Five Great Outdoor Adventures: From Kayaking With Whales to Climbing Trees

You might say living in New York is an adventure in and of itself. So much uncharted territory, so many places to be explored and experienced beyond your own familiar borough. But that’s another story for another day.

After being cooped up too much this winter, we’re eager to celebrate beautiful weather outdoors and outside our comfort zones. From kayaking with whales in Quebec to learning to race sailboats on the Hudson River, here are five great outdoor adventures in NYC and throughout the northeast.

Get High: Climb a Tree
climb a tree

Why Go: Learn the ropes of tree climbing from the great guides at New England Tree Climbing Association. Scale 60 feet of bark at NETC’s Connecticut site or get a real birds-eye view of the Garden State. We recommend enjoying an airborne picnic, something NETC is more than happy to oblige—though you’ll need to bring your own food. For a quick introduction, try their Adventure Climbs course. The instructors will set up and test the ropes before you arrive, so all you need to do is climb. If you’d like to spend more time above the trees, sign up for Basic and Advanced lessons with the New Jersey/New York classes or a day and a half Tree Climbing Class at their site outside of Hartford, where you’ll learn the art of selecting a tree, tying knots, and hoisting yourself up in the air.
Cost: NJNY’s adventure tours cost $60 and tree climbing lessons range from $200-$520.
How to get there: New Jersey/New York sites vary. Check with the people at NJNY who can help you plan an Adventure Climb. Contact them at or call 973.943.1709 or 201.463.5305. Contact Gary at regarding your visit to the CT site. There is also a site outside Newark. Just take NJ Transit to Newark station and they’ll pick you up (make sure to confirm pickup ahead of time).

Get Low: Kayak with Whales
whale in quebec

Why Go: Without whales surfacing next to you, kayaking is fun. But we prefer with. Mer et Monde Écotours offers half and full day hour guided sea kayaking tours at their Bergeronnes location on the St. Lawrence River, where they’ll not only share some interesting facts about whales, they’ll take you out to meet them in person. Trying scheduling for late July through early September, the most active season for the whales. Mer et Monde also offers their Sounds and Lights Show in the evenings (9pm to midnight) where you’ll be awed by the brilliance of the ocean’s bioluminescence and serenaded by the sounds of the whale calls thanks to a hydrophone, a special microphone able to listen to underwater sounds. Rest up for an exhilarating and unforgettable day at Mer et Monde’s campgrounds; Ready-to-Camp accommodations include sleeping bags and beds for up to five people. Or stay at the lovely, scarlet-roofed Hôtel Tadoussac overlooking Tadoussac Bay and the St. Lawrence River.
Cost: Mer et Monde’s The Discoverer package is $228 for two people, and includes a full day of whale watching, rustic amenities like tables, chairs, a firepit and grill, and one night at Anse à la Cave. Hôtel Tadoussac offers luxurious accommodations from $169/night.
How to get there: Consult oM’s transit guide to Montréal. From there, take the Intercar Bus service out to Bergeronnes, and a taxi ride out to their kayak departure location.

Don’t Get Too Tipsy: Kayak with Wine
kayaking vineyards in virginia

Why Go: If you’d prefer to pair paddling with a good pour, head south to the Virginia coast for one of SouthEast Expeditions kayaking wine tours—the first in the world. $85 gets you a bottle of your choosing from Chatham Vineyards (their Steel Chardonnay is a tour favorite and great accompaniment to some local seafood; grab a $9 mahi mahi taco at Aqua) and three hours on the water in an area Captain John Smith called the most beautiful place he’d ever seen. SouthEast Expedition’s founder David Burden says seeing the destination today feels like you’re traveling back to that time 400 years ago. Along the way, you’re likely to spot a bald eagle, great blue heron, osprey and other coastal birds.
Cost: If three hours sound too short, you can also pull a full day out on the kayak or, for $254, even add a bit of hang gliding to really ratchet up the adventure of wine, water, and wind. To make a reservation call them at 757.354.4386 or email Spend the night at Hotel Cape Charles, opened in May 2012, where sleekly-styled harbor view rooms with a private balcony start at $175/night.
How to get there: It’s best to drive out to Cape Charles, so consult oM’s guide to renting hybrids in NYC.

Get Grounded: Hiking in the White Mountains
hiking white mountains

Why Go: For a change of pace, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground with Appalachian Mountain Club’s Guided Lodge-to-Hut Adventures. Out in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the three and four day guided hikes pass by beautiful mountain peaks, waterfalls, and habitat ranging from hardwood forests to the treeless alpine zone. AMC’S knowledgeable guides help orient hikers with the natural world, sharing information about the the landscape and the forest’s plant and animal life. Seasonal changes color the hikes. In June and July, the the ridgeline hikes are ablaze with the bloom of alpine flowers. Program Manager Nancy Ritger says to go in August, when “the colors of autumn begin to shine through with the deep amber shades of the alpine grasses.” Come prepared physically and sartorially as the weather is subject to unexpected changes and the 3-9 miles a day can cover some rough terrain. Bring a sense of discovery, some sturdy shoes, and hiking poles.
Cost: Prices for non-members range from $357-588. Call 603.466.2727 or visit to schedule a reservation.
How to get there: Consult oM’s transit guide to Boston. From Boston’s South Shore station of Boston Logan Airport take Concord Coach Lines to AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. From there use their hiker shuttle service to make your way around their White Mountain locations to the starting lodge for you adventurous hike.

Get Wind of It: Sailing on the Hudson
sailing hudson river

Why Go: As we were saying earlier, there’s plenty of adventure to be had in New York City, especially at New York Harbor. For anyone who’s ever wanted to learn to sail the seven seas, Manhattan Sailing School has you covered. Their fun, passionate, diverse team of instructors teaches sailing from the basics of leisure sailing to racing lessons and coastal navigation. Whether you just want to get your feet wet or master the art of sailing and navigation, Manhattan Sailing School says it offers a “life changing experience while sailing in the harbor.”
Cost: $590 for learning to lessons. If you’re not satisfied with the course, the school promises a Commodore’s Guarantee and you’ll get your money back.
How to get there: The school teaches at four locations in New York Harbor, all of them within easy access of public transportation. To get to their main location, take the subway to Cortland St. or Wall St. stations and walk the remaining 10 minutes. Visit their website to determine your level of instruction or call them at 212.786.0400.

Photos: Justin Liew, Romain Etienne, Marc Loiselle, Dennis Welsh for AMC, wockerjabby