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A city surrounded by mountains, rivers, and beautiful forests, Portland is a hotspot for outdoor activities. Environmentally-minded Portland is the perfect place to explore all that nature has to offer. Whether you are looking for peace and quiet or raging waters, these breathtaking spots are the best places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Portland is a vibrant community for outdoor enthusiasts. Teeming with energy and adventure, kayaking in Portland is an epic experience for all ages and abilities. Portland’s wide variety of waterways creates a diverse and thrilling way to explore nature. While paddling, you will have the opportunity to explore Portland’s vast forests and spot native wildlife. Kayaking down well known sites like White Salmon River, or hidden gems like Scappoose Bay, will excite any paddle enthusiast. Below is a guide we created to help you have an awesome time canoeing and kayaking around Portland.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Portland

the rushing waters of Portland, oregon's waterways are amazing places to go kayaking in Portland and explore scenic environments.
Exploring Portland’s natural beauty is best done by boat! Photo Credit: Hardebeck Media (Pixabay)

Willamette River

This epic waterway is one of Oregon’s most beautiful treasures. From petrified forests to acres of greenways, the Willamette River is one of the most popular places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Stretching hundreds of miles, each section of the Willamette River is calm enough for novice paddlers yet still boasts exciting scenery for all paddlers to enjoy. Drawing from the purest lake in the nation, Waldo Lake, Willamette River is not only a clean watershed resource but also home to nearly 50 different fish species (my favorite is rainbow trout). Also, while you’re paddling be on the lookout for shiny jasper and petrified wood!

No matter the season, Willamette’s smooth water is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. Around the river, visitors also enjoy swimming at Poet’s Beach, hiking around Forest Park, and exploring the famous Powell’s City of Books. Most importantly, Willamette Valley is known as an outstanding wine country! People from all over visit Willamette Valley to taste some of the best wine in the nation.

With tons of put-ins along the river, you can truly customize your water adventure. From city kayaking to peaceful tributaries, the Willamette River has it all. Docks in Oregon City and North Portland offer easy access to this beautiful waterway from downtown. If you need to rent a kayak or other gear, check out Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Willamette River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 243 toward Ankeny Hill. Continue on Sidney Rd. S until you reach the river.

Clackamas River

Just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Clackamas River is the ideal river rafting, floating, and paddling destination for adventure-seekers. Each section of this river offers a different experience- the upper Clackamas has Class II-V rapids perfect for white water rafting trips. For those looking for a more relaxing paddle, the Lower Clackamas’ rambling waters make for a wonderful float trip.

Many paddlers really enjoy kayaking around a tranquil stretch of water beginning at the Olallie Butte which flows through stunning areas of Mt. Hood National Forest. This southern section of the river is perfect for lazy river float trips and relaxing summer paddles.

However, if you are looking for a thrilling water adventure, the northern segment of the river is home to epic rapids. Altogether, this stretch of rapids is about 13.5 miles. While some courageous kayakers attempt all 13.5 miles on one trip, it is popular to do a 4 mile-long run from Fish Creek to Bob’s Hole. Small yet mighty, Clackamas River is packed with adventure around every bend.

With so much to try so close to Portland, Clackamas River is a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking near Portland. The Barton put-in is closest to Portland, and therefore usually the most crowded. I’d recommend driving the extra five minutes to Mclver or Carver areas to start your journey.

You can launch your own boat from any put-in along the river. Or, if looking to rent gear or want to book a guided tour the Clackamas River Outfitters has everything you need. They are conveniently located at three locations: Estacada Outpost, Timber Park and Milo Mclver State Park.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Clackamas River is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-224 E toward Clackamas. Continue on FS-4613 until you reach the river.

Scappoose Bay

Catering toward beginners and families, Scappoose Bay’s intricate network of lakes, channels, and tributaries is a peaceful oasis for canoe and kayakers. Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Scappoose Bay is the perfect place to find some peace and quiet.

A haven for wildlife, this sheltered area is home to numerous species of birds and fish, most you can spot from your boat! Scappoose Bay’s flat waters truly make kayaking Portland easy, relaxing, and accessible to all ability levels.

Right on the shore, paddlers can rent gear from and enjoy Scappoose Bay Marine Park. Here, visitors can take part in “gunkholing”, which means to meander in and out of shallow marshes and streams. Along with this peaceful activity, Scappoose Bay is known to be an excellent spot for paddle board yoga and fishing.

You can enjoy paddling around this flat, shallow area in about 3 hours. If you are looking for a longer paddle, visitors are encouraged to keep paddling to St. Helens Marina which is a few more miles down the Columbia River. Canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals are available from Next Adventure’s Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Scappoose Bay is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Old Portland Rd. to the bay.

kayaking in Portland's Clackamas River is super relaxing and open to all ability levels.
Kayaking down the Clackamas River is a relaxing and scenic experience! Photo Credit: Dolanh (Flickr CC)

Tualatin River

A cool, mellow river to cool off in during those hot summer days, Tualatin River is truly a place where outdoor lovers gather to enjoy Portland’s natural resources. With easy access from Tualatin Community Park, Tualatin River is a nice place for novices to try kayaking in Portland.

While most visitors enjoy paddling around the park area, those looking for more challenging waters should paddle down to the last 2 miles of the river. There, small rapids offer a fun change of pace as Tualatin River joins the Willamette River. Soon after the rapids, kayakers can pull aside and enjoy Willamette Park.

Maintained by the community, Tualatin River’s pristine waters are the culmination of the riverkeepers’ hard work. Truly a community effort, when paddling around Tualatin Community Park kayakers will feel a strong sense of unity and belonging among other outdoor enthusiasts.

If new to paddling or looking for a quiet spot, Tualatin is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland. If you need to rent gear, check out Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Tualatin River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and Take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW River Rd. to the river.

Sparks Lake

If you are in the mood for adventuring into true wilderness, paddling around Sparks Lake should be at the top of your list. Formed 10,000 years ago from Mount Bachelor’s volcanic eruptions, Sparks Lake’s ancient beauty is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland.

This shallow lake is ideal for novice paddlers and those who want to explore rugged terrain. Not only is the Deschutes National Forest a breathtaking backdrop for your water adventure, but Sparks Lake also has tons of campsites on the shore for overnight trips.

Sparks Lake is the perfect spot for beginners and young children because the lake is only 10 feet deep! Bonus- many visitors also enjoy the 2.5 mile-long hike along Sparks Lake’s volcanic shoreline (the trailhead is named Ray Atkinson Hiking Trail). Connecting to the Deschutes River, Sparks Lake offers a quiet oasis from the otherwise busy river.

From its formation to now, Sparks Lake embodies the joy of getting outdoors and exploring nature’s beauty. You can explore this volcanic lake on your own free of cost. Or, you can rent gear from Bend Kayak School.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Sparks Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and Take exit 138 toward Downtown/Mt Bachelor. Continue on Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway to the lake.

Chetco River

An oasis for advanced outdoorsmen, Chetco River’s rugged terrain and hidden location offer a total getaway from the busy city. Sandwhiched between two famous whitewater runs, North Fork and the Illinois River, Chetco River offers equally challenging whitewater kayaking without all of the crowds.

Known for its water being “as clear as gin”, outdoor lovers are drawn to Chetco River’s unique scenery and intense paddling. Chetco River and its surrounding ecosystems were majorly impacted by the Biscuit Fires of 2002. To this day, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is still recovering, so please paddle with caution during your trip!

While Chetco River’s private location fosters some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Oregon, it also makes it a little difficult to reach. However, with some planning it really is no problem! Most visitors access the river from Slide Creek which is a 4 mile downhill hike to Chetco. Or, more adventurous paddlers enjoy accessing Chetco from Babyfoot Lake, a 9 mile hike from the river. Either way, kayaking down Chetco River is truly an outdoor adventure- from hiking to paddling this journey has it all!

You can portage your own canoes to these access spots free of charge. Or, you can rent gear from Smith River Kayaks. This shop, and many others nearby, rent kayak gear and offer whitewater kayaking tours of the area.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Chetco River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Crescent City. Then, continue on  N Bank Chetco River Rd. to the river.

Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland!
The Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland! Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service (Flickr CC)

Henry Hagg Lake

Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Henry Hagg Lake is one of the many beautiful waterways in the Tualatin Valley. Known for its epic fishing, Henry Hagg Lake is the perfect spot to finally try kayak fishing.

One of the best parts about Henry Hagg Lake is that half of the water is a dedicated no wake zone. Therefore, these flat waters are perfect for novice paddlers and famailies paddling with young children. With 15 miles of sandy shoreline, paddlers can choose from tons of beach banks and have a private picnic spot.

This quiet lake is a wonderful spot for any ability to try canoeing and kayaking in Portland! From kayak fishing to sandy shores, Henry Hagg Lake is an idyllic paddling spot for all! Besides being a super convenient paddling spot, visitors also love Henry Hagg Lake’s 15 mile-long bike path along the shoreline.

You can launch your own boat at Henry Hagg Lake. Or, check out Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe for kayak gear rentals, tours, and lessons.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Henry Hagg Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW Herr Rd. to the lake.

Sauvie Island

Full of history and charm, Sauvie Island is certainly an outdoor lover’s dream! With tons of wildlife and natural areas, a trip to Sauvie Island will truly immerse you in Oregon’s nature.

Sturgeon Lake on the north end of the island is the best spot for canoeing and kayaking on Sauvie Island. There, paddlers can see views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St.Helens right from their boats! Sturgeon Lake connects to two other waterways which are also great for paddling. Because this is island kayaking, some experience is necessary to paddle with ease around the island.

Kayakers looking for a challenge can paddle in the open water around the island. Otherwise, many visitors love paddling to Oak Island, a peninsula with epic hiking trails. Whether you have Oak Island as destination in mind or just want to paddle freely, there is no shortage of outdoor activities at Sauvie Island! Bonus- there is a pumpkin patch and blueberry farm on the island!

In addition to beautiful waterways, Sauvie Island is home to amazing historical landmarks. Visitors can explore Fort William and Warrior Rock Lighthouse, the smallest operational lighthouse in Oregon! There are also tons of hiking trails to lead you around the island (we recommend the Oak Island trail).

