Sunday morning. The weather is perfect. You’re kayaking with the family, basking in the beauty of nature, watching the birds and maybe even spotting an eagle or a whale. Sounds like a relaxing day of vacation, right? Except no vacation is needed. It’s here in New Rochelle, just off Main Street at Five Islands Park.

 

The kayaking excursions are all part of the Outdoor Discovery School from L.L. Bean, designed to encourage a spirit of adventure and a love of the outdoors. With its collection of kayaks and paddle boards, and a wide-open Echo Bay, it’s an ideal way to enjoy the waterfront.

The watersport program came to New Rochelle in 2014 after resident, Steve Meisner, pitched the idea to the city and L.L. Bean.

Meisner, a Product Strategist, has been kayaking for more than fifteen years. He and L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Program & Outreach Coordinator, Carl Steiniger, work with a small team of instructors, all coming from different backgrounds, but sharing their love of the waterfront activities.

New Rochelle’s Escape to the Great Outdoors

Five Islands Park – Photo Credit: Steve Meisner

If you’ve never kayaked or paddle-boarded, fear not. Each event begins with a twenty-minute lesson to give you all the basics you need to safely enjoy the water. Once you’re paddling away like a pro, you’ll take a peaceful tour of Echo Bay, where families of osprey raise chicks every year, and blue herons, yellow crowned night herons, snowy egrets, and other wildlife are waiting to be spotted.

“One of our customers saw a sea turtle and the humpback whales chasing bunker into Echo Bay,” Steiniger recalled.

They can’t make any guarantees about what creatures you might see, but they can promise you’ll learn a few things about New Rochelle, from its current development to its rich history.  Take the All Views mansion, for example. As you float by, you’ll discover it was once owned by an African king, and its grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead—who’s better-known projects include Central Park and Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. 

“A lot of people say they had no idea this program existed in New Rochelle,” Meisner said. “They’re surprised and amazed this is right in our backyard.”

Anyone above the age of eight can participate. “I’ve gotten grandmas to stand on a paddle board,” Meisner said proudly. “I try to get their picture for them to show their grandkids.”

New Rochelle’s Escape to the Great Outdoors

Five Islands Park – Photo Credit: City of New Rochelle

The program gets many repeat customers, one of whom enjoyed it so much she became an instructor. Steiniger’s team goes through a full weekend of training at the beginning of every season, ensuring that they not only know how to teach newcomers to paddle, but that they’re prepared to perform rescues and be ready for any unforeseen situations. 

The Outdoor Discovery School also offers Full Moon Tours, Sunset Paddles and Fall Foliage Tours. Events run every weekend from Memorial Day through the end of October.

Sign up here in advance to secure your spot. Events sell out quickly.

And if your love for kayaking grows to the point of ownership, New Rochelle’s got you covered. The Municipal Marina offers year-round storage at for both residents and non-residents.