Boat Rental Rundown: Locations, Tips and More!
I can canoe! Can you? If not, don’t worry, there are plenty of spots for beginners and the seasoned sailors too in this handy guide to boat rentals.
I once heard a quote that said “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who want to buy a boat and those who want to sell a boat.” That leads me to believe owning a boat comes with certain challenges that make you want to sell it only minutes after you’ve purchased it. Honestly, I am never going to know for sure because I have absolutely no intention of purchasing a watercraft–motorized or person-powered–in my lifetime (sorry, kids).
Plus, I would argue there is, in fact, a third type of person in this world: Those who are smart to avoid the commitment of ownership and simply rent a boat. Grab your sunscreen, pack a lunch and channel your inner Gilligan, it’s time to have a boating adventure.
On the Main Line
675 Park Road, Downingtown
Rental Info: Located in Marsh Creek State Park, this lake-based boating business offers group and single stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and trolling motor boats; life jackets and basic instruction are included; rent for as little as a half-hour or for an entire season.
Good to Know: Stay and play all day. Marsh Creek has tons of hiking trails, a shaded playground, and a classic public pool complete with a splash pad for the littlest sailors. There are changing rooms, lockers, and two reasonably priced snack bars, as well as picnic tables and charcoal grills.
865 Park Road, Elverson
Rental Info: Located within French Creek State Park, this place offers single stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and trolling motor boats in a lake setting; life jackets and basic instruction are included; rent for as little as a half-hour and for as long as four hours.
Good to Know: You could easily make a leisurely weekend out of this one. They have tent camping, hiking trails, fishing, picnic spots, plenty of room to bike, and a public pool.
264 Canal Street, Port Providence
Rental Info: Located just outside the funky town of Phoenixville, this place offers canoe, kayak, and tube rentals you can enjoy using on the canal, the Schuylkill River, or a combination of both. If you’re new to boating, start with their two-and-a-half hour trip. Veteran boaters, with a good fitness level, can enjoy the challenge of the six-hour trip.
Good to Know: Some of the excursions involve portaging your boat a short way. Some would say that adds to the fun, but others might balk at that. After your time on the river, you’ll be hungry. You can grab dinner at The Fitz–the restaurant connected to the boat rental store–or head into Phoenixville where you’ll find a wide range of dining options.
2096 Strasburg Road, Mortonville
Rental Info: Sitting along the banks of the Brandywine River, this place offers one option: a self-guided tour in either a canoe or a kayak. Great for beginners, and for those of us with kids who have short attention spans, it can be as quick as 2.5 hours.
Good to Know: They do not accept credit cards so hit the ATM on your way. While you’re at it, grab everything you need for a picnic lunch. This self-paced and leisurely experience is ideal for pulling over and enjoying a meal along the river.
101 Swamp Rd., Newtown
Rental Info: Located in Tyler State Park, they offer paddle boards, single and double kayaks, and canoes so you and the fam can paddle in Bucks County’s Neshaminy Creek. Minimum rental time is an hour, and the max is four hours.
Good to Know: If you’re in to frisbee golf, pack your set of discs because this park boasts one of the top courses in the United States. If that’s not your thing, pack your bikes and enjoy the numerous paved trails or bring your old shoes, a net, and a bucket for a creek-crawl. You’ll find crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, and all kinds of wildlife to catch and release.
1810 Beagle Road, West Chester
Rental Info: Thanks to the gentle current of the Brandywine River, families can enjoy a leisurely and relaxed experience in a canoe, single kayak, or a tube. Trips run anywhere from an hour in a canoe or kayak, to a three-hour float on a tube.
Good to Know: If you’re looking for a fabulous date night, try their Canoe & Dine excursion. Boaters take an hour-and-a-half trip, followed by dinner and music along the river. It’s a BYOB event and the staff will make sure your cooler is ready and waiting after your paddle.
Operating from the Manayunk Brewery Dock and at Schuylkill Banks (under the Walnut Street Bridge)
Rental Info: If you are looking for a paddling tour that includes basic instruction, this is the one for you. They offer kayak and canoe tours of Philadelphia as seen from the Schuylkill River. If you are into breweries, reserve your spot in a kayak, or stand up paddle board, tour that starts and finishes at the Manayunk Brewery.
Good to Know: Unlike the other listings, children must be at least eight years old to go on one of these trips.
2401 Walnut Street, Suite 603, Philadelphia
Rental Info: Offering kayak tours of the Schuylkill river, patrons can expect a half-hour of instruction and a one-hour guided tour.
Good to Know: You’ll want to plan ahead because tours are only offered on select Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
FDR Park, 1500 Pattison Ave., Philadelphia
Rental Info: With not one, but two lakes, this is a great spot if you live in the city and don’t have transportation to some of the more remote boat rental spots. Situated inside FDR Park, this company, in conjunction with the city, offers single and double pedal boats and kayaks. The watercraft are rented on an hourly basis.
Good to Know: Since you will probably only be out on the water for an hour, make sure you do some research to learn about all that’s going on in FDR Park on the day you visit. Aside from regular community celebrations, there’s golf, a skate park, picnic areas, fishing, biking, and walking.
Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia
Rental Info: Here’s your chance to paddle around the Delaware River Basin in pedal boats disguised as swans (or, if you’re lucky, a dragon). If you’re more into straight-laced boating, you can rent a kayak or a rowboat. Rentals are offered in half-hour time increments. If you are interested in a longer, more structured tour, complete with instruction, they offer kayak excursions throughout the summer.
Good to Know: Patrons receive a discount to the Independence Seaport Museum as well as the Cruiser Olympia and Submarine Becuna–both historic ships next to the museum.
5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia
Rental Info: Located on an eight-mile stretch on the lower Schuylkill River, this gem offers visitors the chance to use a rowboat or kayak for free on Saturdays. For families that have a deeper interest in the ecology of the river, they can join in the monthly Tidal Kayak Tour.
Good to Know: Make it a water-themed day and borrow one of the many fishing equipment bundles–also free–and try to nab a big one.
Photograph by Sarah L. Bender.