You can launch your own boat at Sauvie Island. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach Sauvie Island is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Sauvie Island Bridge to the island.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area

Located between the Columbia River and Slough, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area beholds some of the most breathtaking sights as America’s largest protected wetland area.

Sprinkled with lakes and streams, this wetland area is a hotspot for canoeing and kayaking in Portland. The lakes are usually visitors’ go-to spot for paddling, but smaller waterways offer a unique glimpse of the wetland’s ecosystem and wildlife. If bird watching and spotting critical species is up your ally, then kayaking through these serene wetlands is the perfect place for you to explore.

This easy-going paddle destination is a haven for endangered wildlife and holds one of the largest populations of bald eagles and beavers in the nation! An immersive nature experience, canoeing and kayaking around Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is sure to be an eye-opening journey.

You can launch your own boat on the preserve and can even paddle down to Kelley Point Park which connects the wetlands to the Columbia River. Or, you can rent gear from the Portland Kayak Company. Throughout the year, the Portland Zoo also offers tours of the area!

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take the Interstate 5 N exit toward Seattle. Continue on Marine Drive W to the preserve.

kayaking in portland offers spectacular views of mountains and other beautiful geological formations.
Kayaking in Oregon offers spectacular views of mountains! Photo Credit: Milford Sound (Flickr CC)

White Salmon River

With rapids galore it is no wonder that White Salmon River is one of the most visited places to go whitewater rafting and kayaking in Portland each year! Mostly Class III rapids, White Salmon River is a fun challenge for intermediate paddlers.

Besides the legendary Class III, IV and V rapids throughout the river, White Salmon River is known for the beautiful Husum Falls. Said to be the largest commercially run waterfall in the U.S., Husum Falls is a thrilling obstacle for rafters and paddlers to overcome.

Nestled in a forested canyon, White Salmon River is surrounded by densely packed forests and lush green lands. If you are looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure, then White Salmon River has the perfect conditions for your next journey.

You can launch your own rafts and kayaks, but make sure to bring a helmet and be prepared for the rapids! Otherwise, you can rent gear and book trips and tours through Wet Plant Whitewater Rafting.

How to Get There: The best way to get to White Salmon River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 toward Mt. Hood/White Salmon. Continue on WA-141 N to the river.

Ross Island

Many people think in order to have a great kayaking experience you must travel far to get immersed in nature. But when it comes to kayaking in Portland, there are tons of flat water opportunities right in the heart of downtown. Ross Island is one of the best places for novice paddlers to explore the outdoors right in downtown Portland.

Most paddlers put-in at Sellwood Riverfront Park. Launching right off of the park’s sandy beaches, visitors can enjoy the easy 5 mile loop around Ross Island. While paddling on Ross Island’s calm waters, you will see blue herons, bald eagles, and of course, ospreys.

Besides stunning skyline views, paddlers can also kayak past the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Here, outdoor lovers can catch a glimpse of the critical species that call Oregon home. With the Portland skyline in the distance and wildlife all around, kayaking at Ross Island really is the best of both worlds. Bonus- it is so close to downtown Portland you can easily fit a paddle trip into your busy schedule!

Even though Ross Island is privately owned, you can launch your own boat from Sellwood Riverfront Park. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours of Ross Island through Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Ross Island is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-99 E and continue straight onto SE McLoughlin Blvd to the lake.

Rogue River

Ranked in the top 8 best rafting and white water paddling in the world, Rogue River has a range of rapids and calm waters that will bring adventure to your next paddling trip. Rogue River’s waters are accessible to all ability levels, but intermediate and experienced paddlers will especially love the consistent Class III rapids.

Most kayakers choose to put-in their boats at Grave Creek Bridge. From there, its a wild ride! Class III rapids will guide you downstream (with a dash of calmer waters mixed in). Eventually, paddlers will reach Rogue River’s epic challenge: Rainie Falls. Beyond Rainie Falls, kayakers can continue cruising downstream and even spot bears in the surrounding forests.

A known setting for early adventure writing- from authors like Zane Grey- a day spent at Rogue River will undoubtedly be full of adventure! There are tons of outfitters that offer guided rafting trips down the river to help you navigate these rushing waters.

You can launch your own boat at Grave Creek Bridge, and remember to be mindful of the rapids! Or, you can rent gear and reserve guided tours through Northwest Rafting Company. From Class III rapids to quiet streams, Rogue River will certainly keep your next paddle trip interesting!

How to Get There: The best way to get to Rogue River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 48 toward Savage Rapides Dam. Continue on Berglund St. to the river.

Rogue River is a wonderful place for float trips and paddle trips surrounded by beautiful green forests.
Float and paddle trips are awesome ways to explore Rogue River in Portland. Photo Credit: Alphonso Dryer (Flickr CC)

Alton Baker Canal

University of Oregon students and faculty get ready- Alton Baker Canal is calling your name! Stretching from Eugene to Springfield, Alton Baker Canal is a super accessible canal perfect for beginners to test out their skills! Only a few miles long, the Alton Baker Canal is ideal for a quick paddle full of beautiful scenery.

A quick walk from the University of Oregon campus and Autzen Stadium, Alton Baker Canal is easy to get to (especially for college students)! Along the canal, there is the opportunity to portage, but it is not necessary. Avid fishermen will also love the canal because it is stocked with trout.

Whether you are looking to practice your flat water kayak skills or want to escape into nature, Alton Baker Canal is a wonderful spot for all ability levels- especially people on campus looking for an easy paddle trip!

You can launch your own boat from the ramp near the stadium. Or, you can rent boats from Northwest Canoe Tour.

How to Get There: The best way to reach the Alton Baker Canal is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Eugene. Continue on Day Island Rd. to the river.

Upper Deschutes River

Both paddling and floating down the Upper Deschutes River are popular ways of exploring Oregon’s natural beauty! From grassy plains to volcanic formations, the Deschutes River is full of intrigue and adventure.

The Upper Deschutes River, near Bend, is the calmer portion of the river. Here, paddlers can enjoy up to a full day of paddling around beautiful scenery. The river’s flat waters and gentle current also make it ideal for float trips!

As the river flows downstream, the water becomes a bit more challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to stay near the Dillon Falls area where visitors can explore Paulina Peak’s volcanic formations. A truly breathtaking place for outdoor adventuring, all types of paddlers enjoy the Deschutes River and its surrounding aspen groves and mountain views.

With miles upon miles of kayaking available, most paddlers turn canoeing the Deschutes River into a half or whole day outdoor experience. This scenic river will absolutely not disappoint! You can launch your own boat near Dillon Falls. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Tumalo Creek.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Upper Deschutes River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 14 for Fairview Parkway. Continue on Jackson Trail Rd. to the river.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park is home to two hidden gems in the Portland area! With beaches, lakes and camping grounds, Fort Stevens State Park has everything you need for an epic outdoor trip!

The park’s main lake, Coffenbury Lake, is known for its unique formation. Coffenbury Lake is a dune lake, meaning that is was formed between two dunes as rainwater filled the basin. Usually, dune lakes only last about 100 years (due to erosion) so kayaking at Coffenbury lake is a real treat! Although small in size, Coffenbury Lake is an excellent place for novice paddlers to explore and you can spot elk right on the shore!

Fort Stevens State Park’s other hidden treasure is Crabapple Lake. Although too much vegetation has made it un-kayakable, this small pond is a hotspot for wildlife. Crabapple Lake is a nice spot to break up a long day of paddling and hopefully see some awesome wildlife! Bonus- Social Security Beach is an awesome fishing spot!

Kayaking around Fort Stevens’ Coffenbury Lake is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The crystal blue waters and insane geological features make this park a must-see. Visitors can launch their own boats at the park. Or, you can rent gear from Wheel Fun Kayak Rentals.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Fort Stevens State Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on Columbia Beach Rd. to the park.

Deschutes River kayaking is a wonderful place for beginners to interact with nature and practice their paddling skills!
Fall foliage is breathtaking to see while paddling down the Deschutes River. Photo Credit: Robert Shea (Flickr CC)

Cascades Range

Kayaking in Portland doesn’t get much better than the Cascades Range. A series of mountain lakes, the Cascades Range has bodies of water ideal for all types of paddlers.

The North Cascades is the place for outdoor thrill-seekers! Known for its whitewater kayaking, there are tons of outfitters to help you navigate the Class III, IV and V rapids in the North Cascades.

The Cascades Range has other waterways (that are a bit calmer) still with breathtaking mountain views. Many paddlers enjoy kayaking the Skagit River and the Skykomish River alongside Highway 2. Also, the Wenatchee River along the eastern side of the Cascades Range. All of these options offer a unique way to interact with this massive mountain range!

Kayaking around high-elevation lakes is an awesome experience. These, crystal clear lakes and mountain views of central Oregon are unbeatable- especially from the seat of a canoe! You can launch your own boat at these lakes. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Wanderlust Kayak Tours.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Cascades Range is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 44 for US 30 E toward Cascade Locks. Continue on NF-68 to the lake.

From mountain lakes to whitewater rapids, kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to interact with Oregon’s environment. Now that you are in the mood to kayak, check out our destinations page to see where else your boat can take you! Need some more inspiration before heading outdoors? Check out these motivational outdoors quotes. Happy paddling!

kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to see the city and its luscious environment.
Canoeing and kayaking in Portland is an awesome way to experience the outdoors. Photo Credit: Aleksey Kuprikuv (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Portland

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Portland

When the weather gets as hot as it does in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no better escape than hopping in a boat and paddling down some of the most stunning waterways in the U.S. From tranquil creeks hidden under a canopy of trees to sparkling blue lakes, a day spent kayaking in Atlanta is an awesome way to explore the city’s natural beauty.

Canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta is plentiful and diverse. Full weekend trips and quick paddles are both ways you can spend your time exploring Atlanta. With so many great spots, it can be hard to navigate which ones will offer you the best outdoor experience! Below is our complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Atlanta

Chattahoochee River National Water Trail

As the first established National River Water Trail, paddling along the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee is an epic water adventure!

Beginning below Buford Dam, Chattahoochee offers some of the most beautiful sites in Atlanta! This spot is perfect for families and beginners looking to get outdoors. The Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail is especially good for novice paddlers. The river is relatively calm, although there are some Class I/II rapids along the route. The river is open for kayaking year-round, but water temperatures never really rise above 50 degrees- so make sure to bring a jacket.

