Home Trips Destinations 15 Best Family Kayak Trips In The World

15 Best Family Kayak Trips In The World

Plan an unforgettable vacation to one of these fun-filled destinations

Feature photo: Destination Ontario

The longest, most scenic or ambitious kayaking expedition in the world still cannot compare to the joy of paddling with your family. There’s something intrinsically special about being on the water with your family, besides all the obvious values of spending quality time in the absence of so many distractions and work deadlines.

The best family kayak trips are different in their qualities, too. They must be just the right length and level of difficulty for your family’s time and skill. And beyond all else, the trips must be fun.

With these guidelines in mind, we toured the world for this article to pick out the best family kayak trips on lakes, rivers and seas to come up with destinations suitable for all levels of adventurous families.


Photo: Alexandre Grégoire/Bonjour Quebec

1 Saguenay, Quebec

The Saguenay region feels like it’s a world apart, with rich French-Canadian culture that’s matched by the area’s unparalleled biodiversity and fjord-torn scenery. Located a half-day’s drive beyond Quebec City on Highway 138, the historic town of Tadoussac is your family’s gateway to exploring the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. The park offers some of the finest whale-watching in the world: 13 species of whales have been documented here, with minke, finback, blue, beluga and humpbacks frequently observed in August and September.

You will find plenty of options for renting kayaks and joining guided day trips on the big water of the St. Lawrence River or the stunning, fjord-rimmed Saguenay River. The region also boasts many family-friendly trails, interpretive centers and scenic vistas. Cabin, condo and camping accommodations are available, allowing you and your family to enjoy great paddling adventures while also discovering Quebec maritime culture and cuisine.


Feature photo: Destination Ontario

2 Georgian Bay, Ontario

Between Parry Sound and Killarney, the clear waters of Georgian Bay erupt with some 30,000 polished granite islands. This freshwater sea is the perfect place for a family kayak trip on the Great Lakes. Franklin Island is the popular destination for an overnight family kayak trip with easy access from Honey Harbour, barely a three-hour drive north of Toronto. Or go a little farther to Philip Edward Island, launching from the Chikanishing River in Killarney Provincial Park. You can also access this isolated and scenic island-pocked area via Point Grondine Park or French River Provincial Park.


Photo: Destination Ontario

3 Ottawa Valley, Ontario

When it comes to whitewater kayaking, there are few better destinations than the Ottawa Valley in eastern Ontario. The mighty Ottawa River, the centerpiece of Canada’s Whitewater Capital,  has served as a proving ground for the world’s best whitewater paddlers. Yet this mighty river is also a great destination to sign up for a family whitewater kayak course with expert (and fun) instructors. Located in close proximity to Canada’s national capital, many family vacation options are available combining urban activities and paddling.

Meanwhile, the more intimate and wild Madawaska River is home to some of the best kayak schools in Canada. Family packages are available for you to learn to paddle along a scenic waterway that’s lined with towering white pine trees and rugged Canadian Shield geography.


Photo: Patrick Rojo/Tourism Nova Scotia

4 South Coast, Nova Scotia

From the rugged coast of Cape Breton Island, to the tidewater of Bras d’Or Lake, the vast expanse of the Bay of Fundy and so much more, Nova Scotia is steeped in quintessential maritime geography. Located on the province’s South Coast, St. Margarets Bay is a great destination for a family kayak trip, with easy access from Halifax. The area is noted for its multitude of islands, which create relatively sheltered paddling conditions. While paddling around Tancook and Big Tancook island you will encounter the gamut of maritime attractions: lighthouses—including the iconic beacon at Peggy’s Cove—fishing villages, and marine mammals including seals, porpoises and whales. Local kayak rentals and guided day trips make the logistics easy.


Photo: Jordan Manley/Destination BC

5 Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, British Columbia

British Columbia offers some of the best kayaking in the world, and you don’t have to venture far from Vancouver to find great family paddling trips. There are multiple options to rent kayaks or sign up for a kayak day trip in Vancouver, where you can paddle English Bay and False Creek and admire the city’s incredible skyline. Do you prefer to paddle inland waters? Golden Ears Park, north of the city of Maple Ridge, offers stunning fjord-like scenery on the glacier-blue waters of Alouette Lake in the Coast Mountains, with a drive-in campground to serve as your family’s adventure base.


Photo: Travel Alaska

6 Alaska

A well-established array of adventure tourism outfitters makes the wilderness frontier of Alaska accessible to outdoors families. Alaska is larger than life, a place where you can truly choose your own adventure. Family kayaking options abound in Alaska’s vast network of subarctic and alpine lakes, free-flowing rivers and coastal fjords at the northern end of the Inside Passage.

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Check out places like Lake Clark National Park and Preserve for flatwater kayaking, Birch Creek for whitewater kayaking and the Ketchikan area for sea kayaking—this is just the beginning. Even though it feels like you’ve traveled to the edge of the Earth, Alaska kayak rentals and fully outfitted, guided family kayak trips will simplify the logistics and allow you to travel safely on trips of a lifetime.


Photo: CycleHere Media/Visit Florida

7 Florida

Skip Disney World on your next Florida vacation and pack your paddling gear instead. With its warm climate, incredible biodiversity and abundance of water, Florida is a dream destination for paddlers. Many of the best family kayak trips in Florida are located in the Big Bend region, near Tallahassee. This forgotten corner of the state includes incredibly clear, spring-fed waterways like the Wacissa River, which make excellent family kayak day trips. Rent kayaks and float downriver with the lazy current and you’ll discover spectacular swimming holes and intriguing wildlife, including a wide range of bird species.

