7 Sunny Places To Paddle & Work On Your Tan

The link between sunny skies and feelings of well-being isn’t just a bunch of emo hokum. In a study of more than 1,200 people, researchers found that sunshine is the single most profound weather factor affecting mood. The reason is likely physiological: our bodies produce serotonin, a hormone that promotes happiness, in response to sunlight. Enjoy responsibly.

Gulf Islands, Florida

Balmy year-round temperatures and 70 percent annual sunshine make Florida’s Gulf Coast justifiably popular with vacationers, snowbirds and sun-worshippers. Even so, Charlotte County’s 28 miles of beaches are less crowded than the keys. Find you own secluded patch of white sand and seashells on water access-only Don Pedro and Little Gasparilla islands and, farther south, Cayo Costa, a state park with campsites and a nine-mile strand on the Gulf.

South Maui, Hawaii

Maui’s south coast offers paddlers unrivaled variety combined with a dry, sunny microclimate in the rain shadow of massive Mount Haleakala. Lather on the sunscreen for a few hours on the golden sands of Makena Beach State Park, then explore the 50-foot cliffs, bizarre volcanic formations and wild coves of nearby La Perouse Bay and adjacent ‘Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve. Experienced paddlers can continue five miles east around Hanamanioa headland to camp on the fine, black pebbles of Kanaio Beach.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

In Nevada, one thing you don’t have to gamble on is the weather. With 274 days of sunshine annually, we like the odds at Lake Tahoe. Head to the north shore for golden sands, crystalline coves filled with wave-polished boulders, and stellar views of snowcapped mountains at Sand Harbor State Park.

Desolation Sound, British Columbia

British Coumbia’s Sunshine Coast lives up to its name in the wild island clusters and passages of this marine provincial park, which is blessed with both warm waters and frequently clear skies. July is the driest month, with an average of just nine rainfall days. Expect rugged bedrock outcrops and few beaches, but hunt around and you’ll find idyllic campsites on the mossy headlands of the Curme Islands.

Ocmulgee River, Georgia

The sunniest city in the Peach State is Macon, and the Ocmulgee flows right across its doorstep. Downstream, put in at Bullard Landing and paddle 42 miles of meandering flatwater and class I rapids on the Ocmulgee River Blueway to Hawkinsville. Wending between sandy banks through undeveloped oak, cypress, gum, tupelo and magnolia bottomland forests, this is one of Georgia’s last great wildernesses.

Prince Edward County, Ontario

Work on your tan lines and work out your taste buds on this wonderfully accessible island in Lake Ontario. With relatively stable, sunny summer weather and plenty of south-facing coastline, the County is home to some of the province’s most popular beaches, as well as some of its finest vineyards. From the golden dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park to the limestone bluffs and pebble beaches of Long Point, there’s something to suit everyone, and seclusion is just a short paddle away.

Salton Sea, California

According to the World Data Center for Meteorology, Yuma, Arizona, is the only place on earth confirmed to receive more than 4,000 hours of sunshine annually. Year round, the city averages 11 hours of sun a day—that’s a lot of vitamin D. Nearby, the Salton Sea is a sun-scorched, super-saline oasis in the desert. Bring your pool mattress.

This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak‘s Summer/Fall 2013 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.


Fun in the sun. | Photo: Benjamin Hjort

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