Let’s face it: there’s nothing quite like being out on the open water without an outboard motor. If you love fishing, birdwatching or simply being with family and friends, paddling is a great — and largely stress-free — thing to do.
At the height of the pandemic, kayaks and other personal watercraft were ridiculously hard to find in Connecticut. Dick’s, Cabela’s and other major sporting goods stores sold out as soon as they came in. Local shops kept pace as long as they could, while the second-hand market for boats and paddleboards quickly overheated.
This year, you’re more likely to walk into a retail shop and see kayaks, canoes and paddleboards lining the walls — for now. But if you’re not ready to commit to a boat or board, paddles, roof rack, straps, life jacket, waterproof bag and other essential equipment, a number of places around the state allow you to rent what you need to hit the water for the day.
Here are a few places to outfit your household for a Connecticut water adventure. (Check for COVID-19 restrictions and other safety protocols from vendors.)
Adventure Mystic, 15 Holmes Street, Mystic, 860-245-6086, adventuremystic.com. Paddleboards, single and tandem kayaks and bicycles for rent on the Mystic River, by the hour or by the week. Ask about the five-man “monster” paddleboard. Lessons, camps, paddleboard yoga and other adventures available. Open May 1.
Black Hall Outfitters, 132 Shore Road, Old Lyme; and 362 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, 860-434-9680, blackhalloutfitters.com. Rent single, tandem and paddle and pedal-drive fishing kayaks, paddleboards and canoes on the Black Hall and Menunketesuck Rivers. Sunset paddles, eco-tours, camps, group outings and field trips are available. Open now.
Blue Heaven Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals, 2 Washington Street, Mystic, 860-912-4188, facebook.com/blueheavenkayak. Hourly (or more) kayak and paddleboard rentals, local art by the owner, sunset meditations, lessons and more on the Mystic River. Open April 21.
Branford River Paddlesports, 50 Maple St., Branford, 203-980-8451, branfordriverpaddlesports.com. Kayak and paddleboard rentals, tours of the Thimble Islands, lessons, paddleboard yoga and more on the Branford River, with access to the Long Island Sound. Open May 27.
Clarke Outdoors, 163 US-7, West Cornwall, 860-672-6365, clarkeoutdoors.com. Novice paddlers can canoe, kayak or raft your way down a 10-mile section of the Housatonic River, with the famous West Cornwall covered bridge marking the halfway point of the trip. Hot showers are available when you’re done. Open early May (most likely).
Collinsville Canoe & Kayak, 41 Bridge Street, Canton, 860-693-6977, collinsvillecanoe.com. Single and tandem kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and bikes for two-hour rentals and up on the Farmington River, plus paddling classes for all levels. Call about opening day.
Cove Landing Marine, 250 Hamburg Road #3451, Old Lyme, 860-434-5240, covelanding.com. Single or tandem kayak and paddleboard rentals in Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River for two hours up to a full day of paddling. Open April 24.
The Happiest Paddler, 70 Main Street, East Hampton, 860-267-1764 (call after May 2 for availability), happiest-paddler.com. Kayak, canoe, paddleboard and even paddleboat rentals on beautiful Lake Potocopaug. Call after May 2 to check availability.
Indian River Marina, 58 Commerce St., Clinton, 860-664-3704, indrivmar.com. Rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards or arrange for a sunset paddle on the Indian River, close to where it converges with the Hammonasset and Hammock Rivers on their way to Long Island Sound. Rental season begins May 15.
Main Stream Canoes & Kayaks, 170 Main Street, New Hartford, 860-693-6791, mainstreamcanoe.com. Canoe and kayak trips (6-12 miles) on the Farmington River, or relaxing paddles around West Hill and Winchester Lakes in Northwest Connecticut.
Metacomet Canoe & Kayak, 67 Palisado Ave., Windsor, 860-713-9143, metacometcanoe.com. Canoe and kayak rentals on the Farmington and Connecticut Rivers. Moonlight trips and multi-day rentals available.
New England Watersports, Stony Creek Boat Launch (1 Indian Point Road), Branford, 203- 871-1376, Branford, newenglandwatersports.com. Kayak and paddleboard rentals in the Branford hamlet of Stony Creek into the Long Island Sound. Open weekends from June 12-Sept. 6. (Protip: sign up to paddle during the Branford fireworks on June 26 from 8-10 p.m.)
Quinnipiac River Marina, 307 Front St., New Haven, 203-777-3625, quinnipiacrivermarina.com. Kayak and canoe rentals and guided tours on the Quinnipiac River. (There’s also storage for your boat, if you already have one.)
Scoot & Paddle, 28 Naugatuck Ave., Milford, 203-713-8282; and 412 Roosevelt Drive, Derby, 203-343-9126, scootandpaddle.com. Kayak and paddleboard rentals in Milford on the Long Island Sound or on a seven-mile lake in Derby (pack a lunch). Peak season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day (call for hours during off-peak season).
Sea Kayak Connecticut, 575 Riverside Ave., Westport, 203-557-6033, seakayakct.com. Sit-on-top kayak and paddleboard rentals and tours of Cockenoe and Sprite Islands or Westport Harbor. Celebrate Independence Day by signing up for the July fireworks tour. Call for availability.
SoundWaters Kayak & Paddle Board Rentals, 200 Southfield Ave., Stamford, 203-323-1978, soundwaters.org/sails-rentals/rentals. Kayak and paddleboard rentals at SoundWaters Dock in Stamford’s Boccuzzi Park. Group outings available. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Thimble Island Kayak Rental, Branford, 203-859-0546, thimbleislandkayak.com. Kayaks, paddleboards and canoes seating up to three people close to Stony Creek and the Thimble Islands. All rentals include free delivery and pick up in Branford, All rentals include free delivery and pickup in Branford (pickup/delivery available elsewhere for a fee).
Three Belles Outfitters, 113 Oswegatchie Hills Road, Niantic, 860-691-3001, threebellesoutfitters.com. Recreational and fishing kayak and paddleboard rentals on scenic Smith Cove in Niantic, less than a mile from Long Island Sound (direct access through the Niantic River). Sunset and other tours available, and there’s even a kids paddle club.