6 Spots for Watersports Enthusiasts

Take a trip downstream and enjoy a fun alternative to boating at one of these locations in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Escaping the hot rays of the summer sun and its persistent heat often means seeking shelter indoors, with the air conditioning blasted, slipping in the tepid waters of the pool or seeking the comfort of the ocean. But for those who are landlocked, as are those in North Wilmington and on the Main Line, the many rivers and tributaries can provide both a refreshing escape and summer fun. The area’s rivers and creeks are easily accessible for a myriad of watersports, from kayaking to canoeing to tubing and even paddleboarding. This summer, grab some sunscreen and a paddle and head to one of these six watercourse escapes. 

—Kelly Bergh


Also known as Brandywine Creek, this waterway is a tributary of the Christina River, with its headwaters of both the east and west branches located in Chester County and its mouth in Wilmington. Most of it can be accessed for recreation, and there are several launch points located near watersport shops with experts willing to answer questions or lead trips. Spend a lazy day on the river in a tube or kayak from Northbrook Canoe Co., located in West Chester along the west branch of the river. Serious about canoeing? Brandywine Outfitters in Coatesville rents vessels from April through September and encourages group outings on the river’s still waters. Delaware’s Brandywine Creek State Park in the Piedmont Region provides waters ideal for wildlife enthusiasts to paddle armed with a pair of binoculars. Boats can be launched at Thompson Bridge.

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The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, located near the Philadelphia International Airport, provides access to a 4.5-mile portion of Darby Creek. Though usable only at and around high tide, the marshes are the largest in Pennsylvania and a prime place for experienced paddlers who own their own canoes to spot egrets, turtles, and wildflowers.


Accessible from both Pennsylvania and Delaware, this historic river is probably a whole lot more fun than it was back in George Washington’s day. Paddle at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, which offers swan boats and even standup paddle yoga classes and floating boot camp. Sheltered areas have been designated for water enthusiasts to try their hand at row boating or kayaking, too. Dock a boat at the marina or take a water tour of the scenic area while there.


Paddleboarders, prepare yourselves: Marsh Creek Watersports has stand up paddleboards big enough for one person, or eight. The Downingtown shop also rents kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, motorboats, and even offers sailing and windsurfing lessons. Pennsylvania’s Marsh Creek State Park is great for anyone to get in or on the water however they choose in the 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake. The park has its own boat rental site at its East Launch.


Rent a canoe or kayak for less than $50 a day at Port Providence Paddle. All rentals from the shop come with a fee of $1.00 in support of the maintenance of the Schuylkill, which was lauded by William Penn and the Lenape for being such an expansive watershed located entirely in what is now Pennsylvania. Head further south on the river towards Philadelphia to witness professional rowers practicing and competing.


The Christina River is a tidal river that parallels Wilmington and provides excellent fishing and birding opportunities. The Newport Boat Ramp is the entry point to the river from Newport and is known for the kayaking locations to which it gives access. For those who don’t want to get wet, the 1.3-mile Riverfront has plenty of options for those who enjoy being near the water, but not on it. Mini golf, shopping, and food trucks give Wilmington a beachy feel away from the ocean. 

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