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One of the best ways to explore Washington DC is from one of its many waterways. While we love kayaking in DC, stand up paddle boarding is a different and equally as interesting way to see the city. Located where the Potomac River meets the Anacostia River, there are tons of great spots for stand up paddle boarding in DC.

We’ve compiled this list of 7 of the best places for paddle board in DC for all levels…even people who have never done it before!

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in DC

Photo Credit: Alan Kotok (Flickr CC)

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go stand up paddle boarding in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, historical sites, and tree-lined streets, the best part of Georgetown is its bustling waterfront, which offers several opportunities to get out on the water.

While there are boat tours and dinner cruises aplenty, we strongly recommend exploring the Potomac by paddle board. If you choose to go stand up paddle boarding in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Georgetown: Georgetown’s rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $22/hour for a stand up paddle board.

2. The Wharf

Home to a marina and DC’s historic Fish Market, The Wharf is now a bustling waterfront area full of upscale restaurants, high-end apartments, and a popular concert venue, The Anthem. The Wharf also a prime location for stand up paddle boarding, as it’s located near Navy Yard and the eastern side of DC.

Here, you can paddle through the marina area along the banks of East Potomac Park, an especially beautiful area during cherry blossom season in the spring. From the waterways surrounding The Wharf, you can catch glimpses of the new International Spy Museum, or head all the way over to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Boar in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

3. Navy Yard/Anacostia River

Navy Yard is one of DC’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Situated near Nationals Park, this riverfront area is the perfect place to grab a kayak and explore the eastern side of the city.

From the Anacostia River, you can see the historic Navy Yard and the Nationals ballpark to the north and the greenery of Anacostia Park to the south. Or, alternatively, you can paddle to Hains Point, the southernmost point of East Potomac Park.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a stand up paddle board for $22/hour.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr CC)

4. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your stand up paddle boarding adventure. The Washington Sailing Marina is technically located in Alexandria, VA, but we’ll count it since it’s within eyeshot of Washington, DC… With access to the Potomac River as well as the mouth of the Four Mile Run, it’s a great area to spend a few hours paddling around between DC and Virginia.

From the Washington Sailing Marina, you can head all the way up to the south end of East Potomac Park, which is a beautiful urban green space in DC. Alternatively, stick around the nearby areas of the Potomac and watch as planes land and take off above you from Reagan National Airport.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in the Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina has its own boathouse where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. You can also take sailing lessons here, or enjoy a riverside meal at Island Time Bar & Grill.

  • Address: 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, VA 22314

5. National Harbor

Like the Washington Sailing Marina, the National Harbor isn’t technically in DC, but we’ve included it here because it’s close enough and can be reached by public transportation from downtown. It’s also a unique area to go stand up paddle boarding in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Paddling here will give you a different perspective of the National Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Located across the Potomac River from Alexandria, you can catch great views of the banks of Old Town Alexandria, or paddle along the banks of the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has stand up paddle boards available for rent for reasonable prices. Since it’s run by the same company as the others listed in this post, the prices are the same: $22/hour for an hour.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

6. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to paddle in a more natural setting without the adrenaline rush of Great Falls, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal is an excellent choice. This historic canal was once used as a shipping route, as it extends all the way to Ohio! Today, it’s a gorgeous recreation area with miles of trails and calm waterways, perfect for exploring by foot or boat. As far as stand up paddle boarding near DC goes, it doesn’t get much better than the C&O canal.

The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River for several miles and has much more controlled rapids than at Great Falls. Renting a stand up paddle board to explore the C&O Canal is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in quiet nature, without having to stray too far from DC’s city limits.

Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddle Board Near the C&O Canal: Fletcher’s Boathouse is located right next to the C&O Canal and is the perfect place to rent a stand up paddle board, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River and prices starting at $22/hour.

  • Address: 4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

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

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

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Chicago

1. The Chicago Riverwalk

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

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

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

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

2. Monroe Harbor

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

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

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

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

3. North Avenue Beach

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

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

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

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

4. Goose Island

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

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

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

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

5. Montrose Beach

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

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

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

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

Map of Chicago Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots

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

Best Places to Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding Near Chicago

Photo Credit: CheepShot (Flickr CC)

6. Independence Grove

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

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

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

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

7. Indiana Dunes National & State Park

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

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

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

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

8. Starved Rock State Park

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources

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