Kayaking is an excellent form of exercise and has many physical and mental health benefits. What are those? Keep reading to find out.
Looking for the best place to go kayaking near me?
It’s not always easy finding the best spots. You can spend years hitting up every lake, river, and beach in your area without finding a really good one.
But that’s where a paddling map comes in handy.
With a map of all the best “paddling spots near me” to look at, you can narrow down your options to the absolute winners every time.
And that’s what we’ve got to share with you today!
Below, I’ll link you to my favorite interactive map that lets you choose your location and narrow down all the paddling options in your area. This map makes it easy to find the best places to go kayaking every time you want to head out on the water.
Plus, I’ll share additional resources and tools that will make finding that perfect kayaking spot hassle-free every time!
Welcome to the Interactive Map for Kayaking Near Me
Behold, an insanely useful tool that will help you narrow down your options and choose the best spots for your next kayaking trip.
This interactive map (created by Paddling.com) will show you not only where to go kayaking near your home, but all the other top-rated spots around the country. That way, anytime you’re on a trip—be it a weekend road trip, business trip, holiday, or visiting relatives—you can find great paddling spots.
Check out the map below, and try:
- Using your mouse (on PC/Mac) or fingers (on iPhone/Android/Tablet) to zoom in and out
- Click/tap on the red magnifying glasses to be taken to a specific area/city/state
Both options allow you to narrow in on a particular region of the country, and the little red dots will be prime paddling locations uploaded and recommended by other users.
Plus, when you click/tap on the dots, they’ll pop up additional useful information, such as instructions on how to arrive, details about the water, safety data, and more.
Give it a try for yourself and see how easy it is!
I’m telling you, you can spend hours playing around with this map and finding new and amazing spots to go paddling.
I guarantee you’ll find “places to kayak near me” that you’ve never heard about or that you might not have even known existed. There’s so much information available on this map—it’s a game-changing tool that will make planning your next paddling trip a breeze.
(Note: If you allow the map to access your location, it will automatically center in on your city/state and display the paddling spots closest to you. However, for those with privacy concerns who don’t want to permit access to their location data, you can manually zoom/navigate to your desired destination to search the map.)
What Kind of Kayaker Are You?
Recreational – Most newbies tend to be recreational kayakers. They may enjoy paddling around rivers or lakes for a few hours on the weekend or may feel the thrill of paddling along the coast in local seas or inlets. But at the end of the day, they’re there to relax, maybe get a bit of a workout, and enjoy the views of being out on the water.
Touring – Touring kayaking is about going somewhere—be it paddling upriver or downriver, or heading out to an island in the middle of a vast lake or offshore. Maybe you’re on a kayaking trip with buddies and are exploring local lakes or river systems, or heading up the coastline for a few-day trip. Touring kayaks are longer, sleeker, and more agile than recreational kayaks, built to cover distances at top speed.
Fishing/Hunting – If you take your kayak out for the main purpose of hunting or fishing, you’ll likely own a sturdy sit-on-top kayak that doesn’t cover much distance quickly, but is stable enough that you can cast-and-reel, fire a gun or stand up while out on the water. You’ll probably also have quite the collection of tackle boxes and other fishing gear, plus a cooler to keep your caught fish fresh (and probably another for food/drink). You’re all about the angling and hunting life and may rely on a trolling motor to get you where you’re going rather than doing all the work paddling.
Sea Kayaker – Sea kayaking is all about braving the ocean’s dangers, battling the waves and currents as you head out to sea, and find out what awaits you beyond the next horizon. Maybe you’re thinking of island-hopping, exploring a reef, scuba diving offshore, or just enjoying paddling across hundreds of miles of open water uninterrupted. There’s a bit of daredevil in you, and you’re ready for anything the ocean can throw at you!
Sport Kayaker – Are you an intensely competitive athlete who loves to challenge their skill against others? Then you’re definitely a sport kayaker! For you, it’s all about speed, distance, or time, and you meticulously track your performance and measure it against both your previous kayaking trips and those around you. Maybe you even compete in local or international races. For you, it’s all about pushing yourself to go farther, faster, and more efficiently!