With lush greenery on all sides, Chattahoochee is a prime spot for spotting wildlife and taking long, leisurely paddles. Visitors can also paddle past Civil War sites and historical mills while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With rich biodiversity and cool historical landmarks, there is certainly a lot to check out at Chattahoochee.

There are 17 different launch ramps along the river if you plan on bringing your own boat. Otherwise, you can rent all your kayak essentials from High Country Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Then, take exit 4 and continue on Buford Rd west towards the dam.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Only minutes from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great spot for both history fans and kayak enthusiasts! With miles of outdoor trails, Sweetwater Creek State Park is known for its beautiful rocky bluffs and flowers.

Beginner kayakers will love this scenic creek. Its flat waters are surrounded by trees and flowers, and it is also super easy to navigate. Besides the sheer beauty of the park, visitors can also enjoy paddling past a textile mill from the Civil War Era and places used in filming The Hunger Games.

Sweetwater’s close proximity to the city makes it very convenient and accessible to all paddlers. If you have a limited amount of time but want to spend it outside, definitely check out Sweetwater Creek State Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle or to catch some fish, kayaking in Atlanta has it all.

You can launch your own boat inside the park for free. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs onsite.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-20 W and take exit 41 for Lee Rd. to Lithia Springs.

Kayakers love paddling around the flat waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Kayakers can enjoy the calm waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park year-round. Photo Credit: rroberts41 (Flickr CC)

Ocmulgee River Trail

With over 200 miles of connected waterways, Ocmulgee River Trail gives you total control over how long you want your water adventure to last. With 25 access points, it is easy to enjoy the flat waters and Class I rapids of this epic waterway.

Ocmulgee River is ideal for longer paddling trips. There are tons of mini islands to explore and camp on. Wide-open blue waters, sand bars, and forested islands all come together to make Ocmulgee an awesome weekend destination. However, there are alligators in the lake and sometimes on the islands- be careful!

Before or after your kayak expedition, check out Little Ocmulgee State Park. These gorgeous acres have rustic cabins if you want to stay overnight.

You can launch your boat for free all along the river. Eventually, this river way turns into the Altamaha River. If you need to rent kayaks or are looking for a guided tour, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S to GA-83 toward Monticello.

Lake Blue Ridge

The pristine aquamarine waters of Lake Blue Ridge make it one of the most beautiful mountain lakes to kayak in Atlanta. With 65 miles of shoreline and a connection to Chattahoochee National Forest, kayaking around Lake Blue Ridge must be on your list of places to explore in Atlanta this summer.

Lake Blue Ridge’s calm waters make it a serene spot for paddling of all kind. Locals and visitors alike love Lake Blue Ridge not only because of its unique water color, but also enjoy the National Forest, campsites, and miles of sandy beach shorelines.

There are two main entries to Lake Blue Ridge that offer different opportunities. First, the Day Use/Boat Ramp area provides easy access into the water and has short trails along the coastline. The other entrance, Morganton Point Recreation Area, has a beach and swimming area great for children, and is a more developed part of the coastline. While you can launch from both of these areas, the Day Use area is more rugged and focuses on the water and Morganton is better for families looking to set up camp.

You can launch your boat for free at Lake Blue Ridge. Or, you can rent gear and find guided tours of the area from Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. Kayaking in Atlanta doesn’t get much better than this!

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N to US-76 E and head to Lakeside Dr.

Kayaking in Atlanta's Ocmulgee River is a beautiful way to explore Atlanta's outdoors!
Families love kayaking down the beautiful Ocmulgee River in Atlanta! Photo Credit: Mark Strozier (Flickr CC)

Lake Allatoona

About 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the “Lake City” of Acworth is home to two amazing lakes for kayaking. Lake Acworth is a large outdoor space great for beginners. But for those looking for a challenge, I recommend Lake Allatoona.

Intermediate and advanced kayakers will love exploring Lake Allatoona. The lake touches Cobb, Bartow, and Cherokee counties and has views of the magnificent Red Top Mountain Area. In addition to these natural beauties, Lake Allatoona is also a famous Civil War battle site with historical markers along the route.

Visitors can enjoy paddling around the large lake area, or take a mile detour and enjoy the Allatoona Falls around Little River. Between the lake’s open waters and the Falls, avid kayakers will love paddling around Lake Allatoona.

There are a few full-service marinas and boat ramps on the shores of Lake Allatoona where you can launch your own boat for free. Otherwise, feel free to check out Lake Allatoona Kayak for kayak rentals and awesome guided tours.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N and take the exit for Bells Ferry Rd. There are several boat ramps accessible from this branches off of this road close to the lake.

Chattooga River

Spend the day kayaking the Chattooga River. It has different sections to accommodate all ability levels. About 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta, exploring the diverse Chattooga River is an awesome weekend getaway.

Beginners looking to go kayaking in Atlanta should check out Tugaloo Lake. Opening up into Lake Tugaloo, Chattooga River’s wild waters become nice and calm- perfect for novice paddlers. Tugaloo State Park is also an awesome outdoor destination.

Intermediate and advanced paddlers will have a blast kayaking the whitewater waves of the Chattooga River. Notorious for the legendary Five Falls, Chattooga River’s rocky whitewater runs provide epic trails for skilled kayakers.

You can launch your own boat on Chattooga River, but guided tours are recommended because of the rough waters. Chattooga Adventures has kayak rentals, whitewater tours, and weekend clinics to help you along this epic water adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville, then take US-23 N toward Clayton. Tugaloo Lake is near Tallulah Falls, and the Chattooga river stretches the state border north of the lake.

Kayaking in Atlanta is an exciting adventure! You can explore tree-lines islands and little inlets too!
Lake Allatoona is one of the most scenic spots near Atlanta. Photo Credit: Sporadic (Flickr CC)

Tybee Island

Kayaking around Georgia’s Tybee Island is one of the best ways to explore the coast. Visitors can kayak and SUP around tons of different areas like marshes, creeks, estuaries, and more.

The southern end of Tybee Island is best for beginners. There, Tybee Creek and Chimney Creek have calm sheltered waters and sandbars which provide an easy and safe area for novice paddling. Novices and families may also enjoy the shorter scenic paddles around Little Tybee Island and Skidaway River.

Kayaking at Tybee Island also has great spots for more experienced paddlers too. Experienced paddlers can head to the north end of Tybee Island for more challenging waters that surround the historic lighthouse of northern Tybee, Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski. Bonus- you can spot dolphins here too!

From the quiet waters of the marsh to the exciting ocean waves, Tybee Island has something for everyone! You can spend an afternoon paddling around the different areas or take longer trips out to nearby barrier islands.

You can launch your own boat at Tybee Island for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours from North Island Surf & Kayak, a family-run business specializing in eco-tours of the area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 S and then exit onto I-16 E toward Savannah. Continue on Islands Expy to US-80 E.

Altamaha River

Known as the “Little Amazon”, the Altamaha River is one of the mightiest river sources flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Home to over 100 rare and endangered species, paddlers interested in wildlife and birdwatching should add the Altamaha to their list.

The Lower Altamaha is the best place for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. This section of the river has pretty tame waters and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife on both sides. Going downstream, paddlers can explore Stud Horse Creek, Lewis Creek, Rifle Cut, and Darien Creek- a stretch of about 17 miles.

Darien Creek, located at the mouth of Altamaha, is a favorite among paddlers. You can kayak to barrier islands, explore Georgia’s coast and the Altamaha’s flat waters all in one place! Kayaking along the Altamaha is usually done in large stretches for long paddle trips, but 29 different access points make it easy to get in and out whenever you choose.

You can launch your boat anywhere along the Altamaha for free, but it is best to steer clear of the raging water of the Upper Altamaha River. Rentals and guided tours are also available at Altamaha Coastal Tours.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S toward Macon then continue to I-16 E and GA-169 S to the river.

Kayaking in Atlanta becomes an ocean adventure if you head out to Tybee Island! Sandy beaches all around!
Kayaking along the sandy beaches of Tybee Island is an awesome way to explore Georgia! Photo Credit: Simon Foot (Flickr CC)

Etowah River

Kayaking in Atlanta’s Etowah River is simply awe-inspiring. The Etowah River Water Trail is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country and connects numerous historical landmarks, state forests, and conservation sites.

The Etowah River is relatively flat and an easy paddle for all abilities. As you paddle down the 136 miles that comprise the trail, you can pass cool sites like the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, and the natural landscapes of Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford, Allatoona and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Besides these beautiful places, Etowah River has another hidden gem- the “underground river”. 3.5 miles from the Castleberry put-in in Dawsonville, an abandoned mining tunnel bridges together two sections of the river. Originally created to search for gold, the 1/4 mile tunnel makes for a spectacular water adventure if you’re brave enough to get to the other side! Please plan ahead and bring a flashlight for this journey, and check to make sure the tunnel is not blocked.

Between the abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, and unique places to explore, kayaking the Etowah River is a utopia for adventure-seekers. You can launch your own boat anywhere along the river for free. Or, you can rent gear from Euharlee Creek Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N toward Emerson and take GA-293 N to the river.

Yahoola Creek

Known as a whitewater kayak destination, Yahoola Creek is a fun place for intermediate and advanced kayakers to try out this summer.

Sections of Yahoola Creek have Class I to Class V rapids, so make sure you are prepared for a bumpy ride. Yahoola has two main gorges that have massive drops which make for an exciting ride. Twists and turns in the creek make turning every corner an adventure- rapids and drops come out of nowhere. That being said, it is best to have some experience paddling in rapids before tackling this hidden gem.

For less experienced paddlers, there is one portion of Yahoola Creek that is flat water. In addition to some epic kayaking, visitors also enjoy nearby Vogel State Park and hiking DeSoto Falls and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

There are a few places to launch your boat for free on Yahoola Creek, but know that the rapids start right away. If you need to rent gear or want a guided tour of the area, check out Appalachian Outfitters. Kayaking Yahoola Creek will certainly leave you breathless!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N toward Chestatee, then take Yahoola Creek Farm Rd. to the water.

