12 Kayaking Launches Near New Haven, Connecticut

Kayaking became a new hobby for a lot of people during the Pandemic. People who wanted to get outside flocked to the water to get some fresh air and nature. So, Connecticut has seen a bit of a boom with people kayaking. But finding places to kayak locally can absolutely be a challenge, so you may be wondering where are the best places to kayak near New Haven, CT? 

Around New Haven, Connecticut there are several great local kayaking launches. We will highlight three sea launches, three pond/lake launches, five river launches, and one marsh launch within an hour of New Haven Connecticut to help you kayak locally! 

Let’s dive into all of these fantastic kayaking launches near New Haven below.

Summary of the Best Kayaking Launches Near New Haven, CT

Type Launch Name Location Distance from Stamford
Sea
Scoot and Paddle
Milford, CT
15 miles (24 minutes)
Sea
Farm River State Park
East Haven, CT
7 miles (15 minutes)
Sea
Stony Creek Beach / Thimble Islands
Branford, CT
12 miles (18 minutes)
Pond
Mixville Pond
Cheshire, CT
19 miles (32 minutes)
Lake
Lake Wintergreen
Hamden, CT
5 miles (15 minutes)
Lake
Lake Zoar
Monroe, CT
16 miles (32 minutes)
River
Housatonic River - Shepaug Dam
Southbury, CT
27 miles (51 minutes)
River
Indian Well State Park
Shelton, CT
12 miles (28 minutes)
River
Housatonic State Boat Launch
Milford, CT
19 miles (25 minutes)
River
Quinnipiac River
New Haven, CT
2 miles (5 minutes)
River
Mill River - Orange St. Launch
Orange, CT
2 miles (5 minutes)
Marsh
Charles W. Wheeler
Milford, CT
16 miles (25 minutes)

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Sea Kayaking Near New Haven Connecticut

New Haven is on the coast, meaning that kayakers here will have plenty of access points to the Long Island Sound. Really, any beach can be a launch point, but I want to highlight a few locations that I think are really great for kayaking the Sound. 

The three places I’ll highlight here are Scoot and Paddle in Milford, Farm River State Park in East Haven, and Thimble Islands off of Stony Creek Beach in Branford. 

Scoot and Paddle

Scoot and Paddle isn’t actually a launch site – it’s a company. But, this company is very well known for it’s kayak rentals and gear in Connecticut. Their Milford store is also right next to Walnut Beach where you can launch from if you already have your own kayak. 

If you’re looking to kayak with others, Scoot and Paddle offers plenty of group paddles throughout the warmer months. One of the local favorites is a moonlight paddle, where as a group you paddle by moonlight on the sea. What an experience! 

If you are kayaking alone, this is a great paddle along the New Haven County coast line. Keep an eye out for wind though. High winds mean big waves and unless you’re an experienced sea kayaker you don’t want to be in the ocean for those types of water conditions. 

Farm River State Park

Farm River State Park offers another launch point to access the Long Island Sound.  This one is a much smaller launch point and does not offer rentals, like Scoot and Paddle does in Milford. Additionally, although this launch point is open to the public, you do need a park pass to use this launch. 

Obtaining one of these may not be on everyones to-do list, but if you plan to kayak the Sound often it may be a great way to have a less crowded launch site for your kayaking adventures. 

If you do plan to launch here you’ll want to come at high tide as the launch gets really muddy otherwise. Plus, at high tide there is a smaller inlet of calm water you can paddle into should you desire.  If not you can paddle directly out in to the Sound, where you’ll pass by Kelsey Island, which has some beautiful scenery you don’t want to miss. 

 

Stony Creek Beach Launch to Thimble Islands

Connecticut has several really amazing Islands just off it’s coast in the Long Island Sound. For those of us with boats and/or kayaks, these islands can be really fun places to explore that are definitely off-the-beaten path of the traditional Connecticut experience. 

The Stony Creek Beach Launch is the most direct way to reach the islands off the New Haven County coast. Most of these islands are privately owned, meaning that you can’t really get out and explore. But, if you head to the outermost island, you’ll be able to land your kayak and get out to explore (or at least have lunch). This island contains a natural wildlife refuge – so you will need to be cautious of any wildlife should you choose to get out of your kayak. And, as always, leave no trace

But if you really want remote – this island is definitely it! 

one of the islands in the thimble islands group off of stony creek beach in Branford Connecticut. there are boats off the island. You can kayak the waters here

Thimble Islands: Photo Credit  Jerry and Roy Klotz

Pond and Lake Kayaking Launches Near New Haven, Connecticut

New and experienced kayakers can all find a pond or lake for them near New Haven. Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to kayak for the first time, or you want a family-filled fun day in the sun that can include kayaking (among other boating activities) – ponds and lakes near New Haven definitely have you covered. 

Below we’ll cover the small, calm water launches for Mixville Pond and Lake Wintergreen, as well as the large launch for Lake Zoar.

Mixville Pond

Mixville Pond is a tiny, calm water pond located in the middle of Mixville Park. Mixville Park isn’t known for it’s remote, rural nature – instead it’s more well known for it’s swimming hole, basketball courts, and picnic tables. It’s a great family-fun filled park. 

Mixville Pond isn’t a place you can spend all day kayaking. But, it is a place where you can combine kayaking with other activities like swimming or basketball. These other activities are great if you’re attempting to kayak with little ones who have shorter attention spans and get tired on the water more easily.

