Want a great kayak adventure but can’t afford any more days off work? We dish out the goods on ten kayak trips within city limits, from Halifax to Houston and San Francisco to Toronto.

10 downtown day trips for kayakers

1 Vancouver

Consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Vancouver’s oceanside location and outdoor culture make this an ideal place to explore by kayak.

Paddle past the giant cedars and temperate rainforest of Stanley Park, glide below the sweeping expanse of the Lion’s Gate Bridge (and play in the tidal race if your timing and skills are right) or head up the sheltered waters of False Creek—all framed by the beautiful Coastal Mountains.

2 Seattle

With its busy seaport, lively indie music scene and successful high-tech economy, Seattle is an intriguing city to explore from the water and beyond.

Freshwater Lake Union in the middle of Seattle has sheltered paddling conditions and a close-up view of the skyline. For a more exposed saltwater adventure and encounters with seals, whales and sea lions, the waters of Puget Sound are a paddler’s dream.

kayakers in New York City
Feature photo: Robert Jones/Pixabay

3 New York City

Overwhelmed by crowds and concrete? Escape to the Hudson River to experience the grandeur of New York City from a more peaceful perspective.

Ambitious kayakers can circumnavigate the entire island of Manhattan in eight hours—be sure to plan for currents and tides. For a more leisurely trip, paddle to the Statue of Liberty, visit Chelsea Piers or venture on a night time paddle to see the city lights.

4 Miami

Vamos a la playa! Kayak past the sun-drenched beaches of Miami to experience the buzzing beach culture and ocean side skyline.

Kayaking the sheltered canals and harbors will let you marvel at Miami’s super yachts and tropical vegetation, while paddling on the Atlantic side offers rolling surf and possible encounters with manatees, dolphins and stingrays.

golden gate bridge in san francisco
Photo: Ragnar Vorel/Unsplash

5 San Francisco

From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the infamous island of Alcatraz, the San Francisco Bay area has a wealth of prime destinations to explore by water.

Beginners can easily enjoy panoramic views of the Bay from close to shore while more experienced paddlers can tackle the powerful surf, tide races and rock gardens that make this coast famous.

6 Halifax

Looking for lighthouses, rocky shores and colorful fishing villages? The paddling paradise of St. Margaret’s Bay offers an archetypal East Coast experience just a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax.

While popular Peggy’s Cove can be overrun with tourists, exploring the surrounding area by kayak will give you easy access to undisturbed beaches, birding and whale watching.

kayaker in Montreal
Photo: Miguel Ausejo/Unsplash

7 Montreal

Located on an island guarding the St. Lawrence Seaway, Montreal’s vibrant culture, lively nightlife and Old World atmosphere make this city an eternally popular destination among travelers.

From the calm waters of the Lachine Canal, you can paddle past historic buildings and stop at the Atwater Market to browse the distracting array of delicious wares. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, join local river surfers on the powerful standing wave by Habitat 67.

kayakers in Chicago
Photo: Antonio Janeski/Unsplash

8 Chicago

Kayaking beneath the towering skyline of Chicago gives you a unique perspective of the city’s world renowned architecture and will help you build up an appetite for the Windy City’s famous deep-dish pizza.

For a close-up view of the city, follow the canals and branches of the Chicago River, most notably the downtown Chicago Loop. Head out onto Lake Michigan for more exposed conditions and sweeping views of the cityscape.

9 Houston

Despite being the fourth largest urban center in the U.S., Houston’s elaborate network of rivers, lakes and bayous make this city popular among paddlers.

Paddling along Buffalo Bayou will bring you straight to the heart of the city, while dozens of other bayous or lakes such as 1,200-acre Sheldon Reservoir offer great bird watching and alligator spotting opportunities.

kayaker in Toronto
Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov/Wikimedia Commons

10 Toronto

Skip the long terrestrial line-ups for the CN Tower—a paddle along the Toronto waterfront will give you an incomparable view of this tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere.

The Toronto Islands offer numerous sheltered channels to explore by kayak, while Lake Ontario has fun surf when the wind cooperates. Beyond diverse paddling opportunities, the Toronto Islands also have an amusement park, cafes, outdoor art displays and beaches.

Cover of Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Adventure Kayak MagazineThis article was first published in the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Feature photo: Robert Jones/Pixabay



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here