Yahoola Creek is absolutely beautiful in the fall! Kayaking in Atlanta is gorgeous under this fall foliage!
Kayaking at Yahoola Creek is gorgeous under this Fall foliage! Photo Credit: Betty Phillips (Flickr CC)

Lake Lanier

From regatta racing to luxury homes, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular destinations for canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. Lake Lanier itself has wonderful waters for all ability levels, and its tributaries connect to more challenging portions of the Chattahoochee.

Paddling around Lake Lanier is certainly beautiful, but it is not the most remote or tranquil place to kayak. It has tons of lake activities for groups and families, making it a premier destination for outdoor lovers. With so many awesome programs, Lake Lanier is a great option for beginners or those looking for a more structured time paddling.

Around the lake, paddlers can cruise past luxury lake homes and cute houseboats on calm waters. Those looking for more rugged terrain should check out the tributaries connecting the lake to the Chattahoochee.

Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club offers rentals, tours, and classes for all ages. Visitors especially love the Moonlight Paddles where you can explore Lake Lanier’s natural beauty under the stars! Or, you can launch your own boat for free.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville. Then, take Jim Crow Rd. to Old Federal Rd.

Chestatee River

Perhaps the best adventure for beginners in Atlanta, kayaking Chestatee River has the perfect water conditions for novice paddlers to feel confident in their skills. The river, however, is still exciting for advanced kayakers too.

Located about an hour outside of downtown Atlanta, the serenity of Chestatee River makes it feel like you’re a million miles away. The river is about 6.5 miles long, which takes roughly three hours to paddle for beginners. Chestatee’s waters are calm throughout with some Class I rapids to keep things interesting at the beginning and end of the route.

Chestatee River is perfectly laid out for a relaxing afternoon or day trip. About halfway down the river, Big Bend Beach is a sandy oasis where you can take a break and have some lunch. After that, it is smooth sailing until the last few rapids at the end before the boat ramp.

You can launch your own boat for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours with Chestatee River Adventures. This spot should definitely be on your list if you are a beginner ready to put your skills to the test!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N to US-19 N and turn onto River Knoll Way.

Chestatee River is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxing paddle this summer! Kayaking in Atlanta is such a fun outdoor activity!
The Chestatee River is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together! Photo Credit: Georgia Sierra Club (Flickr CC)

Fort Yargo State Park

Visiting Fort Yargo State Park is the urban escape everyone is looking for this Summer! From the park’s wide-open waters to beautiful hiking trails, a day spent kayaking in Fort Yargo has no shortage of activities to try.

Fort Yargo State Park features two boat ramps for easy access to the water. Most visitors prefer using the ramp at the end of the park near the luxury yurts for the most scenic waterfront views. Paddlers can peruse the sandy beaches and enjoy miles of coastline on flat water.

After your relaxing paddle around the lake, make sure to check out Old Fort Yargo. Originally built as a defense against Cherokee and Creek tribes, it is now a historical landmark any history buff would enjoy.

With hundreds of acres of land, Fort Yargo State Park is a wonderful getaway with tons of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors love spending the day kayaking around the beach and staying overnight in the luxury yurts and cottages on the park grounds.

You can launch your own boat for free at either boat ramp in the park. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks and SUPS at Fort Yargo State Park.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N toward Athens, then Highway 316 E. Turn onto GA-81 N and head to Yargo Area B Rd.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park

For families and novice paddlers, I would definitely recommend going canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls’ quiet creeks and tributaries provide easier paddling with amazing views.

Unlike other parks along the Chattahoochee, visitors can swim and paddle board at Morgan Falls. A new playground and fire pit also make it a wonderful destination for a low-key family get together. Kayaking this part of the river, technically called Blue Sluice Lake, takes about 2.5 hours. Paddlers can explore nearby marshlands and spot tons of wildlife along the coast.

If you’re looking for a low-key spot to get out on the water, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is an awesome place to explore this summer. Between the lake’s natural beauty and easy hikes along the shoreline, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together. Bonus- it isn’t too well known, so you will probably have the lake to yourself!

You can launch your boat here for free. Or, you can rent kayaks at High County Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N and take exit 5B toward Sandy Springs. Then, take Roswell Rd. to Morgan Falls Rd.

Kayaking in Atlanta's marshes is great way to see diverse wildlife!
Kayaking around Atlanta’s marshes is great way to spot wildlife! Photo Credit: Adriaan Greyling (Pexels)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Atlanta

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Atlanta


While many peoples’ minds immediately jump to eating one of Philadelphia’s delicious cheesesteaks, there is in fact another way to enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer: by kayaking! A day spent kayaking in Philadelphia covers both urban paddling with views of the Philadelphia skyline and waterways that are surrounded by lush trees and forests. Best of all, most of your adventures kayaking in Philadelphia are free of entrance fees (and rentals can be found at very affordable rates).

With so many awesome places to choose from, picking the best places to kayak in and around Philadelphia can be challenging. Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to kayak in Philadelphia. From quiet creeks to Class II rapids, any outdoor lover must experience paddling around Philadelphia!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Philadelphia

Kayaking in Philadelphia is an amazing way to explore the city's natural beauty and get outdoors!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a great way to explore the city’s natural beauty and get outdoors! Photo Credit: David Clow (Flickr CC)

Schuylkill Banks

This 8 mile stretch of river runs straight through the heart of Philidelphia. For an urban kayaking experience that still features beautiful scenery, head out to Schuylkill Banks!

Beginning at Walnut Street Dock, paddlers can launch their boats and cruise down calm waters. Industrial views and the Philadelphia skyline dominate the backdrop when first paddling, but it becomes more lush with greenery as you continue on. Schuylkill Banks’ convenient location and calm waters make it a great spot for beginners or those looking to get in a quick paddle this summer.

Kayaking in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River truly brings an urban setting outdoors. Bonus- you can kayak in the late-afternoon and get back in time for a free movie screening on Schuylkill Banks (with free snacks)!

You can launch your own boat from Walnut Street Dock or Fairmont Water Works for free. Or, on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Hidden River Outfitters offers tours of the river with exclusive river routes.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards S 25th St from Lombard st. This will take you to Locust point, where you can park your car and head down to the riverbank. If not driving, the Market Frankford Line of SEPTA Regional Rail will take you here.

Wissahickon Creek

With over 50 miles of rugged terrain trails and free-flowing streams, kayaking in Wissahickon Valley Park is not your average flat water experience.

Located within the park, Wissahickon Creek is 7 miles in total and ranges in depth and rapids. Kayaking here is a complete escape from busy downtown Philadelphia. Dense forests and wildflowers make Wissahickon Creek a beautiful outdoor oasis. While paddling along the rocky tree-lines shores, make sure to look out for shallow areas!

Visitors also enjoy touring historic sites in the park like Philadelphia’s last standing covered bridge and the Valley Green Inn. Between the park’s beautiful natural landscape and history, kayaking Wissahickon Creek is perfect for any age and ability.

The Philadelphia Canoe Club is an active paddling community that offers canoe, kayak, and white water rafting trips down Wissahickon Creek. Besides renting gear, joining this great community of outdoor enthusiasts is a wonderful place to meet others with a shared love for kayaking in Philadelphia.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-76 W and take exit 331B toward Plymouth Mtg. Then, head toward State Route 3005 until the creek. If not driving, there is transit from 30th Street Station that drops you 0.5 miles from the creek.

Glistening waters of Core Creek Park invites cancers and kayakers for a paddle!
The pond at Core Creek Park is a beautiful place for kayaking in Philadelphia this Summer! Photo Credit: Chris Ronin (Flickr CC)

Cedar Creek

An ecological masterpiece, paddling along Cedar Creek showcases the unique beauty of cedar forests, bogs, marshes and more!

From the minute you arrive you’ll notice how special kayaking on Cedar Creek really is. Its unique tea-colored water is a result of the cedar tree roots of forests that line the shores. Cedar Creek itself is best suited for paddlers with some experience; there is a current that definitely aids you in paddling if going downstream.

Paddling Cedar Creek can be a full weekend trip; luxury campgrounds sit on the shores ready for you after you are done kayaking. Between the cranberry bogs adjacent to the creek and marshes that host diverse wildlife, Cedar Creek must be on your kayaking list this summer.

Cedar Creek Campground rents out campgrounds and canoe/kayak gear. They will even drop it off where you wish to begin your trip! Or, feel free to launch your own boat at the docks near the swimming area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on US-30 E and take the ramp to NJ–70 E. Turn right onto Warren Grove Whiting Rd and continue through Lacey Rd until a right turn onto Atlantic City Blvd. Turn right onto Harbor Inn Rd. Driving is the best way to get here! If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Kayaking in Philadelphia can have an urban setting ion the Schuylkill Banks- an easy way to get outdoors!
Kayaking along Schuylkill Banks gives the best skyline views and an urban feel. Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning (Flickr CC)

Marsh Creek State Park

Marsh Creek Lake is your classic flat water lake with beautiful tree-lined coasts and sandy beaches. With blue skies and calm waters, Marsh Creek Lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon kayaking in Philadelphia.

Besides the gorgeous scenery, Marsh Creek Lake is known for their Night Tours. Offered every other Friday, seasoned tour guides provide vibrant glow sticks to help you navigate around the lake and experience it under the stars!

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Marsh Creek Lake is a perfect place to start. In addition to kayak and paddle board rentals, Marsh Creek Lake also has lessons and can host parties. Rentals are available at West Launch Boat Rentals. Or, feel free to launch your own boat too!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-76 W toward Harrisburg, then take PA-100 N to Park Rd. Turn left and continue to the lake. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line to Downington.

Penn’s Landing

Located near Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Hilton Penn’s Landing, kayaking Penn’s Landing is certain to be a unique way to see the city! You can kayak, paddleboat, or even rent rowboats to explore the Delaware River’s beachfront.

Kayaking Penn’s Landing is a great outdoor activity for kids and families living in Philadelphia. The Penn’s Landing paddle area is in a safe harbor where you are free to paddle and float to your heart’s content. Since Penn’s Landing recently added kayaking to its waterfront, it is in high demand. Kayaking here is best suited for kids and those looking to see some of Philadelphia’s history (not a long, scenic paddle).

