With more than 4.6 million inhabitants and the oldest continually active seaport in the Western Hemisphere, the Greater Boston area wouldn’t sound like an obvious place to get away from it all in a sea kayak,” writes New England guidebook author and veteran paddler, Michael Daugherty.
And yet it’s possible to do just that.
Among the rugged, offshore outposts of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, experienced kayakers can tour America’s second-oldest working lighthouse and even pitch a tent within sight of the city’s skyscrapers.
Paddlers seeking a more intimate view of central Boston’s vibrant waterfront neighborhoods should explore the diverse shoreline of the Charles River Basin.
The Basin and its leafy park esplanades are remarkable examples of early urban recreational planning, created in 1910 by damming the formerly tidal river and permanently flooding its marshes and mud flats.
Today, the Charles is beloved by Bostonians and plays host to an annual canoe, paddleboard and kayak race; dragon boat festival; and rowing regatta, as well as a year-round community of fitness paddlers.
Where to Go
If you Want to go guided
Join Charles River Canoe & Kayak (www.paddleboston.com) for an entertaining and educational tour of Boston Harbor, departing from the Cambridge side of the river and including a voyage through the Charles River Locks.
Their four-hour kayak tour visits the Charlestown Navy Yard and Fort Point Channel, finishing off with a tasty meal on the wharf at the open-air Barking Crab Restaurant. Paddleboarders can opt for two-hour skyline trips on the Lower Basin.
If you Want to paddle like a local
Tour the Charles River Basin between Herter Park and the Esplanade, a section known for its quintessential skyline views and passionate paddling community.
Verdant parks border both sides of this five-mile stretch; while just beyond, Back Bay’s orderly columns of exquisitely preserved Victorian Brownstones march to the foot of Beacon Hill and its gold-domed State House.
If you’re visiting on the 4th of July, join the paddle-wielding throngs for a front-row seat to Boston’s famous fireworks display.
If you’re Looking for adventure
Plan a day-trip or overnight journey among the 34 islands and peninsulas making up the Boston Harbor Islands Recreation Area. A 14-mile round-trip from Hull will get you to the wild and dramatic shorelines, remote campsites and open ocean vistas of the rocky Outer Islands.
Exposure and challenging tidal currents make this a trip for experienced paddlers only. Shorter trips to the more sheltered Inner Islands depart from Hingham Harbor or South Boston’s City Point Park.
Kayakers and boaters enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks display on the Boston Harbor. | Photo: istockphoto.com/ Jesse James Photography