Experienced family kayakers can set out on the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, along the 105-mile Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail. This wilderness water trail includes backcountry camping on wild beaches, great kayak fishing in nearshore waters and Florida’s finest sunsets. Historic Florida coastal villages like Suwannee and local outfitters offering rentals and shuttle services allow you to plan overnight trips up to 14-day expeditions.


Photo: Explore Minnesota

8 Minnesota

Minnesota is a canoeing epicenter that’s home to the legendary Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which ranks as the most popular wilderness area in the United States. There are plenty of great family kayak trips in the Boundary Waters, but for a different experience try Voyageurs National Park, which features a similar water-rich landscape but with fewer portages.

Multiple kayak trip options start from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Centre. The Woodenfrog Campground is a good destination for family kayak campers, and puts you in a good position to paddle deeper into Voyageurs National Park on kayak day trips, including sprawling Namakan Lake. Along the way, you’ll encounter classic Northwoods scenery and the potential for sightings of iconic wildlife like moose and loons.


Photo: Starboard and Port/Visit NC

9 North Carolina

Whitewater culture runs like a current through North Carolina, flowing with the many exciting rivers that spill off the Appalachian Mountains. The state is legendary for big class V creeking on rivers like the Green. At the same time, the gentler gradients of the Nantahala and French Broad rivers—along with the spectacular U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte—are perfect places to introduce your family to whitewater kayaking. There’s a well-established network of kayak outfitters in North Carolina to set you up with all you need, from rentals and shuttles to family kayak camps.

Photo: Melissa MN

10 Wisconsin

Cradled by Great Lakes Superior and Michigan and bisected by countless waterways, Wisconsin is a dream state for paddlers. Door County is an easy getaway for a family kayak trip that’s an easy drive from Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago. Book a campsite at Peninsula State Park and take a day trip along the park’s diverse Lake Michigan shoreline, including sandy beaches and rocky headlands. Kayak rentals and guided trips are available throughout the summer from local outfitters.

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The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior is a little more remote and even more spectacular. The area is known for its sandstone sea caves, which can be intimately explored by kayakers. A day trip starting at Meyers Beach is most popular; you can have a similar experience (as well as the added allure of visiting an island) in making a day trip to Sand Island. You’ll discover not only sea caves, but also a historic lighthouse, great beaches and easy hiking trails. The scenic waterfront town of Bayfield makes a great base to explore the area.

Photo: Adobe Stock

11 Greece

Greece blends all the charms of the Old World—including great food, history and culture—with a warm climate and spectacular Mediterranean shorelines, all contributing to making it a wonderful place for an international kayak trip with your family. The island of Crete, in particular, has plenty of appeal. Here, the azure waters of the Mediterranean laps against sand beaches and rocky shores, interspersed with the ruins of ancient Greece and historic fishing villages and set against a background of arid mountains. Exploring this island state by kayak is a great way to discover Greece with your family.

Photo: C. Mouton/CRT Centre – Val de Loire

12 France

Opportunities to kayak in France are often overshadowed by the country’s cultured cities, incredible cuisine, art and cathedrals. Yet France’s diverse geography offers many great places to kayak with your family. For starters, check out the Loire River, which flows through a timeless landscape of vineyards in the heart of France. Rent a kayak and take a day trip from the riverside town of Amboise. Meanwhile, paddling the Dordogne River in southwestern France near Beynac takes you back to a medieval landscape of castles and ancient villages.

Photo: Graeme Murray/New Zealand Tourism

13 New Zealand

New Zealand is a renowned mecca of outdoor adventure for good reason. Just as backpackers rave about the country’s vast trail network, paddlers enjoy endless opportunities paddling the ocean, inland lakes and wild rivers on both the North and South islands. Abel Tasman National Park is a world-class sea kayaking destination, with great family kayak day trips available to such attractions as Split Apple Rock, Torrent Bay and the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. In terms of family-friendly recreational kayaking on freshwater, Lake Wanaka stands out for its views of the South Island’s Alps.

Photo: Luliia Sokolovska

14 Thailand

Thailand’s lengthy coastline is mind-blowing for its endless beaches buttressed by jagged, pillar-like sea stacks, creating an otherworldly vibe that draws travelers back year after year. It’s no surprise Thailand’s mosaic of exposed shorelines, tropical islands and unique limestone geology makes it a hot spot for kayaking. The beauty of kayaking with your family in Thailand often lies in the complementary activities of snorkeling, discovering great food and enjoying amazing beaches—so pack an open mind as well as your swimsuits.

You’ll find many options for family kayak day trips in Thailand: Phang Nga Bay is alluring for its sea caves and hidden lagoons, and the Koh Phi Phi Islands, offshore from Phuket, are like gems in the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea. Inland, Khao Sok National Park’s Cheow Lan Lake, north of Phuket, features Tolkienesque “candlestick” islands with jagged hills radiating inland like shark’s teeth.

Photo: Juan Carlos Munoz

15 Costa Rica

Given its longstanding commitment to ecotourism, it’s no surprise Costa Rica abounds in places to kayak with your family. Manuel Antonio Park, located south of the town of Quepos, is known for its Pacific Ocean beaches and great snorkeling. What’s more, the park’s mangrove estuaries and inland waterways offer close encounters with monkeys, sloths and colorful birds of the tropics.

For family whitewater kayaking in Costa Rica head to the Pacuare River, which cascades through lush jungles and dark canyons before eventually draining into the Caribbean, east of the capital city of San José. Guided trips are available. Additionally, you and your kids can float beneath a volcano on Lake Arenal, high in the mountains of Arenal Volcano National Park. This adventure hub in northwestern Costa Rica also boasts rainforest trails, eco resorts and many other outdoor attractions.

Feature photo: Destination Ontario




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