Whitewater/Adventure Kayaker – Whitewater and adventure kayaking are just as exhilarating as sea kayaking, but instead of venturing out into the ocean, you tackle local rivers with their twists, turns, and, of course, whitewater rapids. A whitewater kayak is smaller and quicker, and you’re a more experienced paddler who can handle sudden changes in the river flow and paddle your heart out to match the speed of rapids. It’s all about the adrenaline rush, and you’ve yet to meet a challenge you don’t want to take on.
Whatever type of kayaker you are, you’ll find great spots in your local area where you can challenge yourself and enjoy those hours or days you are fortunate enough to spend out on the water—be it flat, calm lake water, slow-moving river water, wind-swept sea water, or the balls-to-the-wall never-stops-churning whitewater!
Ocean Kayaking Near Me
Ocean kayaking is an excellent adventure for more experienced paddlers, those who’ve invested in high quality kayaks and plenty of survival gear to help them navigate and endure the fast currents and rolling waves out on the open sea.
No surprise, ocean kayaking is the most expensive type of kayaking because A) ocean kayaks tend to be pricier than recreational and fishing kayaks, and B) you have to invest in a huge collection of high-quality gear that is both ultra-lightweight and durable enough to withstand the accelerated deterioration caused by exposure to saltwater.
But if you’re not sure you’re ready to head out to the open sea just yet, don’t worry! You can always launch from your favorite beach and paddle close to shore. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous head up or down the coastline, staying close enough to land that you can always find your way back to safety.
Only once you’ve properly mastered the rigors of kayaking close to shore and collected the correct assortment of gear, should you head out to sea. Because no doubt about it, ocean kayaking has the potential to be the most dangerous of all the kayaking types!
River Kayaking Near Me
Rivers are an excellent place to kayak, suitable for recreational, touring, fishing/hunting, and adventure/whitewater kayakers.
Slow-moving rivers with a steady current can carry you far downstream, making it fun and easy to cover a lot of distance in a few hours. You can treat it as half a kayaking trip and half a “float”, drifting along and enjoying the relaxation of being on the water with friends, sun, and a few (non-alcoholic!) drinks.
Or, the river can also serve as a great means of transporting you to your favorite fishing or hunting spot. Sure, it’s hard work to paddle upstream (against a fast-flowing current), but you can always negate that by adding a trolling motor onto the kayak.
One of my favorite paddling experiences is the annual touring trip I take with my buddies. We head upriver for a few days of paddling, camping, hiking, and enjoying the local waterways in the interior of British Columbia. It’s exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure, and it’s always fun to explore new rivers and see where we end up.
Lake Kayaking Near Me
I’m not going to lie, even though I’m a more experienced paddler, I still enjoy paddling lakes.
There’s something truly breathtaking about being out in the middle of a lake surrounded by rising mountains, rich forests, and nothing but the blue sky above and me alone in my kayak. The bigger the lake, the greater the challenge it presents, because I always feel like I have to cross the lake or paddle from end to end.
But what makes lakes truly amazing is that I can bring my wife and kids out on the water with me. It doesn’t matter that they’re less experienced paddlers, because there’s very little current to worry about, and the only times the water gets choppy is when the wind picks up or a boat speeds past.
Most of the time, it’s just relaxing, wonderful enjoyment—the perfect way to spend a day with family.
Kayak Fishing Near Me
You’d be amazed by how many amazing fishing spots there are in your area!
I’m not much of an angler (I’m more a touring/adventure kayaker), but I’ve recently discovered (thanks to my brother-in-law, an avid angler) that the lakes and rivers where I’ve spent the last years paddling are loaded with fish.
Sure, it takes a lot of gear to be a proper kayak fisherman—not just the specialized fishing kayak, but also the right PFD, bait box, coolers, seats, and fishing supplies—but it’s an absolute blast to kick back on the water and enjoy a day with friends casting out my line and seeing what bites.
Heck, even on those days when I don’t catch anything (which, let’s be honest, happens to all of us!), it’s still a spectacular time out on the water enjoying some kayak fishing.
