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As a city that’s surrounded by waterways, Chicago is a fantastic city to explore from the water. Hitting the Chicago River or Lake Michigan is one urban adventure that’s worth doing, whether you’re a local or a visitor. Stand up paddle boarding in Chicago is a wonderful way to experience the city from a new perspective, and get some fresh air in the process!

In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of 8 wonderful Chicago stand up paddle boarding spots to help you plan your adventure!

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Chicago

1. The Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago’s most popular and famous area is The Loop, which is the downtown area of the city. It’s home to tons of tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and more. With walking access to museums, Millennium Park and Navy Pier, it’s easy to understand why this is one of the most popular areas of the city.

The Loop is home to a vibrant Riverwalk that runs parallel to the Chicago River. Here, there are restaurants, sitting areas, and small parks open to the public. Whether you’re a new to stand up paddle boarding in Chicago or area a seasoned paddler, the river is a perfect place to start. The currents and wind aren’t nearly as bad as out on the lake, making this Chicago paddle boarding experience among the most manageable on our list.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board on The Riverwalk: Urban Kayak is a popular kayak and paddle board rental company that’s located in the heart of The Riverwalk.

  • Address: 435 E. Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, IL 60611

2. Monroe Harbor

Located just south on Navy Pier, Monroe Harbor is another iconic spot to go stand up paddle boarding in Chicago. It’s the perfect place to hit the water with the Chicago skyline behind you. From the lake, you can soak in many of Chicago’s most famous sights. Bordering Millennium Park, Grant Park, and the Museum Campus, Monroe Harbor one of the most iconic and picturesque places to go paddle boarding in Chicago.

Monroe Harbor borders Lake Michigan, meaning you’ll primarily be paddling out on the waves of the lake. This can be extra challenging in windy weather or in times of rough water, so be sure to check conditions before you head out on a paddle board.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Monroe Harbor: Like in the Riverwalk, Urban Kayak also has a stand up paddle board rental location at Monroe Harbor.

  • Address: 110 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60601
Photo Credit: Harshil Shah (Flickr CC)

3. North Avenue Beach

In the summer, North Avenue Beach is among the most popular beaches in Chicago, with over 22,000 square feet of sandy areas to hang out in and explore. It’s a local favorite because it’s located closer to a lot of the more residential areas of the city. It also has tons of small vendors and restaurants where you can buy snacks and refreshments.

Because it’s so busy and vivacious, North Avenue Beach is also one of the most fun and lively places to go paddle boarding on Lake Michigan. As mentioned before, the lake can provide a more challenging experience than paddle boarding on the river because it’s wide open and often has some wind and currents to paddle against.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board at North Avenue Beach: On the shores of North Avenue Beach, Chicago SUP offers stand up paddle board rentals, lessons, and guided tours for all levels.

  • Address: 1603 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611

4. Goose Island

Between the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Old Town, the Chicago River splits into two branches before reconvening near River North. The resulting “island” is called Goose Island, and its name was made famous by the iconic Chicago beer brand with the same name. Historically, the area was home to a lot of industrial and manufacturing plants, but recently it’s starting to take on a bit more of a green persona.

Stand up paddle boarding in the Goose Island area offers a different experience from the downtown areas because it’s a quieter, more local-oriented area of town. Additionally, this area is the future home of the “Wild Mile,” a floating conservation area that’s still in development by the city of Chicago.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Goose Island: Kayak Chicago’s Magnolia Street location has you covered for all things paddle boarding.

  • Address: 1501 N Magnolia Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Photo Credit: John Picken Photo (Flickr CC)

5. Montrose Beach

Montrose Beach is one of the most beloved local beaches in Chicago. Known for its “Mondog” dog-friendly beach and more local crowds, Montrose Beach is a perfect little getaway from the main stretches of Chicago.

You can, of course, enjoy the beach from the banks, but another fun way to explore is from the water! Kayaking in the Montrose Beach area is a fun way to enjoy the water and scope out adorable dogs in the process.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Montrose Beach: Kayak Chicago has a rental location that has stand up paddle board rentals in Montrose Beach.

  • Address: W Montrose Harbor Dr, Chicago, IL 60640 (located on the south end of the beach)

Map of Chicago Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots

Here’s a helpful map of the different places to go paddle boarding in Chicago that we’ve mentioned above:

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding Near Chicago

Photo Credit: CheepShot (Flickr CC)

6. Independence Grove

Located just under an hour outside of Chicago, Independence Grove is a recreational area that offers fantastic opportunities to get on the water. Instead of bustling sidewalks, trains, and skyscrapers, you’ll find beautiful green spaces and some peace and quiet here.

Independence Grove boasts a large, clean lake where you can rent kayaks, paddle boards, or boats. Because it’s located inland, there are fewer currents to paddle against, making it a fantastic area for those new to stand up paddle boarding to get out and learn.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board at Independence Grove: The Independence Grove Marina offers kayak and stand up paddle board rentals for day use.

  • Address: 16400 West Buckley Road Libertyville, IL 60048
Indiana Dunes National and State Park is one of the best places to go hiking near Chicago.

7. Indiana Dunes National & State Park

In February 2019, Indiana Dunes was named one of the United States’ newest national parks. Known for its golden sand dunes located next to the expansive blue water of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is one of the most picturesque Chicago day trips, and a perfect place to explore on the water.

At just an hour from Chicago, Indiana Dunes National and State Parks offer so many options for people who love the outdoors. For those wanting to explore from the water, stand up paddle boarding is an easy and affordable option. Note that because Indiana Dunes is located on the lake, paddle boarding may be considerably more challenging than in an inland lake or river, but if you’re up for the challenge, the beautiful views of the park will be an excellent reward.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board at Indiana Dunes: Miller’s Marine Center offers paddle board rentals nearest to Indiana Dunes. They have a two-hour rental minimum, but you’ll probably need at least that to paddle to and from the Indiana Dunes Park area.

  • Address: 1330 Crisman Rd, Portage, IN 46368
Photo Credit: gabe popa (Flickr CC)

8. Starved Rock State Park

As one of Illinois’ most popular parks, Starved Rock State Park is a stunning recreation area located just 2 hours from chicago. It’s a National Historic Landmark that outdoor enthusiasts will love, marked by canyon-like rock formations, raging waterfalls, and stunning forests.

Aside from hiking and camping, Starved Rock is also a prime spot for exploring on the water. You can rent a stand up paddle board and paddle around the Illinois River, admiring the variety of plant and animal life that calls this region home.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board at Starved Rock: Quest Water Sports offers stand up paddle board rentals at Starved Rock State Park hourly and per day.

  • Address: 1800 N 2871st Rd, Ottawa, IL 61350

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Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

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