If ever a place was made for kayaking, it’s Long Island. With shallow lakes and ponds, saltwater bays, harbors and marshlands, plus tidal creeks, rivers and even ocean water on which to launch, access is easy, wildlife is a paddle length away and exercise is available for both body and soul.
If you don’t own your own kayak, no worries — there are plenty of paddling shops where you can rent one. You might also consider taking a kayak tour. Several shops offer these, and for less cost than you might expect.
RENT TO GET STARTED
A typical kayak rental costs between $25 and $45 per hour based on the size and type of craft. Whereas sit-in kayaks once led the pack, most kayak rental shops now offer sit-on-top styles that are more stable and dryer to operate. The big choice you’ll need to make, says Vinny Baratta, a sales associate at Captain Kayak in Sayville, is choosing between a paddle kayak or a pedal kayak. The former is more traditional while the latter is favored by anglers because it affords hands-free operation.
“If you are thinking about buying a kayak,” advises Mike Fehling at Empire Kayaks in Island Park, take some rental trips first. Head out for an hour or two rather than renting for a full day. Explore a marsh or try clamming, sightseeing and fishing. Choosing a different kayak type each time out will help determine which suits you best.”
ECO-TOURS A BLAST
“Taking an eco-tour is a great idea, too, says Kevin Rodgers, a high school science teacher and naturalist who also works at Empire Kayaks. “Our wetlands are full of life that people never notice. Most kayakers, for example, look up as they paddle in the hopes of seeing marsh birds, but they mostly miss the turtles, baitfish and fiddler, blue or horseshoe crabs right under their feet.”
Another perk of a guided tour is easy access to the best launching sites minus parking issues and town restrictions, says Lars Svanberg, owner of Main Beach Surf and Sport in Wainscott. This shop organizes tours that offer views of East End mansions and marine life, and sometimes include extras like a clambake.
For simply getting away from it all, few kayak tours can match the solitude of Shelter Island’s Coecles Harbor. Shelter Island Kayak Tours schedules a daily tour through Labor Day but can accommodate groups at other times as well.
“It’s really beautiful and quiet here,” says owner Jay Damuck. “You’ll see osprey, hawks, egrets and sea turtles. Afterwards, you can spend some time at a local beach and then grab a bite to eat.”
At Stony Brook Harbor Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals, Nick Barbera’s favorite tour for group outings pushes up into West Meadow Creek on Stony Brook Harbor, where there’s plenty of wildlife, including birds, turtles, crabs and smaller sea creatures, plus the possibility of being surrounded by schools of bunker.
“It’s just really awesome when you paddle through the pods of big, silvery baitfish,” he says. “Sometimes there are thousands and thousands of them in this area.”
SELECTED KAYAK TOURS, RENTALS AND SALES SHOPS
Empire Kayaks, Island Park (rentals, sales, tours)
TOUR: TYPES Marsh, fishing, fitness
INFO: 516-889-8300, empirekayaks.com
Stony Brook Harbor Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals (rentals, tours)
TOUR TYPES: Harbor wetlands
INFO: 631-834-3130, sbharborrentals.com
JK Kayak Tours, Cold Spring Harbor (rentals, tours, mobile locations)
TOUR TYPES: Sightseeing from Cold Spring Harbor to the Hamptons.
INFO: 800-489-0398, jkkayak.com
The Waterfront Center, Oyster Bay (rentals, tours)
TOUR TYPES: Sunset paddles
INFO: 516-922-7245, thewaterfrontcenter.org
Shelter Island Kayak Tours (rentals, tours)
TOUR TYPES: Coecles Harbor sightseeing
INFO: 631-749-1990, kayaksi.com
Main Beach Surf and Sport, Wainscott (rentals, tours)
TOUR TYPES: Sightseeing, clam bakes, moonlight
INFO: 631-537-2716, mainbeach.com
Captain Kayak, Sayville and East Quogue (rentals, sales)
Specializes in Fishing Kayaks
INFO: 631-750-2587 (Sayville); 631-484-0806, captainkayak.com
Peconic Paddler, Riverhead (rentals, sales)
INFO: 631-727-9895, peconicpaddler.com
WHAT TO BRING
Kayaking is pretty basic and stowage room is always limited, so travel light. Be sure to pack some sunblock, and you’ll want bug spray, too — especially if going on a wetlands or moonlight tour. Something to drink is also a necessity. Pack lunch or a snack if you’ll be out for more than an hour or two.
In terms of clothing, a bathing suit or shorts makes sense during the warmer months, but you’ll also want a long-sleeved shirt to defend against the sun on particularly bright days or when the sea breezes and temperature drops kick in on afternoon and evening adventures. A hat is important, too, especially if you are prone to sunburn on the scalp.
If you plan to carry a cellphone, bring a waterproof holder. Personal flotation devices are supplied by the tour.
Lastly, be sure to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses. These will protect your eyes from the sun during the course of the trip and also cut through the glare so you can see deeper into the water.