"Peepers" — that's what New Englanders call people from Long Island, New York City and points south who flock by the tens of thousands each October to greet fall’s changing colors. While the views do seem to grow increasingly intense as one heads north, there are some places to catch this show right here at home — and it can be spectacular.
"There’s 360-degree views out here, salty air, all kinds of wildlife," says Lars Svanberg, of Main Beach Surf and Sport, who rents out kayaks and provides guided tours by appointment in Wainscott. “It’s uncrowded … one of the best-kept secrets of the Hamptons are its paddling perspectives from shore.”
Indeed, as October begins, the trees and bushes along Long Island’s back-bay coves, tidal creeks, lakes and ponds blossom in colors so rich you can practically taste them. Every tree, branch and leaf is distinct. Some seem to burst forth with color like juice from a fresh-bitten fruit. Others turn more slowly, gracefully morphing from green to yellow, orange or crimson. It makes for a delightful mix that can have a calming effect, melting away the stress and pressures of daily life.
"Less than 100 miles from New York City, it’s easy to lose yourself in the timeless beauty of autumn‘s glory as you glide through the calm waters of Coecles Harbor," notes Adam Mills, the owner of Kayak Shelter Island. "From the water, you can access gorgeous views and pristine areas not accessible from land."
“Fall paddling on Long Island is a beautiful experience,” says Sheila Malone, owner of the Moku Loa Paddle Tribe paddleboard rental company in Oakdale. She further points out that “boat traffic is quieter and everything around you is more peaceful. You really get the chance to take in the incredible wildlife on the river, everything from turtles and osprey to the occasional fox or deer. Of course, the colors during that time of year are even more beautiful and fall sunsets shouldn’t be missed.”
For those who already have a watercraft, heading out to experience fall’s colors in all their glory is as easy as finding a launch site and pushing off the shore. Those who don’t own a kayak or paddleboard can easily rent one or book a tour.
Stony Brook Harbor Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals
51 Shore Rd., Stony Brook
Tour types: Self-guided tour of Stony Brook Harbor; paddleboard yoga classes.
Fees: Single kayaks and paddleboards $45, double kayaks $70, paddleboard yoga classes $40.
More info: 631-834-3130; sbharborrentals.com
Tour types: Offering foliage, nature and bird-watching kayak tours along the Setauket Harbor or Mount Sinai Harbor through October.
Fees: Rentals: $30 for 1 hour, $10 each additional. Tours: $50 1-hour trip, $65 2-hour trip, $80 3-hour trip. Prices include on-land lesson.
More info: 631-404-6447, paumanoktours.com
89 Peconic Ave., Riverhead
Tour types: Self-guided Peconic River tours on weekends. No reservations needed.
Fees: Single kayaks: 1 hour for $30, 2 hours for $45, half day for $75, full day for $85. Double kayaks: 1 hour for $40, 2 hours for $55, half day for $75, full day $85. Canoes and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) also available.
More info: 631-727-9895; thepeconicpaddler.com
Kayak Shelter Island
80 Burns Rd., Shelter Island
Tour types: Guided and self-guided tours off Shelter Island, with a focus on the Coecles Harbor marine water trail, which moves through wetlands and along the Mashomack Nature Preserve.
Fees: Single kayaks: 2 hours for $30, 4 hours for $45, full day for $60. Double kayaks: 2 hours for $50, 4 hours for $70, full day for $90. SUPs: $30 for 1 hour. Guided tour: $60 per person, $30 for ages younger than 12, for groups of 5 people or more; $100 per person for groups fewer than 5 people.
More info: 631-749-1990; kayaksi.com
Main Beach Surf and Sport
Tour types: Self-guided tour around Georgica Pond and Sagg Pond.
Fees: $85 single kayak, $95 double kayak.
More info: 631-537-2716; mainbeach.com
Belmont Lake State Park
Southern State Parkway, Exit 38, North Babylon
Tour types: Self-guided on Belmont Lake. Kayak rentals available at the boathouse weekends and holidays through Columbus Day.
Fees: $20 for 2 hours, plus $8 parking fee. (Personal kayaks can be launched from shore year-round, must be off the water 30 minutes before dark.) Pedal boats and rowboats also available.
More info: 631-667-5055; parks.ny.gov
Moku Loa Paddle Tribe
Oakdale Yacht Club: 520 Shore Dr., Oakdale
Tour types: Paddleboard tours select Sundays (by reservation) along the Connetquot River through October, weather permitting.
Fees: Seasonal rentals: $45 for 2 hours; private lessons $65. Sunday guided tours are $50 for 90 minutes.
More info: 631-403-7502; mokuloa.com
Adventure Paddleboards and Kayaks
94 Dune Rd., East Quogue
Tour types: Self-guided tour. Reservations required. Daily delivery available to your waterfront location. Floating fitness class through September, reservations required, weather permitting.
Fees: Single kayak rentals $40 per hour. Double kayak $60 for 1 hour, $75 for 2 hours. Floating paddleboard yoga $40 per hour.
More info: 631-377-0162; adventurepaddleboards.com
Long Island SUP
90 Colonial Dr., East Patchogue
Tour types: Foliage and bird-watching paddleboard and kayak tours in September and October on weekends. Stand-up paddleboard yoga sessions held through Columbus Day.
Fees: Single kayak: 75 minutes for $47, 2 hours for $65. Double kayaks: 75 minutes for $60, 2 hours for $80.
More info: 631-326-7926; longisland-sup.com
Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals
Paul T. Given County Park, Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown. Also: Nissequogue River State Park, Kings Park.
Tour types: Self-guided daily along 5 ½-mile Nissequogue River (tidal). Canoe and kayak rentals through Oct. 31.
Fees: $70 canoe, $50 single kayak, $70 double kayak; includes transportation back to your vehicle.
More info: 631-979-8244; text 631-219-4887 the day before for tidal information and times, canoerentals.com
Bob’s Canoe Rentals
Nissequogue River State Park, Kings Park
Tour types: Self-guided daily along 5 ½-mile Nissequogue River (tidal). Canoe and kayak rentals through Oct. 31. Tours by appointment.
Fees: $50 single kayak, $70 double kayak, $70 canoe.
More info: 631-269-9761, canoerentalslongisland.com