Paddling at Penn’s Landing is sponsored by Independence Seaport Museum. The museum’s Workshop on the Water offers outdoors classes and rents kayaks. If you already have a boat, feel free to explore the harbor on your own!

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Chestnut St. over the freeway to get to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware river. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA MFL Line toward Frankfort to 2nd Station which is near Penn’s Landing.

Sailboats, boats, canoes, and kayaks take the water at Nockamixon State Park! Visitors enjoy paddling around the tree-lined coasts.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the waters of Nockamixon State Park! Photo Credit: (FlickrCC)

Nockamixon State Park

Nockamixon State Park may be one of the most treasured places in Pennsylvania. Close enough for a day trip, kayaking in Philadelphia’s Nockamixon State Park is absolutely breathtaking come Spring, Summer, or Fall.

With over 1,000 acres of waterfront property, you can do some serious kayaking on Nockamixon Lake. Full of fish, this is the perfect spot for fishing and taking a luxurious paddle along the forested coastline.

Dedicated to outdoor education and environmental conservation, Nockamixon State Park has tons of classes for people of all ages looking to learn more about nature and the park itself during your visit.

In total, the lake has six public launch sites, but Three Mile Run and Haycock launch ramps are best suited for kayaks and canoes. If not launching your own boat, feel free to rent gear from Nockamixon Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take N Broad St north and turn left onto Fort Washington Expy. Then, turn right onto Hilltown Pike and continue onto Blooming Glen Rd/Minsi Trail. Continue on PA-313 W, and then turn right and take PA-563 N to the park. If not driving, there is a bus once daily to Quakertown by Fullington Railways. Or, you can rent a car from Avis.

Core Creek Park

The small lake located in Core Creek Park is the perfect way to ease into kayaking this Summer. Between the flat water, hiking and picnic areas, you’ll never want to leave!

Core Creek Park’s waterfront access to Lake Luxembourg makes the transition from land to water super easy. A leisurely paddle around the lake doesn’t take too long, and is a great place to work on your paddle skills.

More experienced paddlers love Core Creek Park’s Moonlight Paddle Tours which explores the lake under the stars. Whether you are a newbie looking for a quiet place to practice or a seasoned paddle looking to kayak in a new environment, Lake Luxembourg can do it all.

You can launch your own boat or you can rent kayaks at the park from Core Creek Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-95 N toward Trenton, then take exit 3 towards US-1 Business N and turn left onto Woodbourne Rd. Continue here to the park. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA West Trenton Line to Langhorne (Core Creek Park).

Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great outdoor activity for the whole family! Kayaking in Philadelphia is a must-do activity this summer!
Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great activity for the whole family! Photo Credit: Stephen Harris (Flickr CC)

Delaware River

Separating Pennsylvania from New Jersey, the Delaware River is a diverse flat water river with excellent wildlife and campgrounds along the way.

Accessing this beautiful natural waterway is super easy- there are put-ins along routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. Once on the water, paddlers of all abilities can cruise down long stretches of the river and make camp along the way.

Kayaking along the Delaware River is a great choice for kayakers looking for long stretches of uninterrupted water and trips that can last up to a few days. While paddling, you may even spot wild turkeys, bears, and elk!

Bonus: Besides canoeing and kayaking, the Delaware River has the perfect conditions for tubing. Floating down the river on a sunny day is like having your own lazy river. Twin River Tubing has everything you need to make your journey awesome.

You can launch your own boat at any of the access points along the highway for free. Or, you can rent from Adventure Sports. Spots like the Delaware River make kayaking in Philadelphia an absolute epic time!

How to Get There: If driving, put-ins are located along highway routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. The best way to access the water is through these sites. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Darby Creek

  • Location: Southeastern Philadelphia
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ridley Marina

A small place with huge opportunities, Darby Creek is home to scenic water trails and some of the most treasured historical landmarks in Pennsylvania.

Darby Creek is a wonderful place for all abilities. The creek itself is great for beginners and its larger tributaries provide more challenging water for intermediate paddlers. Flowing in and out of the Delaware River, Darby Creek is a peaceful spot for kayak enthusiasts to gather and explore Philadelphia’s natural beauty.

After a day of paddling through lush forests, visitors can tour the Swedish Cabin built in the 1650s and the Blue Bell Inn, built in the 1760s. Members of the Darby Creek Watershed work hard to preserve these pieces of American history for visitors to enjoy. Darby Creek also runs through John Heinz Wildlife Refuge– the first wildlife refuge established in America!

Clearly, there is no shortage of places to explore around Darby Creek. You can launch your own boat at the watershed. Or, you can rent gear from the Ridley Marina located next to the park.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S, then take exit 8 onto Stewart Ave and turn right. Turn right again on Chester Pike and finally, turn right onto S Swarthmore ave and continue to the creek. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Line 11 Tram to Darby Creek Transportation Center.

The scenic Batsto River is a wonderful place to challenge your kayak skills in NJ.
Batsto River in Wharton State Forest is a scenic and challenging paddle! Photo Credit: Hammonton Photography (Flickr CC)

Brandywine River

Brandywine River Valley is a beautiful landscape with sloping hills and gorgeous greenery. The meandering river’s gentle flow makes it a wonderful spot for first-time paddlers and large groups.

Wilderness Canoe Trips is the prime outfitter for canoeing and kayaking down the Brandywine River. They have courses for 1.5, 6, and 12 mile paddles, and will help you get started on your water adventure (not a guided tour).

Visitors also love coming to Brandywine for its American history. In addition to some of the most scenic kayaking in PA, paddlers can watch Civil War Reenactments and tour the town’s historical landmarks.

Although it is a bit far from downtown Philadelphia, kayaking down Brandywine River is the ideal paddle experience. With beautiful nature on all sides, this can be the peaceful escape you were looking for. You can launch your own boat from the Wilderness Canoe Trips waterfront access and rent gear from them too.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S and take exit 8 for Rte 202 N. Immediately take the next exit onto Powder Mill Rd heading west. Then, take the next left onto W Park Dr and turn immediately right onto Rockland Rd. This road will take you all the way up onto Brandywine Creek State Park. The best way to get here is by car. If you need to rent a car, check out Avis.

Wharton State Forest

The Batsto River located in Wharton State Forest is an awesome place to go canoeing and kayaking near Philadelphia. Open glades and forests surround the river, which also has an abundance of wildlife.

There are tons of guided tours for the Batsto River, but if you want to explore on your own, almost every tour launches from Quaker Bridge. From there, the river has many sections. As you paddle, you will go through narrow, twisted streams, swamps, ponds, and finally end up at at Batsto Lake.

Due to the rugged terrain and flux in water, kayaking the Batsto River is best suited for intermediate and experienced paddlers. Paddlers really looking for an outback experience should camp at Lower Forge Campground. It is notorious for its “primitive” setting. Remember to bring your own water!

Like mentioned above, you can launch your own boat from Quaker Bridge or Hampton Furnance. Or, take a guided tour and rent gear from Mick’s Canoe & Kayak Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-676 S and continue south on the Atlantic City Expy. Take exit 28 and turn left on 12th St. Then, turn right onto Central Ave and continue onto Pleasant Mills Rd (NJ 542). This road will take you to nearby Batsto Village. Driving is the best way to get here. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

A kayak floats down one of the many rivers in  PA- kayaking in Philadelphia is always a beautiful and exciting outdoor activity!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors! Photo Credit: Jim Mullhaupt (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Philadelphia

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia


As the snow melts away, New York City finally becomes a wonderful place to spend time outside. While your mental image of NYC may consist of images of skyscrapers and cramped streets, hidden in the city are pockets of trails, streams, and rivers that make for perfect outdoor adventures. An afternoon spent kayaking in NYC can take you through fresh streams winding through urban settings or in the Hudson River (and most of these areas are free to paddle in!).

What we love about canoeing and kayaking is that it is an activity for everyone: you can be a “natural” without even taking a lesson! That being said, we highly encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of the beautiful scenery in the city, and what better way than on the water? We wrote this guide to our top recommendations for the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in New York City.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking Around NYC

A panoramic view  of kayaking in New York City with the picturesque skyline on the horizon.
Enjoy panoramic views of the city while kayaking the coast!

The Downtown Boathouse

As an all-volunteer non-for-profit with the goal of giving city residents access to outdoor recreational activities, The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking throughout the summer at Pier 26 and Governors Island. With views of the New York skyline and even the Statue of Liberty, this free option makes kayaking around New York City convenient and stress-free!

Pro-Tip: Boats are rented out for 20 minute intervals, but it is usually not busy in the mornings, in which case you can paddle for as long as you want! And if you are over eighteen, you can hop out of the boat and swim too.

How to Get There: Located off West St, between Hubert St and N Moore St.

Hudson River

With over 500 acres of park land, Hudson River Park offers a range of canoeing and kayaking experiences, from free to guided tours (recommended if you are a new paddler). If looking to fill an open afternoon, Hudson River Park will not disappoint; with trapeze on lush open lawns and kayaking the shoreline, it is sure to be an exhilarating time.

If nervous about paddling on higher-speed waters, Manhattan Kayak +SUP offers guided tours from Pier 84 ranging from three to 30 miles, depending on how far you want to adventure. And with views of the Statue of Liberty from downtown and the Empire State Building from Midtown, you’ll want to adventure far.

Manhattan Kayak operates from Pier 84, Downtown Boathouse from Pier 26, and Manhattan Community Boathouse from Pier 96.

Pro tip: Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free kayak rentals on a first-come, first-served basis during the summer and fall!

How to Get There: Visitors can experience the river and tours from three different locations: Pier 96 (cross at W55th Stat Pier 96 in Clinton), Pier 84 (cross at W44th St at Pier 84 in Maritime Entertainment District), or Pier 26 (cross at N Moore in Tribeca at pier 26 in Tribeca). If not driving, the nearest subway stops are 8 Av/W 12 St; W 14 St/9 Av; 11 Av/W 15 St; or 11 Av/ W 18 St on the A line.

