Free Kayaking at Pier 26: What You Need to Know

Downtown Boathouse kayaking other lesser kayakersAs you should already know, the Downtown Boathouse has moved back to its original home at Pier 26, just north of N. Moore, where it has a new facility in the complex that will include a restaurant. I tried it out yesterday—here’s what I think you’ll need/want to know before you take to the water.

1. Free kayaking is offered weekdays in July and August from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The last boats depart 30 minutes before closing. The season runs through mid-October, if the weather holds.

2. Bring a swimsuit or change of clothes! The kayak I was presented with had an inch of water in the seat. (Chilly!) The kayaks are said to be self-bailing, but mine was taking the afternoon off.

3. There are two changing booths, and from the outside it’s hard to tell if they’re occupied. Don’t be afraid to give the curtain a tug—there’s a life-vest-style latch on the inside. And there are lockers, for which you don’t need to bring a lock, despite what the FAQ page says—they’ll give you one with a key on a shoestring, so you can put it around your neck. The metal lockers get very hot in the late afternoon sun.

4. The Downtown Boathouse website says they also have free sunblock, but I didn’t see it, and you definitely want it—the sun is much more powerful on the water.

5. You’re supposed to head back within 20 minutes. That may not sound like long, but you can only go as far out as the buoys, which isn’t so far, and the boats aren’t exactly performance machines (so if you’ve kayaked much before you might find 20 minutes is enough). That’s not to say the experience isn’t a delight—it’s just what you get with an unsinkable sit-on-top kayak, which is what you need when the mission of Downtown Boathouse is to give newbies a taste of kayaking.

6. Kids are allowed, but if they’re under 16 they have to go out with a guardian (in a two-person kayak).

7. Stay away from the seawall or they’ll yell at you. Besides, the wakes heading toward the riverbank bounce right off the wall, so it can get a bit hairy around there.

8. You can take a free lesson if you like. At Pier 26, they’re Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. If not, there’s no explanation unless you want it—just sign the waiver, snap on a life vest, and wait your turn.

9. Downtown Boathouse runs free three-hour trips to the open Hudson River on Saturdays at 8 a.m. You have to have done the free kayaking program first.

10. I brought a camera with me but I don’t think it was a good idea and I would not recommend it. (See #3.) The pix below are from the beginning to the end of the experience.

Downtown Boathouse dock at startDowntown Boathouse kayaking view from pierDowntown Boathouse kayaking heading outDowntown Boathouse kayaking looking back toward pierDowntown Boathouse kayaking at far buoyDowntown Boathouse kayaking heading back to Pier 26(Look, I never said it was going to be a thrilling photographic journey. Go try it for yourself!)



  1. Took my 4-year old daughter and had a blast…will do this frequently.

    definitely not a performance paddling experience, but superb if you’re looking for a way to cool down and experience the neighborhood from a different vantage point.

  2. You’re gonna need a bigger boat. There are bigger things lurking under the water.