How to Find the Best Paddling and Kayaking Spots Near Me
Obviously, one of the best tools for finding kayaking spots near me is to use the interactive map. That’s what this post is all about: sharing with you a game-changing resource you can use again and again for every paddling trip.
Here’s the map once more (so you don’t have to bother scrolling to the top of the page):
But the map isn’t the only tool at your disposal. There are a few others I use regularly to find cool new places to take my kayak out on the water:
Word of Mouth
Some of my current favorite paddling spots were only discovered because a friend told me about them.
For example, last year, my brother-in-law invited us out to a lake in the interior of BC where they were spending the night camping. Well, that lake was absolutely gorgeous, with all sorts of cool inlets and river channels to explore. Now, it’s my favorite place for a relaxing day on the water.
Or, when I was living in Baja California, Mexico, some locals told me about an uninhabited island a couple of miles off the coast. Of course I had to paddle out and see it for myself, and what a trip that was!
I would likely never have found these places on my own, but hearing about them from others led me to discover some special, wonderful paddling destinations.
This is a surprisingly under-used resource!
Most people walk into the sports stores looking to purchase gear and nothing else. But you’d be surprised by how savvy many of the people working in the stores are. They’re likely kayaking enthusiasts themselves—or, at the very least, spend enough time out on the water to be familiar with the gear they’re selling. Asking them for a recommendation of their favorite/regular spots is a great way to find new destinations to explore.
Paddling Clubs and Associations
You’d be amazed by how many local paddling, canoeing, rowing, boating, and racing associations there are around the country!
These associations and clubs are dedicated to providing resources and education on everything relating to paddling—not just safety and hands-on training, but also guides and recommendations for the best places to paddle.
It’s absolutely worth paying these clubs/associations a visit, calling by phone, or even just shooting off a quick email to ask for recommendations. I guarantee they’ll know about paddling spots that very few others do because it’s their mission to be the “experts” on local waterways.
Here is a great (but far from complete) list of associations and clubs in North America:
- US Clubs & Organizations (with a few Canadian ones, too), courtesy of Canoeing.com
- Paddling Clubs Directory (listed by state) on Men’s Journal
- Provincial Associations (in Canada) via CanoeKayak.ca
Dedicated Kayaking Apps
There are a number of smartphone apps (for both iOS and Android) dedicated to providing you with useful information on paddling destinations, facilitating safer and easier trips, tracking progress, and more.
A few I highly recommend (and regularly use myself) are:
Go Paddling – This app is a free resource that contains more than 25,000 destinations around the U.S., including launch site features, suggested routes, directions, and more. It’s the “ultimate” smartphone-based resource for finding new paddling spots. iOS / Android
Strava – Strava is a runner’s app, but it can also be used to track your paddling trips and performance. Strava’s GPS data is the most accurate for any fitness app, giving you the most reliable way to monitor your travel anywhere you go. You can also access the huge community of athletes—many of them kayakers—and ask for recommendations of new paddling spots. iOS / Android
RiverApp – This app is designed to update you on water levels, but it can also provide details on water temperatures, available routes, and navigability data. If you’ve got a river in mind to paddle, it can help you plot the safest course.
There are many more kayaking-friendly apps available in both the Apple and Google App stores. It’s worth taking the time to scroll down the list and find additional resources straight from your smartphone. iOS / Android
Department of Natural Resources
Every U.S. state and Canadian province has a Department of Natural Resources, an entire arm of the state government dedicated to conserving and maintaining natural resources. They’re responsible for the local parks, and they will collect a lot of information on rivers, lakes, and waterways in their state.
This, of course, makes them an awesome resource to go to in order to find new paddling spots.
Whatever state you’re in (or planning to visit), it’s worth taking the time to log onto their Department of Natural Resources website and browse through the content they have available. There’s no telling what invaluable information you’ll find, including:
- Hiking trails that lead to/from the water
- Public access points to state waterways
- Boating safety resources
- State license and permit requirements
- Water condition updates
- and so much more!
