A Complete Guide to Boating in New York

By Mary Wilson July 23, 2021

Boat Insurance

Daydreaming about New York often leads people to think about “the big apple” or “the concrete jungle,” also known as New York City or Manhattan. Or perhaps your mind goes to camping and unplugging in upstate New York or hiking and adventuring through the Adirondack Mountains. Wherever you mind goes, there is always an impressive body of water waiting for you to launch your boat and enjoy an afternoon or evening cruising and having fun. The boating experts here at National Boat Owners Association are diving into everything you need to know about boating in New York, where to go, how to stay safe, and why it is important to protect your boat and yourself in the northeast.

The Best Places to Go Boating in New York


With fishing coves, inspiring nature, natural New York beauty, and countless ways to cruise and relax or embark on a family adventure, there is so much to love about boating in New York. Among the hundreds of streams, canals, rivers, lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean, you are sure to find the perfect boating location that suits your needs and fulfills your desires. Look at popular favorite New York waters like Long Island Sound, Hudson River, St. Lawrence River, Lakes in the Adirondacks, the Narge Canal, the Finger Lakes, and the Great Lakes.

Favorite Boating Spots in Upstate New York


If you find yourself spending time in upstate New York, these scenic boating destinations will leave you speechless as you cruise, fish, or enjoy watersports.

Skaneateles Lake

Closely located near the Finger Lakes, Skaneateles Lake is often populated with sailboats and nostalgic vintage ships that add to the lake’s natural beauty. The water is so fresh and clean that it is used as unfiltered drinking water for the local towns.

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Connecting 50 miles of lakes, rivers, and canals, rowers, kayakers, and sailors can get a beautiful tour as they explore and traverse New York State. Entry points into the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor are open from May 1st through November 15th. 

Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake is a series of interconnected waterways that stretches for a full 24 miles through the Adirondacks and proves to be one of the most scenic boating destinations in New York. Visitors will find quick and easy boat launch sites around the lake, sandy beaches, little islands, and even rope swings.

Otsego Lake

Commonly referred to as Glimmerglass Lake, Otsego Lake reflects the deep, jewel-toned waters and rolling hills that surround it, along with the quaint Cooperstown. Local boaters, as well as out-of-town boaters, will be met with a warm welcome as municipal boat launches and private marinas are available for all.

Chautauqua Lake

Kayakers, paddle boarders, fishermen, sailors, and more enjoy this 17-mile lake in Western New York, just east of Lake Erie. Visiting boaters and travelers to Chautauqua Lake can take advantage of boat rentals and guided tours offered by many local marinas.

Lake George

Also known as the “Million Dollar Beach” and “Queen of American Lakes,” due to its reputation of being highly regarded as the “most scenic bodies of water in the Northeast,” Lake George is one of the cleanest lakes in the country. Boaters from all over enjoy swimming, fishing, water skiing, camping on the island, and indulging in delicious meals at waterfront restaurants.

Thousand Islands

Take a relaxing boat cruise along the eastern edge of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River as you look upon lighthouses, quaint cottages, and historic landmarks and castles that occupy Thousand Islands.

Great Sacandaga Lake

Along the shoreline of this 29-mile-long lake on the outskirts of the Adirondacks, you are sure to spy a myriad of fascinating wildlife as well as eagles and marvelous birds flying above. Great Sacandaga Lake is noted as the largest of the Adirondack lakes, making it a perfect boating location.

Fun Boating Locations Near Manhattan

Hudson River

This 300-mile stretch of river is an ideal spot for fishing. You can often spot fishing boats having good luck when it comes to catching smallmouth and largemouth bass up and down the Hudson River.

The Hamptons

A popular summer weekend getaway hotspot, The Hamptons is bursting at the seams with seaside communities, harbors, bays, islands, and more, along the east coast in New York. Add North Fork, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, and Gardiners Bay to your list of places for a memorable day on your boat.


Spend a long weekend on the waters of Montauk, also a part of the Hamptons, and find adventure and thrills from waterskiing to snorkeling. Fishers will love the abundance of tuna, striped bass, and sharks that inhabit these waters, while water sports enthusiasts will never find themselves boars.

Long Island Sound

Nestled between Connecticut and Long Island, Long Island Sound is a great destination that includes Oyster Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, and many more. Be sure to pack your fishing and sailing gear and get ready to partake in your favorite boating activities.


Boating Laws & Safety Guidelines


As with all states, New York boating laws and regulations are put in place to ensure responsible and safe boating practices are followed and to help increase the sustainability of natural resources and New York waters. For instance, New York boat registration and licensing fees are put back into the boating community as these funds go towards conserving and maintaining state waterways, boat ramps, and marinas.


While boating laws vary from state to state, basic safety practices, including having the proper amount of lifejackets on hand for each passenger, ensuring you are equipped with working flares and fire extinguishers, your watercraft is registered, and boat operators are of age and hold the appropriate licensing, these top guidelines remain consistent. However, there are a few laws and regulations set in the state of New York to make note of before you set sail.

New York State Boating Laws


Because the waters in and around New York can reach frigid temperatures in the fall, winter, and spring seasons, lifejackets are required and should be worn by all passengers through May 1st. In addition, it is always recommended that you dress appropriately for the weather and wear layers. This makes your day on any boat more comfortable and enjoyable.


When it comes to operating a personal watercraft or a motorboat in the state of New York, anyone who is 14 years or older may do so. However, the driver must be under the supervision of a trusted family member or friend who is at least 18 years old and holds a safety certificate.


On January 1, 2020, Brianna’s Law was officially put into effect in the state of New York. This new law was introduced to regulate a more safe and friendly environment for all boaters and passengers. It states that anyone operating a boat, regardless of their age, will need to obtain a boating safety certificate by January 1, 2025. Currently, any person behind the wheel of a motorboat who was born on or after January 1, 1993, is expected, by law, to carry this certificate. Each year the age requirement for safety certificates will gradually increase, leading up to the 2025 requirement. For further details, please refer to this link or the outline below.


Born on or after Jan 1, 1993 – required to hold a safety certificate in 2020

         Born on or after Jan 1, 1988 – required to hold a safety certificate in 2022

         Born on or after Jan 1, 1983 – required to hold a safety certificate in 2023

         Born on or after Jan 1, 1978 – required to hold a safety certificate in 2024

         Everyone will be required to hold a safety certificate in 2025          

New York Boat Insurance Tips


Boat insurance is something that every boater should obtain, but it is especially important if you plan on spending time in New York waters or anywhere in the northeastern region of the country. Protect yourself and your vessel from hurricanes, Nor’easters, ice, and freezing conditions as this area and the northern inland parts of New York are prone to these types of concerns. Along with quality New York boat insurance, take all necessary measures to winterize your watercraft so you can cruise, sail, and explore for as long as possible. 


As you plan your next boating excursions through New York waters, whether it be the Atlantic Ocean, the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River, the St. Lawrence River, or bays in The Hamptons, NBOA is here to keep you, your passengers, and your vessel protected.

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