SUP in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia skyline. | Photo: Shutterstock Philadelphia skyline. | Photo: Shutterstock

Philadelphia is the birthplace of our nation and holds a beautiful amount of history, even when exploring on the water. It's also known as the home of Rocky, having a tough East coast exterior, and the best cheesesteaks the country has to offer.

Best Seasons to Explore

Mid-May to mid-September is the best time to explore Philadelphia on SUP. More experienced paddlers can venture out when water temps take a dive with proper gear (wetsuit or drysuit). Pennsylvania requires that all boarders and boaters have a pfd and a whistle on their craft. During November 1- April 30, life jackets are required to be worn.

paddle boarding philadelphia 1Photo courtesy: Donna Lipin

Highlights: Best SUP Experiences in the Philadelphia Area

The Delaware River divides Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The many confluences of the Delaware create a variety of experiences to enjoy.

The Schuylkill River – Bartram’s Gardens to Philadelphia Waterworks and Back (Tidal)

The Schuylkill River runs directly through the heart of Philadelphia. It has several sections to explore and is divided with dams. The tidal section starts at the public launch at Bartram’s Gardens and runs to the Fairmount Waterworks and Philadelphia Art Museum Area. The waterworks were built from 1819-1872 and housed the engineering to the cities famed water department. This section is very city-esque with sights and sounds as it runs right beside I-76, the cities highway system. Just be aware that due to the highway being built up, there are not a lot of stopping points on this route. Water related, Bartram’s Gardens holds volunteer run first come, first serve kayaking sessions Saturday mornings to the local community.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Waterworks click here.

paddle boarding philadelphia 2Photo courtesy: Donna Lipin

The Schuylkill River – Boathouse Row Section

Another Schuylkill adventure is from the East Park Canoe House to either historic boat house row or up towards Manayunk. On your way to boathouse row, you can enjoy the sculpture art that runs along Kelly Drive. On the way up to Manayunk, you can stop by the Philadelphia Canoe Club that has over 100 years of history on the water. Please remember to be mindful of the crew teams and boat race schedule on this leg. For current conditions of the Schuylkill, please visit http://www.phillyrivercast.org

For current conditions of the Schuylkill, please visit here.

paddle boarding philadelphia 3 paddle boarding philadelphia 4

Photos courtesy: Donna Lipin

Darby Creek into John Heinz Wildlife Refuge

Entering from the Morton Morton House Dock in Norwood, PA John Heinz Wildlife Refuge is the largest remaining tidal marsh in Pennsylvania and America’s first urban refuge spanning Philadelphia and Delaware counties. Due to being tidal and lower water levels, you can only enter in from the water two hours before to two hours after high tide. You seriously wouldn’t know that this beautiful space was adjacent to the Philadelphia airport as it’s a serious spot for bird spotting (although the planes flying overhead might give it away).

To learn more click here.

paddle boarding philadelphia 5 paddle boarding philadelphia 6

Photos courtesy: Donna Lipin 

Cooper River Park and the Tidal Cooper River (New Jersey side)

Directly across from Philadelphia on the New Jersey side is the Cooper River Park located in Pennsauken, NJ. Known for local crew teams rallying, it’s also known for some of the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets. The tidal portion can be accessed by either portaging the dam or launching from Pyne Point Park in Camden, NJ. Pyne Point Park is across the soon-to-be wildlife refuge, Petty Island. On this beautiful urban paddle, you will see the remains of Farham Park. Hurricane Agnes caused breaches in a retaining wall and sections were exposed to tidal flooding and not repaired.

To learn more history about Petty Island click here.

Other Paddlers

paddle boarding philadelphia 7SUP Yoga class in Harbor Park, Philadelphia, PA. | Photo: Shutterstock

SUP Tours and SUP Yoga on the Delaware River

The Delaware River is a strong river but thanks to Aqua Vida, you can enjoy some lovely scenery along Penn’s Landing while checking out the historic ships on the waterfront or collect your inner Zen while doing yoga on the board. They also host several events throughout the year including cleanups of the beautiful river while being immersed in the city skyline. If you don’t have your own SUP ride, Aqua Vida will also host tours and take you on a journey!

To learn more about tours or SUP yoga in Philadelphia:

Where to find your SUP crew on Facebook:

Rentals in the surrounding Philadelphia area:

 To explore more SUP destinations, click HERE.

Last modified onFriday, 19 August 2022 11:21
Donna Lipin

Donna Lipin has lived in the Philadelphia area for 20 years. She is an artist and art educator, formerly teaching in the inner city of Philadelphia. Donna enjoys the peace and zen of nature and has paddle boarded for about ten years. When she isn’t on the water, she enjoys hiking and road tripping with her adopted dog Shiloh.

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