Here are a few websites to get you started on your search:
- North Carolina
Finding Kayak and Canoe Rentals Near Me
Driving your kayaks everywhere around the country isn’t always possible, and there’s definitely no way to bring them with you when you travel abroad. So what do you do if you want to head out on the water while on a business trip, weekend getaway, or family vacation and you don’t have a kayak/canoe handy?
You look for one to rent, that’s what!
There are a lot of national/state parks where you can find kayak or canoe rentals, or local sporting goods stores may offer an affordable way to get out on the water even if you left your kayak at home.
But how to find them? How can you know which parks or stores offer kayak rentals?
Well, there are two ways to find this out, and they both involve Google (or your favorite search engine):
1) Navigate the map to your desired kayak destination, then search “kayak and canoe rentals”. You’ll immediately get a list of websites and businesses that offer kayak rentals in that specific location.
2) Go to Google and type in “kayak rentals near me” or “kayak rentals in X LOCATION”. Again, Google will return a list of possible businesses and parks that offer rentals.
It will take a bit of work to call the various places and find out pricing, availability, schedule, and other details, but it’s so worth it if you’re looking for a reliable solution to get you out on the water anywhere you go.
Best Spots in North America to Kayak
Here are some of the all-time top-rated and most beautiful spots to go paddling in North America:
- Chesapeake Bay – This 200-mile river is an amazing fishing spot that’s easily navigable via kayak or canoe, with some spectacular views as it cuts through six U.S. states.
- Tampa Bay – Paddle off the coast of Florida and cut through the city of Tampa, where you can see all sorts of fascinating creatures, including dolphins, manatees, alligators, snakes, and a broad assortment of birds.
- Tyger River – Take your first crack at whitewater kayaking on this beginner-friendly river! The rapids are mild enough that even newbies and kids can traverse them safely. (Fair warning, you’ll have to bring your own kayak.)
- San Juan River – Located in Colorado, this river cuts through ancient canyons, and it’s warm enough that you can swim and paddle in comfort throughout most of the year.
- Devil’s River – In addition to being some of the cleanest water in the country, this river is home to amazing fishing spots and gorgeous views. Just be aware that it’s not newbie-friendly, and the river rapids are suited only for experts.
- Clearwater Canoe Trail – This Idaho river is perfect for those who want to enjoy a calm day on a slow-moving river, navigating through lush forests with spectacular views of wildlife in their natural habitat.
Other beautiful spots for your kayaking adventures in various US states are described in our dedicated articles:
- Places to Kayak in Florida
- Places to Kayak in Kentucky
- Places to Kayak in Wisconsin
- Places to Kayak in Michigan
- Places to Kayak in Arizona
- Places to Kayak in Indiana
- Places to Kayak in Arkansas
- Places to Kayak in Massachusetts
- Places to Kayak in Colorado
- Places to Kayak in Ohio
- Places to Kayak in Tennessee
- Places to Kayak in South Carolina
- Places to Kayak in Alaska
- Places to Kayak in Iowa
- Places to Kayak in Georgia
- Places to Kayak in Maryland
- Places to Kayak in Texas
- Haida Gwai – Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwai is a world-class destination for paddlers who want to experience sea kayaking at its best. In addition to gorgeous coasts and a wide variety of water conditions (ranging from novice to expert), the islands are home to a wealth of wildlife: black bears, deer, sea otters, killer whales, and many more!
- The Ottawa River – Whether you want to tackle whitewater rapids or just enjoy a relaxing recreational paddle, this river has it all. It’s also home to excellent training courses and classes that will teach you the nitty-gritty of whitewater kayaking.
- False Creek – Paddle through downtown Vancouver, stopping at the many docks and landings to grab a coffee, have a bite, or snack on the Canadian West Coast’s finest treats.
- Athabasca River – If you’re willing to brave the cold, this river flows through stunning mountains and offers peerless views of some of central Canada’s most gorgeous locales. With 200 miles of virtually untouched wilderness, it’s an absolute paradise.
- Isla Espiritu Santos – An hour and a half off the coast of La Paz in Baja California Sur, this island offers both beaches for camping and numerous deep bays and inlets that make for a truly marvelous day of exploration on your kayak.
