18th and 19th century ironworks.

This peaceful reservoir, on the Wanaque River, covers just over 500 acres and is surrounded by forests. It features two boat launches, both with parking. The South Boat Launch has a kayak outfitter adjacent, offering hourly rentals.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/Flatwater (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
South Boat Launch, 1081 County Road 511, Ringwood, NJ 07456.


8: Cooper River

Rowing regatta race at the Cooper riverPin
Courtesy: Michael W Murphy on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Cooper River is a tributary of the Delaware River and can give you some great views of the Philadelphia skyline. The river is generally calm and slow-moving, so it can be good for paddlers of all levels. The flatwater river is also used by rowing teams and is home to several championship regatta and rowing events.

Launching at Cooper River Park, you can paddle in either direction, with parkland and homes along the banks. You can also follow along the Camden Water Trail that stretches 13 miles along the Cooper River and around Petty’s Island in the Back Channel of the Delaware River.

There are several places to launch along the river, including the kayak ramp on South Park Drive. Kayak rentals are available in Cooper River Park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Cooper River Park Kayak Landing, S Park Drive, Collingswood, NJ 08108.


9: Atlantic City

Atlantic City is probably best known for its casinos and its beachside boardwalk. This Vegas of the east coast can be a great paddling destination, with beaches, bays, and several protected natural areas, including Absecon Wildlife Management Area, part of Pine Barrens.

You can launch directly into the Absecon Bay, just north of Atlantic City. The bay can be ideal for fishing and wildlife viewing, with many birds calling the area home.

The waters in this salt marsh area tend to be calm but you can head out through the inlet into the ocean for close-up views of Atlantic City. The ocean can be choppier so it can be better if you have sea kayaking experience and a suitable craft.

Kayak rentals are available from Kammerman’s Marina in Clam Creek in Atlantic City or additional rentals and guided tours can be found in Ocean City.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I/II (easy)

Where to launch & how to get there:
Absecon Creek Boat Launch, 527 4th Street, Absecon, NJ 08201.


Kayak Rentals And Tours Around NJ

If you don’t have a kayak of your own, there are many places where you can rent one near these top locations. There are also several outfitters that offer guided tours.

●    Urban Paddle (Liberty State Park - rentals and tours)
●    Al and Sam’s (Parvin State Park - rentals)
●    Sandy Hook Kayaks (Horseshoe Cove - rentals and tours)
●    Laurel Hill Paddling Center (Hackensack River - rentals and tours)
●    Aqua Trails (Delaware Bay - rentals and tours)
●    Yellow Dog Paddle (Round Valley Reservoir - rentals)
●    Flatwater Paddle Co. (Monksville Reservoir - rentals)
●    Cowboy Mike’s Canoe Rental (Cooper River - rentals)
●    Kammerman’s Marina (Atlantic City - rentals)
●    Bay Cats (Atlantic City - rentals and tours)

Remember to check out our article on New Jersey’s state kayaking laws before you start paddling.

Final Words

Kayaking in New Jersey can offer fantastic views, whether you’re looking for cityscapes or natural scenery. With both coastal and inland waterways, there can be something to suit just about everyone.

We’ve found our favorite locations, so when you find yours, tell us about them in the comments. Maybe you know someone heading to the Garden State?

Share this guide with them so they can check out some of the best paddling spots. 

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