Inwood Canoe Club

Offering a number of events throughout the spring and summer, The Inwood Canoe Club is a West Manhattan canoeing organization known for a free public paddling program along the Hudson River. Attendees learn paddling skills, gain access to the city’s waterways, meet other members of the community, and contribute to cleanup efforts along the Hudson’s shore.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the club welcomes the public for guided 20 minute tours of the Hudson River. To cover the insurance associated with your visit, the club charges $4 for one day, or $15 for a season’s worth of kayaking. Having been a staple in the community for 100 years, the Inwood Canoe Club is the place to go for avid canoers and kayakers.

How to Get There: Near Inwood, next to Fort Tryon. If not driving, you can take the A or 1 train to Dyckman Street and walk west toward the Hudson River.

Two blue kayaks rush through the water with the New York skyline behind them in the distance.
Explore the urban outdoors by paddling around New York City! Photo Credit: Kam (Flickr CC)

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Located at Pier 2, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse offers some of the most convenient kayaking in New York City, and a newly redeveloped park creates beautiful atmosphere to experience the river.

The Boathouse has summer programs for kids, and has 50 specially planned trips to make your experience kayaking around NYC great!

The Boathouse offers walk-up kayak rentals and lessons – no experience necessary! This is the perfect choice for families looking for an outdoor adventure, as certain days are specifically set aside for children- and family-focused sessions.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and exit onto Old Fulton St. Take this to the boathouse. If not driving, the park is accessible by several subway lines (A/C, 2/3, 4/5, F, R) and bus routes (B25, B61, B63, B67). Visitors can also arrive via the NYC Ferry at Fulton Ferry Landing.

Kayakers surround New York City's harbors with the New York City skyline on the horizon.

Red Hook Boaters

Located in Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park in Red Hook, the Red Hook Boaters offers free 20 minute kayaking trips beginning early June, first come first serve. This location is protected by the harbor, and therefore is pretty calm paddling- perfect for beginners!

Pro Tip: The kayaks provided by Red Hook Boaters are unsinkable and sea-bailing, meaning water that gets into the boat will immediately drain. Take advantage of this no-risk operation, it is 100% free!

After paddling, kayakers join the volunteer crew in beachfront pickup as a way to pay for their lesson- a pretty great way to get involved with the community!

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and take I-27B south. Take exit 27 onto Columbia st. Scoot over one street west onto Van Brunt St and continue until Van Dyke St, where you will take a right and head down to the pier. follow signs for Ikea Plaza to Coffey St. If not driving, take the B61 to Red Hook and get off at the intersection of Coffey and Van Brunt Street, then walk two blocks west to the park pier.

Sebago Canoe Club

Located on Avenue N and Paerdegat Avenue North, the Sebago Canoe Club is the place for small boat enthusiasts. With the a huge kayak committee, the club hosts numerous events throughout the season, like tours of Jamaica Bay (free on Wednesday and Saturday) and Full Moon paddles.

With sailing, rowing, canoeing, and kayaking, Sebago Canoe Club certainly has it all! If planning to paddle with Sebago more than a few times a month, the membership fee is totally worth it. Members get unlimited access to equipment and use of the club’s cabin Harriman State Park for low cost.

Kayaking around New York City at the “grand-daddy of canoe clubs” is the perfect way to escape the city. Trips do have a low coast, but Sebago Canoe Club gives longer tours (about an hour) and paddles to streams other places do not offer.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and continue along Belt Pkwy until exit 13. Then turn left onto Seaview Ave. If not driving, take the #2 or #5 line to last stop Flatbush Ave/Brooklyn College. Connect to the B6 to Flatlands & Ralph Ave.

Kayaking in New York City turns into a fun adventure when you add a sail! Cruise the waves with this kayak-sail hybrid.
Cruise the waves of Jamaica Bay with this kayak-sail hybrid! Photo Credit: Kam (Flickr CC)

The Gowanus Dredgers

Located on 2nd Street in Red Hook, The Gowanus Dredgers have started many projects aimed at making the NYC waterfront safer and more accessible. Although they do very under-appreciated work, they take on the important task of educating the community about the shoreline and avoiding overflow and sewage problems.

Kayaking in NYC with this educational lens, the tour guides are ripe with knowledge on the city and how to help clean these beautiful waters. Said to be a unique experience very different from kayaking the Hudson River, this paddle tour is sure to be an eye-opening experience.

Participants are able to take a 20 minute paddle down the Gowanus Canal for free on Saturdays and Sundays from May through November. During your trip, participants are asked to join in the canal cleanup efforts by removing trash that has washed ashore.

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge, then continue on Boernum Pl until you can take a left at Atlantic Ave. Take a right on Hoyt St and then finally, make a left on 1st St. If not driving, take the F or G Line to Carroll Street & exit to front of Bklyn-bound train, cross Smith St. Walk three blocks down 2nd Street to the dock.

Red and yellow kayaks sit on the rocky shore beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a very convenient launch spot for kayaking in New York City.
Access this awesome launch spotlight beneath the Brooklyn Bridge! Photo Credit: Charlie (Flickr CC)

North Brooklyn Boat Club

Located on Newtown Creek between Ash Street and McGuinness Boulevard, the North Brooklyn Boat Club offers both walk-up free paddling sessions in addition to private events for your corporate team or organization.

Paddling tours go through East River and Newton Creek, a tour favored by recent participants Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Murray (no biggie…). The only tour to go into Newton Creek, North Brooklyn Boat Club’s knowledge on this slice of paradise is vast and fascinating. This is a great way to see Manhattan- kids and pets welcome! Memberships for year-round activities are a steal- only $40 per year!

How to Get There: If driving, cross Brooklyn Bridge and continue on 27B until exit 33. Head north on McGuinness rd until you reach Pulaski bridge. The boathouse is right before the bridge. If not driving, you can take the G train to Greenpoint Ave. or 7 train to Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave. Alternatively, B32 or B62 bus to Green St. and Manhattan Ave. or McGuinness Blvd. and Freeman St. will also bring you close to the boathouse.

Salt Marsh Nature Center

  • Location: Brooklyn
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at The Salt Marsh Nature Center

The Salt Marsh Nature Center is Brooklyn’s largest park, with flora and fauna that transforms the urban space. From Gerritsen Inlet, you can paddle through the quiet creeks and marshes for a few miles. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can head all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean or the Rockaways.

NOTE: You’ll need a permit to launch a kayak on your own here. The Nature Center also offers Ranger programs if you really want to expand your nature vocabulary. The Salt Marsh Nature Center is especially loved by families, birdwatchers (American Kestrels spotted here), and photographers.

How to Get There: If driving, take the Belt Parkway to Kings Plaza exit (11N) the go north on Flatbush Ave. Turn left on Ave U and continue west for 10 blocks. Pass East 33rd Street and look for a parking lot on the right. The Salt Marsh nature center is located on the left side of the street. If not driving, take the N, F, B or Q train to the Avenue U stop and transfer to the eastbound B3 bus to Burnett Street and Avenue U.

Paddle board and kayak in New York City to see the skyline in a whole new way.
Paddle boarders and kayakers can enjoy New York City’s views from the water! Photo Credit: Dan Nguyen (Flickr CC)

Kayak Staten Island

Located on South Beach, just beyond the northernmost end of the expansive Boardwalk, Kayak Staten Island is the perfect place for free kayaking in NYC.

Kayak Staten Island is a great local resource and over the years has fostered a community focused on preserving local waters, Signing a waiver is the only thing standing in your way from making a memorable kayak trip this summer.

All equipment is free, and paddle sessions last 15-20 minutes long. This is the perfect place for a last-minute water adventure! Pro tip: Kayak Staten Island is one of the only places open on the island to rent kayaks until 7 pm, the perfect time for a sunset paddle.

How to Get There: If driving, take Belt Pkwy into Staten Island and then exit onto Goethals Rd. Make a U turn underneath the overpass and continue until the river on the right. If not driving, take S78 bus to Hylan Blvd and Page Ave walk south, towards the water, to the end of Page Ave (from Staten Island ferry terminal) .

LIC Community Boathouse

Located on Hallets Cove (31st Street and Vernon Avenue), the LIC Community Boathouse offers free walkup kayaking on weekdays and weekends, with views of Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.

LIC offers a special one-hour paddle to Anable Basin for paddlers 18 years and older. Kayaking some of New York’s more challenging water, this epic journey is a great activity for intermediate paddlers. (Oh, and it’s FREE!)

Besides sponsoring awesome trips to Anable Basin, the LIC Community Boathouse plays a vital role in rejuvenating Long Island City, and educating the community on the local ecology. Said to be the all-around best boathouse for any interest, kayaking with LIC should definitely be on your list this summer.

How to Get There: If driving, take the Queens and head north on Vernon blvd. Turn left on 46th ave and the boathouse will be on the left. Midtown tunnel If not driving, take the #7 subway heading to Flushing / Main Street and get off at stops ranging from Vernon Blvd / Jackson Ave to Queensboro Plaza. At Queensboro Plaza, you can transfer to the N or W to reach points along the East River waterfront.

Flushing Bay

Located at the World’s Fair Marina launch, Flushing Bay is a part of the 160 square miles of connected streams and trails of New York City’s Parks and Recreation. Besides endless streams of water perfect for an all-day adventure, you can also kayak passed Rikers Island, New York City’s main prison facility (we swear, it looks pretty from a distance!).

NOTE: A permit is required to launch your own canoe or kayak, but it is definitely worth it for some peace and quiet on these tranquil waters. And if you need a kayak, Wheel Fun Rentals has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Grand Central Pkwy and take exit 9E towards 25A. Then take exit 14 and turn left onto Linden Pl. Next, turn right on 120th St and then turn left on 18th ave. Take a last immediate left then right and continue until the bay. If not driving, you can take the 7 train to Willets Point, E, F, V & R trains to 71st Avenue past Meadow Lake or bus Q66 to Northern Boulevard.

Double kayaks are a great way to experience New York's waters with friends and family.
Grab a double kayak and explore New York’s waters with friends and families!

Esopus Creek

Esopus Creek offers some of the best intermediate kayaking opportunities in New York. With rugged terrain that flows clockwise around the Catskill Mountains, this day-trip from the city is a must for kayakers who want a challenge. With streams that reach Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, kayaking Esopus Creek is certainly full of scenic views and adventure.

