Kayak Trip: Manhattan—Sandy Hook

By Vladimir Brezina

On Sunday, Johna and I went kayaking. As usual, we looked up the tidal currents and went where the currents would take us that day. That turned out to be Sandy Hook, NJ.

The trip from Manhattan to Sandy Hook and back is one of our favorite trips. We do it often. It’s a full day’s trip but, with favorable current both ways, not overly strenuous: about three hours there and four hours back, with plenty of time between for lunch. I will give details of how to plan the trip so as to use the currents to best advantage in a future post. But in the meantime, here are some photographic highlights of Sunday’s trip.

A festive send-off for our trip


Leaving Manhattan behind

Between the barges anchored off Bay Ridge Flats

In the Upper Bay

Approaching the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

In the Lower Bay

Near Romer Shoal Light, looking back at Ambrose Channel, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and Manhattan in the far distance

Sandy Hook in sight!

Fish trap poles in Sandy Hook Bay

Landed for lunch at our favorite spot on Sandy Hook

Lunch with a view

The concrete ruins are the remains of gun emplacements and other military installations dating back  to the 1950s and 1960s when Sandy Hook was the site of a Nike missile battery….

Leaving Sandy Hook for the trip back to Manhattan

Hazy afternoon, with sea smoke rising from the sea

Following the ships heading in...

Back in the Upper Bay, blue and pink Manhattan ahead

Near sunset

Harbor filled with light for the last time

Final rays

More photos are here.

7 responses to “Kayak Trip: Manhattan—Sandy Hook

  1. I guess I’ll be at Sandy Hook again next weekend for the Ederle Swim


  2. agreed, great pictures of a great trip.


  3. I’m curious how late in the season you’d paddle there short of having cold water gear. Since they opened it up for camping I’ve been hoping to overnight there but I doubt I can do that before the middle of October, and the best protection I have is a 3mm wetsuit and light Kokotat jacket.

    I’ve also read/heard you prefer to exit the Narrows on the east side, closer to the shipping channel. I’m curious as to why, if true. Also,if that would change if you were heading to the western edge of Sandy Hook. NPS has said for camping and official landing we should go to horseshoe crab bay.


    • Hi, Julie,

      The water will remain warm for some time, so I would think a wetsuit and paddling jacket should be enough for a month or more. Having said that, I personally would wear that or more even in October, not so much because of the water temperature but because of the air temperature. I get cold easily, especially sitting on the beach in the wind. In the fall around NYC, my experience is that whatever I wear for the air temperature—which usually is a wetsuit and paddling jacket, because those just happen to be the most convenient and comfortable items—is plenty to take care of the water temperature too (not so in the spring, of course).

      I am planning to post a how-to post on paddling down to Sandy Hook—one of these days!—but briefly, we usually paddle down the east side of the Upper Bay as opposed to the west side, through the Bay Ridge anchorage, and so we end up on the Brooklyn side of the Narrows. From there the natural course is just to paddle straight down along the eastern side of the Ambrose Channel, then crossing the channel to Romer Shoal Light and on to Sandy Hook. Of course you can also cross to the Staten Island side of the Narrows and paddle down the western side of Ambrose Channel. They are probably both equally good. But you want to stay close to the channel because that’s where the strongest ebb current is.

      We follow this course whether we are going to the ocean side or the bay side of Sandy Hook. Especially when going to the bay side, however, it’s important to angle sharply to the right over the last several miles before Sandy Hook, as the ebb current will push strongly to the left, out to sea. That’s during the middle of the ebb phase of the tidal cycle, which is when we usually arrive at Sandy Hook. Later on in the ebb phase, the opposite starts to be true.

      Coming back efficiently is a bit more complicated…

      Let me know if you have more questions. As I say, I’ll write this up in more detail but it probably won’t be soon…


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