New England’s rich and seemingly unlimited variety of coastal waters, inland lakes and rivers of all shapes and sizes makes it a prime destination for paddle sports adventures. Whether you’re splashing your paddleboard right out your back door or traveling several hours to a cherished destination, the rewards are there for the taking.
Here are six of the best spots in the region where you enjoy your paddleboard, kayak, or canoe this summer.
New Hampshire — Pemigewasset River
The Pemi begins in Franconia Notch State Park, where its clear waterfalls and elevation drops at the Flume and the Basin attract thousands of visitors each year. The river eventually widens as it journeys 65 miles to Franklin, where it joins with the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River. The majority of the river’s corridor is undeveloped, making it a popular destination for paddleboarders looking to enjoy the natural resources of the region. The river offers whitewater, quick water and flat water experiences, so paddlers should plan accordingly. Ayers Island is an eight-mile section of rapids, but a large portion of the river is shallow, flowing over a gravel bed bordered by wide gravel and sand beaches.
Massachusetts — Boston Harbor Islands
It might be an afterthought for many, but paddleboarding among the islands of Boston Harbor presents a unique opportunity to explore the coastal environment against the backdrop of one of the most iconic cities in America. Thirty-four islands make up the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, ranging from small and rustic retreats to larger family-friendly hubs offering a range of activities. Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is the largest recreational space in eastern Massachusetts, attracting more than a half-million visitors annually. The National Park Service maintains the ecological habitat for local wildlife and preserves important historical venues significant to the evolution of the nation.
Noteworthy among the islands is Brewster Island, home to Boston Light, the oldest continually operated light station in the country. Georges Island is home to the Civil War-era Fort Warren, once a prison for Confederate soldiers and designated as the first line of defense for Boston Harbor. Peddocks Island contains abandoned ruins from World War I and II-era Fort Andrews, which served as the film site for Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.” Deer Island once served as an internment camp during King Philip’s War, one of the bloodiest conflicts between European settlers and indigenous Americans.
Because of the heavy boat traffic in these waters, including large commercial ships, ferries and luxury craft, paddleboarders should take extreme caution before launching and navigating in the harbor. Launch sites at Hingham Harbor Beach are popular, offering a shorter paddle to the remote Bumpkin and Grape islands. Quincy and Hull bays also offer plenty to explore in quieter waters.
Connecticut — Squantz Pond State Park
This public recreation area in New Fairfield is a favorite among paddleboarders. Bordered by the steep banks of the Pootatuck State Forest, the lake’s mountain-like setting draws anglers, beachgoers, swimmers and boaters alike.
Rhode Island — Napatree Point
Both the southernmost and westernmost point in Rhode Island, Napatree is a narrow, 1.5-mile-long peninsula that juts out into Block Island Sound from Westerly mainland, offering crystal-clear waters and sensational views. Managed by the Watch Hill Conservancy, the region’s 86 acres are home to many species of federally and state-listed endangered species, including piping plovers, least terns, osprey and American oystercatchers.
Vermont —Lake Champlain
The nation’s sixth-largest lake offers an abundance of paddling opportunities along the 120 shoreline miles that make up the “Lake Champlain Paddler’s Trail.” If heading out for a couple hours, launch from North Beach Park in Burlington and paddle out around Lone Rock Point. Continue north along the shoreline into Appletree Bay, Leddy Beach and Appletree Point.
Maine —Acadia National Park
Whether you’re looking to ride some waves, navigate through challenging currents or embrace a peaceful paddle in calm waters, New England has something for everyone. But in Maine, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect setting in which to tool around than the waters in and around Mount Desert Island. The largest island off the Maine coast, MDI is home to Acadia National Park, the 48,000-acre natural wonder that attracts 3.5 million visits a year, making it one of the top-10 most-visited national parks in the United States. Paddling here is especially rewarding as the 108-square-mile island is situated on the Atlantic Ocean and features dozens of freshwater lakes, ponds and inlets. Seals and porpoises are known to swim near paddlers, while native seabirds will keep watch from above.
Acadia National Park is just one treasured paddling destination in Maine, which boasts 2,600-named lakes and ponds to explore.
Matt Boxler can be reached at [email protected]