You should know Mixville Pond is NOT free, even for CT residents. It’s $20 for most people, and a bit less if you’re a Cheshire resident, but still for an entire day of fun with multiple activities, it may be worth the fee for you. 

Lake Wintergreen

Tucked into the Hamden access point for West Rock Ridge State Park is the small, calm water, Lake Wintergreen. The launch is immediately off the parking area, and is the start of a several hiking trails in the park. 

Lake Wintergreen is one of my top recommendations for kayaking locations for new beginners. It’s small, has very calm water, and can only be accessed by non-motorized boats. Plus, since it’s in a State Park, the land surrounding the lake is beautiful to kayak near. It’s an escape into nature only a few miles away from the bustling New Haven center. What more could you want?

For those looking to add onto their paddle, there are hiking trails to explore as well as picnic benches for a post-paddle meal. 

Lake Zoar

Lake Zoar is a favorite of really anyone who lives in Connecticut. This lake isn’t just for paddlers, and you should expect a lot of motorized boats and jet skis. Generally it’s best for the paddlers here to stick to the water’s edge to prevent large wakes and being in the way of those fast moving jet skiers and tubers flying through the water. 

With that said there’s a lot of life and fun to be had on Lake Zoar. People tend to live out here on the water in the summer months, and you’ll often find music coming from boats, people swimming in the lakes, kids enjoying the water, and so much more. Plenty of people live on the lake as well, and have their own private launches to enjoy the water. 

So, this isn’t really a peaceful calm paddle, but is great if you’re looking to get out and explore Connecticut lakes with others and have a really fun summer day. 

Housatonic River: Photo Credit Spacemace1

River Kayaking Launches Near New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven is near several rivers that you can kayak. There are so many I can’t highlight every launch, but I do want to mention 3 great rivers and their associated 5 launch points to get you kayaking in the rivers around  New Haven.

These include the 3 launches for the Housatonic River,  1 launch for the Quinnipiac River, and 1 launch for Mill River. 

Housatonic River Kayaking Launches

The Housatonic is one of three main rivers for kayaking (the other two being the Connecticut River and the Farmington River). The launch points for the other two rivers mainly lie in other areas in Connecticut, but the Housatonic has a few different launch points near New Haven for people to enjoy. 

  1. The first place I’m highlighting in Shepaugh Dam. Most people will want to launch below the dam, but if you’d rather come from the north there are places you can portage over. Be careful kayaking near dams if you aren’t aware of their dangers
  2. The second on the list is Indian Well State Park. This launch is a favorite of locals but also hosts various boating competitions throughout the year. Always check the launch is accessible before heading out. Also there are hiking trails, a swimming hole, and a waterfall to enjoy here as well. 
  3. The third launch is the Housatonic River State Boat Launch in Milford, CT. If you head south you’ll head towards the Charles E. Wheeler Marsh that I’m highlighting below, and north will lead you farther up into the Housatonic. Expect large boats and a lot of waves if you choose this launch. 

Quinnipiac River

The Quinnipiac River and Marshland Area is a great place to launch your kayak just outside the city. Depending on where you launch you can have a nice calm, quiet paddle, or a busier paddle through the middle of the city. 

For the calm paddle, you’ll launch from the North Haven launch here. If you’re looking for more of a city launch and paddle (with some larger boats around) then you can launch from here, here (has rentals), or here

Outside of Hartford, these launches on the Quinnipiac River offer the most urban kayaking in the state. Not everyone is a fan of urban kayaking, as some people enjoy a peaceful paddle into nature. But, if you’ve never kayaked in a city before then it’s a great way to try something new, see the city from a different angle, and really get a unique experience. Don’t knock urban kayaking until you’ve tried it at least once.

Mill River

 East Rock Park in New Haven is known for it’s hiking trails and beautiful view of the city from the top on East Rock. But not many people know that you can actually kayak in this park as well (or really, through this park). 

Mill River runs through the southern part of Easy Rock Park, which offers a great launch site on Orange Street in New Haven. Rentals are also available should you not have your own kayak. 

Mill River offers a beautiful calm water kayaking experience perfect for kayakers and paddle boarders to get some fresh air in the middle of the city without feeling like you’re in the middle of the city. But, if you kayak far enough south (and out of East Rock) you’ll also enter more of an urban kayaking experience underneath I-95. 

View of Launch site and Charles E. Wheeler wildlife area from parking lot

Charles E. Wheeler Kayaking Launch

Marsh Kayaking Launch: Charles E. Wheeler Kayaking Launch

Charles E Wheeler Wildlife Management Area in Milford, CT is a remote protected marsh. You can only access these waterways in the 2 hours before and after high tide. So, you’ll need to plan and time your trip according to the tides.

With that said, this place is absolultely amazing. Because it mainly is made up of disappearing waterways, you’ll need to treat this like a maze as you go through it. The grasses are typically higher than you can see, so around every corner you’ll chose a direction and hope for the best. 

Plan to reach dead ends and have to turn around to find an open waterway. It’s great fun for kids (and adults too)!

I hope these 12 kayaking launches near New Haven, Connecticut have given you a list of new places to explore and kayak around Connecticut.

If you’re looking to kayak other local places check out our kayaking locations page or our guide to 55 kayaking launches in Connecticut to find a new place for you. 

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