There are several Class II, III, and IV rapids to explore, with launch points off Route 28 in Phoenicia and Allaben. Pro Tip- the further north you go, the more challenging and narrow the waters tend to be, so keep this in mind if a beginner!

Saugerties Marina provides kayak rentals and has guided outings down the lower end of Esopus Creek.

How to Get There: If driving, take FDR Dr. to Harlem River Dr. Then take I-87 N up to exit 20 to get to the marina. If not driving, there are buses and trains that leave from Penn Station and Port Authority that bring you to only a 15 minute taxi ride to the park.

Cold Spring

  • Location: Phillipstown
  • Cost: 3 or 4-hour tours $110
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Cold Spring

Located about an hour north of Grand Central Station, Cold Spring provides the perfect outdoor getaway for kayaking near NYC. With tours up to 4 hours, Cold Spring accommodates all levels, and paddles through the scenic Hudson Highlands.

Participants have the opportunity to see historic Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island, explore Foundry Cove, and paddle through Constitution Marsh to see an amazing waterfall. Longer trips include lunch, but all tours are not free. With so much to see, kayaking around Cold Spring makes a great day-trip for the family.

How to Get There: If driving, head up FDR and continue on I-87N until exit 5, where you will follow signs for Sprain Brook Pkwy N. Continue until exit 5 and take highway 9A into US-9N. Take the exit into 403, and then take the right onto 9D. Continue until Phillipstown and then follow signs to the river. If not driving, there is a Metro Train leaving from Grand Central Station that takes you directly to Cold Spring.

Letchworth State Park

Although it may be a bit of a trek, Letchworth State Park has so much to offer, and is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. With five-and-a-half miles of Class I and II whitewater kayaking down the Genesee River, and some gorgeous waterfalls on the south end, the park is truly a paddler’s paradise.

Because some parts of the river have a quick current, this paddle is best suited for intermediate level kayakers. However, there is still an abundance of quite waters found in the three gorges in the park that are perfect for novice paddlers.

Plus, the park is half an hour south of Rochester, which has lots of cool restaurants and museums to explore. The park also offers rafting, hiking, and hot air balloon rides if looking to add to your kayak adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-80W until you pass Tannersville, then head north on I-380. Continue onto I-81N, and then merge onto I-86W. Continue onto I-390N until you turn left onto Sonyea Rd. The state park is further down the road.

White rocky cliffs and lush green surround this beautiful getaway- a great destination for all abilities wanting to kayak near New York City.
Paddle through the lush green of Letchworth State Park on your next water adventure! Photo Credit: gardener41 (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources for Canoeing and Kayaking in NYC

What to Pack for Canoeing and Kayaking in NYC

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more comprehensive gear list, check out The Ultimate Kayaking Gear List for more ideas on what to bring on your epic water adventures!

Related Links to Kayaking in New York City


Between the lush forests of the Emerald City to the first Starbucks, Seattle has natural beauty and urban activities, making it a premier tourist destination. Whether you’re visiting Seattle or live there year-round, getting out on the water is truly the best way to see the city. A day kayaking in Seattle is a day well-spent; with views of rocky shorelines, the city skyline, and pine tree- covered islands, the Pacific Northwest’s natural landscape is truly awe-inspiring.

There are plenty of spots to go kayaking in and around Seattle, with many focused towards beginners and families. With opportunities for both lake and sea kayaking, there is no shortage of places to explore, and the best news is that most of them are free! We wrote this detailed guide on the most beautiful spots for canoeing and kayaking in Seattle to help you plan your next adventure on the water.

A single kayak approaches the sandy shores of Seattle's coastline with smooth, clear waters all around.
Kayaking in Seattle is one of the best ways to explore the Northwest’s natural beauty!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Seattle

Colorful houseboats line the edges of Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. Lake Union is a fantastic place to go canoeing or kayaking in Seattle.
Lake Union is a colorful spot for paddling! Photo Credit: Becca Swift (Flickr CC)

Lake Union

While you’re basking in the sun paddling in Lake Union, you may find some companions…baby turtles! Hidden among the lily pads, Lake Union is known to have tons of wildlife, including turtles, that make for great paddle buddies. Lake Union’s wide-open waters are great for families to carve out their own space on the water.

Whether you’re looking for a quick paddle after work, or planning a whole afternoon on the water, Lake Union is perfect for all ability levels, and is known for its views of the colorful house that line the shores. Avid kayakers especially love paddling around Portage Bay and across the Montlake Cut to the Washington Park Arboretum. Or, paddle the opposite direction and head to Gas Works Park for an unreal view of downtown Seattle.

Rentals at this location are provided by Agua Verde Paddle Club for $20/hour. This club has a perfect launch site if you’re renting from them or if you decide to bring your own boat. Either way, Lake Union is the perfect spots to see the sights of Seattle from the water.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 N to Lakeview Blvd E to Fairfield Ave E to the lake. If not driving, the Seattle Streetcar goes directly from downtown Seattle to Lake Union, and also connects to other Metro Transit.

San Juan Islands

Why go whale watching from a bulky boat when you can do it up close in a kayak?! San Juan Islands is the premier kayaking spot for whale spotting and seeing harbor seal pups.

Pristine shorelines provide a great guide for paddling along the harbor, and visitors can even paddle to the beautiful Point Doughty State Park. Kayaking the San Juan Islands is great for all abilities, however, this sea kayaking can be bit more challenging than lake kayaking due to the waves.

There are TONS of guided tours to make your experience paddling the San Juan Islands unforgettable. Paddlers really enjoy Outer Island Excursions‘ trip out of Smuggler’s Villa Resort and San Juan Kayak Expeditions. Because there are so many tours in this area, it can get crowded. Make sure to get out there early to experience the beautiful scenery of Seattle!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 N to the Burlington exit 230, then take Highway 20 until you reach Anacortes and the ferry. It is recommended to arrive at Anacortes Ferry Terminal at least 1 hour prior to ferry departure ($13). If not driving, airport shuttles from SeaTac will drop you off at the ferry terminal.

Paddlers kayak in Seattle's hazy blue waters with mountains and a tree-lined coastline in the distance.
Alki Beach is a beautiful setting for a relaxing paddle! Photo Credit: D Coetzee (Flickr CC)

Alki Beach

Conquer the waves at Alki Beach! With wide open waters, Alki Beach’s shoreline is great for novice paddlers and experts alike. Open pretty much all day, Alki Beach is the perfect spot for a sunset paddle.

Paddle all the way to the Alki Lighthouse or cruise through Elliott Bay- it’s your choice! With so much space, this beach provides a great oasis for those looking to get out of the city and connect with the surrounding nature.

Alki Kayak Tours offers guided tours and rentals on a first-come-first-served basis ($20/hour). As a public beach, visitors are always encouraged to bring their own boats and launch right off of the coast.

How to Get There: If driving, start on Hwy 99 S and take the exit for West Seattle Bridge, then take Harbor Ave to Alki Ave SW. If not driving, buses 50 and 775 or the C Line will bring you to the beach.

Magnuson Park

The smooth waters of Lake Washington make Magnuson Park the ideal spot for beginner paddlers looking to improve their skills. Because of the calm waters, Magnuson Park is also a great spot for families.

With birds swooping down to catch fish, paddling on Lake Washington is sure to be a thrill! Sailboats and kayaks constantly wander the lake, creating a community of paddlers on the water.

This park on Lake Washington is home to Sail Sand Point, Seattle’s Community Boathouse. Here, Sail Sand Point and REI offers paddle lessons for kayakers of all ages and boat rentals ($20/hour). If looking to launch your own boat, Magnuson Park is also the best spot on Lake Washington to do so.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-5 N towards Kirkland, take the Montlake Blvd E exit to Sand Point Way NE. If not driving, you can take Bus 62, 75, or SCH-GOLD directly to the park, or take the tram from SeaTac ($3).

A close-up look at one of Seattle's many marinas that is home to hundreds of boats docked at shore
Start your journey kayaking in Seattle at one of Seattle’s marinas

Rattlesnake Lake

  • Location: North Bend
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at North Bend Outside

Providing over 80,000 people annually with spring-fed water, Rattlesnake Lake is owned and operated by Seattle Public Utilities and takes great pride in supplying Seattle with fresh water year-round.

Low water levels reveal intricate tree root systems and school of fish, and nearby Rattlesnake Trail is great hiking if looking for an after-paddle adventure. Since this lake is pretty shallow, it is ideal for beginners. The Cedar River Watershed Educational Center offers programs to learn about the lake and its history.

North Bend Outside is a brand new rental company that services Rattlesnake River and nearby Snoqualmie River. If interested in renting equipment, you can call (425) 652-7325. Of course, launching your own boat is an option at Rattlesnake River too.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-5 S towards Spokane, then to I-90 E to Cedar Falls Rd. SE. If not driving, Bus lines 628 and 554 drop you about ten minutes outside of the park, the closest available drop off point ($7).

Lakes to Locks Trail

  • Location: Beacon Hill
  • Rentals Available: Yes- Click here for a full list of Outfitters.

With over 100 places to launch boats, Lakes to Locks Trail is the perfect day-trip for kayak enthusiasts. Here, the natural beauty of hidden coves transitions into an urban setting, and this waterway takes you through it all.

Lakes to Locks Trail cuts through Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Lake Sammamish. Eventually, the trail culminates at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks where the fresh water of the lakes meets the salt water of the Puget Sound. With so much to choose from, this spot caters to paddlers of all abilities.

With hundred of miles of water, Lakes to Locks has the unique characteristic of combining lake and sea kayaking in the same trip! Lakes to Locks is affiliated with many companies that offer rentals and tours of the area depending on where you are looking to paddle. Click here for a full list of Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, head southwest on Madison St toward 4th Ave, then to Emerson st. to W Commodore Way. If not driving, Bus lines 24, 44, and line D all bring you close to the water. Or, the Sounder Lakewood-Seattle train line also brings you to this area.

Kayakers and Tubers float near the rocky shores of Rattlesnake Lake in Seattle
Rafters and Paddlers alike enjoy Rattlesnake Lake’s premier beaches. Photo Credit: Graeme Robertson (Flickr CC)

Moss Bay

Kayaking in Seattle doesn’t get much better than Moss Bay– you can see the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle, and Gasworks Park all in an hour!

