Any suggestions for an all day trip somewhere around Spring Lake, New Jersey

My wife and I are going to fly to a wedding in New Jersey this May 25th. We are from S Calif and don’t have day long river trips available here.
We hope to do some kayaking while we are in the area.
I’m hoping someone can recommend a day trip that would be interesting.
We will be able to drive a ways if needed to get to it as we will have a rental car. We would obviously need to be renting equipment.
I can see that the Delaware River might be a choice. I have always wanted to take a trip on a river. Given that unlike here where we go from sea level to 10k feet in 80 miles, the East coast has a lot of possibilities. And, I realize that the area might not really be considered ‘wilderness’.
So, a request for suggestions from locals.

Grew up in Point Pleasant, can offer a few thoughts:
The Delaware Water Gap is gorgeous; it’s a bit of a car trip to get there from Spring Lake but definitely doable as a day trip. Class I, maybe II rapids.

South to the Pine Barrens is another option, the rivers are highly lazy but have a quiet beauty.

The Lehigh is another option, further afield. Spots with Class II (? IIRC) rapids. I recall it as being the place that would let you take the littlest kid (who was me) on a raft there.

Liveries at all three.

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Any of the rivers around there would be interesting, lots of big homes.
Barnegat Bay at Island Beach State Park if you want to be one with nature.

Do you want flatwater or whitewater? If you want flatwater I agree with @arks. Barnegat Bay is pretty large and the area around Island Beach State Park has lots of undeveloped shoreline. It is just south of you.

There are a few rivers north of you like the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers going out to Sandy Hook and the ocean, but a lot of the shoreline is heavily settled.

Be careful around the ocean inlets. Tidal currents can be fierce with 2-3’ standing waves in some places at full ebb and flow. Onshore winds can build quite a bit on hot days in the late afternoons.

Due to big open water in some of these areas I would recommend a sea kayak with sprayskirt, not a rec boat.

There are quite a few kayak rental places near Spring Lake, but call ahead to see what they are renting and if there are any restrictions on where you can use them.

Haven’t been on the Delaware in decades. All I can tell you it is a free flowing river above Philadelphia with many beautiful areas. A bit shallow and rocky in some areas with some class I and II rapids. Moving upstream can be difficult in some stretches. You need local knowledge.

Below Philadelphia the river is tidal with commercial ship traffic. A lot of marsh and industrial areas. Tidal currents can be strong.

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Island Beach State Park, area 21 (dedicated launching area). Great paddling among the sedge islands, along Island Beach. There are other sites on the Manasquan River, upper Barnegat Bay. Ask around.

The Manasquan is my “ancestral home river” lol and perhaps familiarity breeds contempt. It’s very much an “out your back door” adventure for me: Havens Bridge Road to Bryce Park is like a half day if you’re not wasting too much time chasing frogs and stuff. Take out down in the brackish/tidal area closer to the inlet to add a different element of adventure; you could go all the way to the wild area by the Glimmer Glass in Brielle, right before the inlet.

There’s one dodgy dam to go over; it’s not a full-width same-height low head dam, there’s a low spot in the middle. You can take a canoe over it if you keep up just a little momentum and keep your weight low. But still, take care, scout and maybe portage.

Of interest to very few might be going upriver on the Manasquan as far as possible. Feel like an explorer.

A similar “ascent” could be done up the Metedeconk. I kind of feel like these victories that only you care about are the best kind of victories. :wink:

I live just half mile from an excellent launch site on the Manasquan and simply walk my kayak or canoe down to the river on a cart. The river runs
up through a dedicated wildlife management area and meanders through walls of phragmites until it narrows and becomes blocked by fallen trees. Years ago these were sawn apart and dragged away each spring by a local canoe club that no longer exists.

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Small world! My folks are still in Brick.

Thanks to everyone for the input.
My wife said she would be open to a two day trip on the Delaware as long as we don’t sleep in tents. She is not much for tents even though I have some nice ones (Nemo and Durston).