- Los Cabos Arch – Paddle out to El Arco, the natural arch-shaped rock formation off the coast of Los Cabos, and enjoy both kayaking and snorkeling in some of the most beautiful waters Mexico has to offer.
Of course, these are just the highlights—there are thousands of gorgeous places around North America where you can do kayaking. It’s up to you to do your research and find the best kayaking near me wherever you are!
What to Consider When Researching and Planning Your Next Kayaking Trip
If you’re planning a multi-day trip, you may prefer ocean or river kayaking to lake kayaking. On the other hand, it may not be wisest to head out to sea if you just want to paddle around and relax for a few hours.
Figure out how much time you want to spend out on the water—hours or days—and find a destination that fits the bill.
Are you planning to paddle long distances? Crossing an ocean, or exploring a lake or river system? You may need to opt for a touring kayak, better suited to covering lots of water in a short amount of time. Recreation and fishing kayaks can’t match their speed, making them less suited to long-distance paddling.
How experienced are you? Newbie? Intermediate? Advanced?
Have you tackled whitewater rapids, ocean currents, or river dangers before?
Always factor in your skill level when planning a kayaking trip. Skills that make you an expert whitewater kayaker may not translate to ocean kayaking, and the same holds true in reverse.
Your trip planning should always take into account the risk of accidents or mishaps. That way, you can take steps to counteract the dangers and increase your safety.
A few simple ways to do that include:
- Always wear your PFD/lifejacket when out on the water, no matter how good of a swimmer you are.
- Make sure to close all the hatches and compartments thoroughly to avoid taking on water.
- Avoid over-loading your kayak. Make sure it can handle both the gear you’re carrying and your weight.
- Keep an eye on the water, as well as your surroundings. Watch for dangers like whitewater rapids, harsh currents, and underwater obstacles, as well as any potentially dangerous wildlife on land.
- Wear the appropriate clothing for the weather and conditions. That includes clothing that is comfortable/won’t chafe, as well as a hat, sunglasses, and any additional protection against the sun and wind.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
- Pack lots of water to avoid dehydration. Consider bringing along a snack/meals if you’re going to be out on the water for more than a few hours at a time.
- Plan your trip ahead of time, and let others know where you are/intend to go.
- When headed out to sea, make sure you’ve always got a means of communicating to someone on dry land. A satellite phone or long-distance radio will be worth the investment if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation.
- Have a kayaking GPS device on hand to track your movement/progress and stay aware of any dangers ahead.
- Always paddle with someone else. Even the most experienced kayakers can end up in serious trouble and in need of help.
Being safety-minded will make every paddling adventure more fun and less likely to end in tragedy or misfortune.
Always research the weather conditions before heading out on the water. Be aware of any squalls or storms—even potential ones—as well as currents or riptides. Make sure that your plan includes reaching safety well ahead of any dangerous weather, just in case.
And don’t think that because the weather forecast didn’t call for rain, there won’t be any. The weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. Keep an eye on the sky and be prepared to turn back or head to safety if the weather conditions warrant.
Before you head out on any paddling trip, even just a relaxing paddle around a calm lake, make sure your gear is in good shape. That means:
- Your kayak is watertight and doesn’t leak.
- Your PFD is securely in place, its straps and buckles secure.
- Your paddle has no cracks or dents that could cause it to break.
- Your clothing is suitable for the weather and temperature conditions.
- You have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water on board (food, too, if needed).
If your gear is broken or damaged, you could end up stranded in the middle of nowhere or even in serious trouble. Always give your gear a thorough once-over before launching. For good measure, give it another examination when you return to dry land after the paddling session. Double the safety, double the likelihood you’ll catch any potential issues before they become serious hazards.
Sights and Awesome Things to Explore
You’re out on the water not just because you love to wield that paddle, but because you enjoy the sights and spectacular views of your surroundings. Whether that’s the open seas in all directions, a towering cliff bordering the river, or lush forests encircling the lake, there’s beauty aplenty.
Plan your kayaking trips to spots near you that are gorgeous and breathtaking, and every moment you spend out on the water will be enjoyable to the maximum.