Located at the southern tip of Lake Union, Moss Bay’s sheltered area is perfect for beginners. Paddling around an extensive network of unique houseboats, Moss Bay will give you an urban paddling experience.

At only $15/hour, Moss Bay Rentals offers some of the most affordable kayaking in the area. Because of the houseboats, there is little motorized action in this area. Combined with the urban setting, Moss Bay is often seen as the most convenient and safest place to paddle in Seattle.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-5 N and take exit 167 on the left for Mercer St toward Seattle Center, then to Fairview Ave N to Yale Ave. If not driving, there is a metro stop for Moss Bay from 3rd Ave & Marion St that operates throughout the day.

Ballard

  • Location: Shilshole Bay Marina
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ballard Kayak ($20/hour)

Residing on the shores of Ship Canal, Ballard creates a truly unique kayaking experience in Seattle, as the shores connect to the rugged Ballard Locks.

With jumping salmon all around, kayaking at Ballard is a high-energy experience, and meant for more experienced paddlers. Paddling near the shore is a safe bet for inexperienced paddlers, as paddling along the Ballard Locks can be tricky to navigate.

Offering a safe way to navigate Ballard Locks, Ballard Kayak has tours through the Locks, to Puget Sound, and Discovery Point. Kayak rentals are $20/hour, or you can bring your own boat and launch for free.

How to Get There: If driving, head southwest on Madison St toward 4th Ave to 15th Ave NW, then to Seaview Ave NW. If not driving, Buses 17, 44, and 45 all go to the marina. Or, take the tram from SeaTac airport.

Seattle's skyline is in the distance as kayakers paddle towards the pine tree-lined coast
Enjoy spectacular views of Seattle’s skyline from the seat of a kayak

Foss Harbor Marina

Nestled on the edge of Commencment Bay, Foss Harbor Marina is a hidden gem for those looking for a quiet place to explore Point Defiance Park, Ruston Way, and the tide flats of the industrial area of Seattle.

Visitors love this spot for a quick paddle around the park, and enjoy its sheltered waters from big boats and waves. Therefore, Foss Harbor is great for beginners and those looking for a low-key setting to practice their skills. Pro tip- wildlife is usually spotted closer to the tide flats!

Rentals are available through the Foss Harbor Marina at $25 for 2 hours, making it one of the best deals on the market! Renting both single and double kayaks, Foss Harbor Marina is a great spot to explore alone or with a friend.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport, then take the exit for the City Center to Dock St. If not driving, there is a tram that leaves from King Street Station to Commerce Street Station, with a 0.5 mile walk to the harbor (closest drop-off stop).

Lake Sammamish

Just 15 miles east of Seattle, Lake Sammamish State Park is definitely a fan favorite among avid canoe-ers and kayakers. With a beautiful boardwalk, playgrounds, hiking, and more, spending the day at Lake Sammamish will never be boring.

Visitors can enjoy paddling down Sammamish River as well as the lake; both have plenty of space and have mostly calm waters. The lake is known to be great for beginners and families, though sometimes the waves can be bit challenging. With views of wildlife and houses along the shore, Sammamish is a perfect spot for kayaking in Seattle this summer.

Issaquah Paddle Sports provides boat rentals and lessons for paddlers throughout the summer, and is located on Sammamish’s Tibbetts Beach, a great launch site for personal boats too. Rentals are $18/hour.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards Portland, then I-90 E to NW Sammamish Rd to E Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE. If not driving, Bus line 554 and 888 will take you to the lake.

Docked boats surround Ballard Lake leaving wide-open waters making it an ideal place for kayaking in Seattle
Crystal waters flow through Ballard’s marinas and mountains in the distance. Photo Credit: Barry Lancaster (Flickr CC)

Elliot Bay

A protected harbor next to the open ocean, Elliot Bay is the best of both worlds. With views of downtown Seattle and Mt. Rainer in the distance, there is a lot to take in while paddling Seattle’s Elliot Bay.

Because the bay opens into Puget Sound, there is constant boat traffic to be aware of. Therefore, kayaking Elliot Bay is best for experienced paddlers or those who understand basic boating rules.

That being said, the Elliot Bay Marina is a great starting point for kayaking around Seattle, and has boat and kayak rentals. Visitors can also spot dolphins and sea lions- go check it out!

How to Get There: If driving, head southwest on Madison St toward 4th Ave, then take Alaskan Way to Elliot Bay. If not driving, Buses lines 11, 2, and 49 will take you to the Bay or Light Rail LINK will also get you there.

Owen Beach

Located in Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach provides great access to the ocean, with miles of sandy shoreline to follow. With picnic spots and grills, kayaking at Owen Beach is perfect for a relaxing day-trip to the beach.

Kayakers are encouraged to hug the shoreline when paddling, as ferries tend to cut across the water further out. Enjoy the views of cliffs and hills that appear right next to the water, and even paddle to Seattle’s Vashon Island.

With rentals available right on the beach at Point Defiance Marina, Owen Beach is super accessible, and great for kayakers of all abilities.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport, then I-705 N Waterfront Dr to the beach. If not driving, either take Buses 10 or 11, or there is a tram line from King Street Station that drops you at Point Defiance Park.

Early morning sunshine dances on the surface of Lake Washington casting a golden hue all over the water and trees.
Nothing beats sunrise paddles on Lake to Lock’s Lake Washington

Gig Harbor

Across from Narrows Bridge resides Gig Harbor, a nicely protected spot perfect for someone looking to experience the calmer waters of Puget Sound. Kayaking in Seattle’s outer limits of Puget Sound can be challenging, so Gig Harbor provides a great alternative closer to shore.

Visitors especially enjoy paddling to the Gig Harbor Lighthouse at the south end of the harbor where a sandbar provides the perfect spot for a snack and quick swim. Also make sure to look out for the Venetian Gondola near the Sound, as spotting it is considered good luck!

Free boat launching is available at the site located on Randell Dr. Rentals and tours can be purchased at Gig Harbor SUP & Kayak Rentals for $10/hour.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport, then exit 132B towards Gig Harbor to Harborview Dr. If not driving, a bus departs from 2nd Ave & Cherry St. 4 times a day directly to Gig Harbor ($4).

Tug Boat Annie’s

  • Location: Olympia
  • Cost: $20 for kayaking
  • Rentals Available: No

Food and kayaking all in one- it seems too good to be true! Tug Boat Annie’s is diner right on the water that offers a 2-hour kayak tour including breakfast or lunch.

Visitors have the option of eating first of paddling first, and get to see beautiful views of Olympia and then taste the well-known cuisine of the local diner (the clam chowder comes highly recommended).

Whether you’re visiting Seattle or you’re a local, making Tug Boat Annie’s a part of your day is a must! Perfect for families, this experience is guaranteed to satisfy your hunger for good kayaking and, well, your hunger for good food. Click here for more information.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport, then take exit 105 towards Port of Olympia, then take Olympic Way to W Bay Dr. NW. If not driving, there is a bus that departs from 2nd Ave & Cherry St, that drops you 1 mile from Tugboat Annie’s.

Luxury homes and boats lie on the coast of Gig Harbor where smooth waters invite paddlers from all over Seattle.
Smooth waters invite paddlers of all abilities to experience Gig Harbor’s beauty. Photo Credit: Gig Harbor Weather (Flickr CC)

Blake Island

Located in the heart of Puget Sound, Blake Island State Park feels like a world away, even though it’s only a mile from the Southworth and Vashon ferry terminals. Making this journey is not too laborious, but it’s recommended to bring a partner along.

Paddling distance to Blake Island is about a mile, depending upon where you launch your boat. The most popular launch sites (free) are Southworth, Voshen, and Manchester Ferry terminals (all 1-2 miles from Blake Island). Once there, you can enjoy the scenery and paddle back, or stay overnight on one of three camping sites on the island.

Kayak rentals are available near Southworth at Olympic Outdoor Rentals for $20/hour. Blake Island is certainly a hidden gem for kayakers looking for a convenient adventure near Seattle.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport to West Seattle Bridge to SW Barton St/Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, then ferry to Port Orchard. If not driving, Downtown Seattle Fremont tram 62 will bring you to Port Orchard Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Blake Island.

Titlow Beach

Just south of Tacoma’s Narrows Bridge, Titlow Beach is all calm waters and sandy beaches. Perfect for a quick paddle and relaxing in the sun, Titlow Beach is a great destination for paddlers of all abilities.

With views of the Olympic Peninsula and Narrows Bridge, Titlow Beach offers some of the best sights when kayaking around Seattle. This smaller beach has a low-key feeling perfect for paddlers looking to unwind and enjoy the quiet.

Visitors can launch their own boats at a small site across from Steamer’s Seafood Cafe, or purchase rentals from Gig Harbor SUP & Kayak Rentals for only $10/hour.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-5 S towards SeaTac Airport, then take exit 132B towards Gig Harbor, to N Jackson Ave. If not driving, bus line 100 and 2 will take you to the beach.

Orange kayaks slice through the water while paddling to Blake Island's tree-lined coast
Paddlers race to Blake Island’s tree-lined shores! Photo Credit: Slidegirl64 (Flickr CC)

Port Townsend

Located at the head of Puget Sound, Port Townsend Bay offers sensational sea kayaking for all ability levels. The views of the Olympic Peninsula are exquisite, and kayaking around Port Townsend allows for a unique look at Fort Worden, Old Fort Townsend and Marrowstone Island.

Some popular parts of the bay include Mystery Island and Indian Bay, both which showcase the natural beauty of the Northeast. Rentals are available through Port Townsend Paddlesports for $17/hour, though the minimum age is 14. Free launch sites are also available around the bay.

How to Get There: If driving, head to the Seattle Ferry Terminal and take the Seattle – Bainbridge Ferry to Bainbridge Island, then continue to WA-20 E to Discovery Rd. If not driving, The Dungeness Bus Line has a two trips per day from Edmonds, Kingston, and SeaTac.

Kayaking in Seattle set to the beautiful sunset backdrop  enjoyed by families from all over Seattle.

Additional Resources for Canoeing and Kayaking in Seattle

What to Pack for Kayaking and Canoeing in Seattle

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in San Diego an unforgettable experience!

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