We all need a break from the everyday sometimes, and fortunately the world is full of paddling destinations that are anything but. Fancy an epic paddle down Norway’s longest fjord? How about searching out your own slice of paradise among the Fijian islands? Those are just two jaw-dropping destinations perfectly suited for your next paddling trip of a lifetime, so read on for the full list and start packing your bags.
Let’s go! 10 paddling trips of a lifetime
1 Explore fiery fiords in Fiordlands, Norway
Morueldr—pronounced moor-eld—is old Norwegian for “ocean fire.” The fire in Norway’s dark waters is actually natural bioluminescence, the defense response of tiny sea organisms when stirred by the dip of a paddle. In the Fiordlands, the Atlantic Ocean creates a filigree of land and water, stretching its grasp far inland along narrow, deep inlets flanked by steep cliffs and plunging waterfalls. Trounce the discomforts of wet-weather camping with a luxury five-day inn-to-inn tour of the world’s longest fiord, the Sognefjord.
2 Float through France on the Dordogne River
In southwest France, the Dordogne River traces a path through 37,000 years of human history. Leave the tour buses and crowded train stations behind and explore the “land of a 1,001 castles” along this breathtaking waterway. A scenic four-day trip travels from Saint Julien de Lampon downriver to Limeuil, passing two of Dordogne’s most spectacularly situated chateaux. Many small rapids make for lively paddling past medieval villages on the way to Limeuil. Accommodation choices include riverside campsites.
3 Kiss the dragon in Halong Bay, Vietnam
Junk n. 1 worthless articles. 2 flat-bottomed sailing boat used in the East Indies. Fortunately, Tofino Expeditions incorporates the latter into their October seven-day tour of Vietnam’s fancifully named Halong Bay (“Bay of the Descending Dragon”). Paddle the smoky green waters into a hidden sea cave and you too will wonder if this landscape might, after all, be the progeny of mythical creatures. With evenings spent savouring gourmet cuisine and sailing serenely to new paddling locales, kayakers enjoy more time soaking up the scenery and culture and less time worrying about mercurial feng shui—literally: wind and water.
4 Find paradise in Kadavu, Fiji
Few places promote the relaxing and recreational facets of kayaking better than the tranquil blue waters and warm beaches of Fiji. The Kadavu island group is one of the least developed and most culturally intact, offering paddlers a chance to interact with the natives while plying the coral reef–sheltered waters. Keep sand and sleep separate with New Zealand-based Tamarillo Expeditions, which hosts a seven-day tour of Kadavu with stays at intimate local resorts.
5 Camp without tramping in Abel Tasman, New Zealand
Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island is renowned for its spectacular “tramping” (hiking), but a tour of this unspoiled wilderness by kayak is just as scenic and a lot less work. Kaiteriteri Kayaks combines paddling with a water taxi and kayak sailing for an exclusive three-day tour of the entire park coast. Says Kaiteriteri’s Maria Bernstone, “Our trips are about good times, not hard work.” With azure lagoons, dozens of beaches and plentiful wildlife, including two colonies of friendly fur seals, the Abel Tasman’s 44-kilometre coastline brings your daydreams to life.
6 Master the Mingan Islands of Quebec
Stretching like a necklace of stone jewels from the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the islands of Minganie are a sea kayaker’s Valhalla. Relentless wind and waves have eroded this limestone tableland into a fantastic array of sculpted rock, grottoes and turrets—a watery maze to which the kayak is perfectly suited. Odyssée Minganie leads one- to five-day interpretive voyages around the national park’s western islands, home to puffins, penguins, porpoises and lots of other things that start with the letter ‘p.’
7 Go north to Ellesmere Island, Nunavut
The Far North is one of the few remaining landscapes of pristine wilderness, raw and untamed by the mollifying hand of civilization. Arctic aficionados and those simply tired of pedestrian peregrinations head to Ellesmere Island at the 79th parallel in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. A 12-day backcountry odyssey amidst icebergs, walruses, and 24-hour sunlight is just a Twin Otter flight and a paddle stroke away. Let Whitney & Smith Legendary Expeditions take care of the travel arrangements (in July/August for passable sea ice) and transform your arctic fantasy into reality.
8 See a great bear on British Columbia’s central coast
Which came first, the kayak or the mothership? Dunno, but any paddler who’s hunkered in a campsite soaked by the B.C. rainforest’s eponymous drizzle has surely dreamed they’d booked the mothership first. Captain Ross Campbell and family assure you’re well cared for aboard former hospital ship the Columbia III. The days on Mothership Adventures’ 9-day Great Bear Rainforest cruise (in September for prime grizzly viewing) are packed with paddling to earn you the organic delights of a shipboard chef and the comforts of a warm, dry berth.
9 Get into hot water at Pumalin National Park, Chile
What could be better than spectacular fiord and mountain scenery, towering waterfalls and adorable marine life on a kayaking expedition? One word (OK, actually two): hot springs. Replenish your spirits and rejuvenate your body in natural baths at the edge of the Pacific. Do as local people have done for centuries and add seawater to the springs to attain the perfect temperature. Chilean outfitter Yak Expediciones leads four-, six- and 11-day self-supported trips in the northern fiords of Pumalin National Park, sharing their intimate knowledge of local culture, history, language, and of course, hot springs.
10 Idle in the Paradise Islands of Belize
Running the length of the Belizean coast, the Barrier Reef forms one of the richest marine ecosystems on earth. Kayak to world-class snorkelling and diving sites or simply hang a hammock and drink cocktails beneath the swaying palms. Island Expeditions offers a unique five- day experience of the Paradise Islands. The trip is lodge-based but still fully guided—which means no camp chores and lots of free time to take advantage of your guide’s expertise in kayaking, snorkelling, and local nature and culture.