Sometimes headlines can be deceiving. Rather than highlighting specific trips, our list of best paddling “trips” for this year showcases regions with multiple world-class options for canoeing, sea kayaking and whitewater paddling. The result, we believe, is anything but deceptive. This article provides a comprehensive rundown of the best destinations to paddle in 2024.

Of course, curating a “best-of” list doesn’t come without challenges—and biases. We focused on places north of the equator so you can plan great adventures for this year’s summer and fall. We also targeted many of the amazing North American paddling hotspots (including one in Paddling Magazine’s backyard) that we love, as well as a few international destinations that we’re dreaming about. It’s time to start planning your own best paddling trip for 2024.


canoeists paddle on an Ontario lake in summer
Photo: Destination Ontario

1 National Capital Region, Ontario and Quebec

For half a century, paddlers have been flocking to sign up for guided raft trips on the Ottawa River, in Canada’s National Capital Region. This anniversary is but one reason the Ottawa Valley is a renowned paddling epicenter that’s worthy of topping your list of dream destinations for 2024. Besides exciting whitewater rafting, you’ll also find great recreational kayaking options in view of Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa.

The mighty Ottawa River, and the nearby Madawaska River, are also home to some of Canada’s best kayak schools and summer camps for kids and adults. You will rapidly discover why the Ottawa River has been instrumental in the development of freestyle kayaking and continues to serve as a proving ground for the world’s best paddlers.

The East Gate of Algonquin Provincial Park is located within a two-hour drive of the nation’s capital, providing great access to a vast network of lake-to-lake canoe trips along with whitewater canoe tripping on the Petawawa River.

Meanwhile, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, go paddleboarding on the Gatineau River at the picturesque village of Wakefield (30 minutes from downtown Ottawa) or reserve an island campsite at Parc regional du Poisson-Blanc (about a 90-minute drive from Ottawa) for an easy overnight canoe, kayak or SUP trip.


an expedition canoe sits on a pebbly Northwestern Territories riverbank in sumer with dramatic mountain in background
Photo: Colin Field/Northwest Territories Tourism

2 Northwest Territories

From whitewater canoe tripping in the legendary Barrenlands on waterways like the Coppermine River, whitewater rafting through the deep canyons of the South Nahanni River, or sea kayaking the remote shores of Great Slave Lake, it’s little wonder why Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) is a bucket-list destination for all types of paddlers.

A longtime commitment to adventure tourism has allowed the NWT to achieve a seemingly impossible balance of accessibility and remoteness: you can get to places like Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells on commercial flights, and a host of great outfitters will take it from there.

An incredible array of NWT guided paddling trips are available, from whitewater canoe expeditions for experienced paddlers to family-friendly raft and canoe trips in iconic destinations. NWT outfitters also offer canoe and gear rentals and trip planning services to help arrange floatplane charters to help make your dream a reality.


a canoe floats on a tranquil lake in northwestern Ontario
Photo: Destination Ontario

3 Northwestern Ontario

The vast region between Lake Superior, Hudson Bay, and the Manitoba and U.S. borders contains enough water and paddling routes to fill lifetimes. Northwestern Ontario is home to countless provincial parks that were seemingly purpose-built for paddlers. Quetico Provincial Park, a quick border crossing away from Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, gives a fantastic glimpse of the potential with thousands of kilometers of wilderness canoe routes.

Venture farther (and with the appropriate backcountry skills) and you’ll find the boreal wilds of Wabakimi, one of Ontario’s largest provincial parks, as well as the unique boreal-meets-prairies scenery of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Both of these immense protected areas feature endless canoe tripping on lakes and wild rivers. Farther beyond, rivers like the Winisk draw expert canoe trippers to the Arctic waters of Hudson Bay.

The big lakes of Wabakimi and Woodland Caribou are alluring to sea kayakers, too. But kayakers will be spoilt for choice when they consider the paddling prospects of Lake Nipigon, Lake of the Woods, and of course the massive expanse of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.


two kayakers sit on placid waters surrounded by mountains while on a summer paddling trip in Alaska
Feature photo: Travel Alaska

4 Alaska

Alaska is a perennial destination on any outdoor adventure bucket list. The state shines for paddlers, with a well-established array of adventure tourism outfitters allowing just about everyone to experience the wilderness frontier safely and in comfort.

Sea kayaking in Alaska includes the deep, glacier-clad fjords of the northern Inside Passage, including Prince William Sound and Glacier Bay. These island-clogged waters feature iconic marine life like salmon and orcas, as well as jaw-dropping mountain views.

Plan a whitewater kayak trip near Anchorage for a more intimate view of the coastal range. Alaska whitewater rafting expeditions on the Alsek or Tatshenshini rivers, which flow through mountain-rimmed, glacier-clad corridors across the international border and into the Panhandle region, are truly trips of a lifetime. Or, venture into the deep wilderness of the interior for a canoe expedition on Alaska Wild and Scenic rivers like the Noatak, Koyukuk or Kobuk.


canoeists paddle through early morning mist in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Photo: Paul Vincent/Explore Minnesota

5 Minnesota

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is an obvious destination for where to go paddling in 2024. For starters, the immense Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness makes Minnesota a canoeing epicenter. Supported by great outfitters in towns like Ely and Grand Marais, the Boundary Waters ranks among the top places to canoe in the world, with thousands of miles of route options. What’s more, the million-acre area abuts Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park for trans-border canoe expeditions. Voyageurs National Park, with its headquarters in International Falls, Minnesota, is made up of mostly huge lakes that are perfect for multiday kayak trips.

Minnesota also fringes on Lake Superior’s northwestern coast, making it an ideal location to explore this inland sea by kayak. Day trips are available from Duluth and Grand Marais and you can also take the ferry to remote and mystical Isle Royale National Park to experience some of the finest freshwater sea kayaking in the world. If that’s not enough, Minnesota is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul offer some of the finest urban paddling in the world on countless lakes.


two kayakers paddle past a rocky bluff while on a summer paddling trip in Maine
Photo: Visit Maine

6 Maine

Over 150 years ago, American author Henry David Thoreau ventured into Maine’s North Woods by canoe with an Indigenous guide and shared his experiences in a journal that’s become an iconic piece of outdoors literature. The experience of canoe tripping in Maine hasn’t changed much since then—the state’s pristine rivers and remote Appalachian lakes have a reputation as the crowning jewels of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Maine also offers outstanding whitewater canoe tripping on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, along with fine family paddling opportunities in wilderness areas like Rangeley Lakes. Not to be outdone, Acadia National Park is a dreamscape for sea kayaking in coastal Maine. Depending on their skill level, paddlers can explore secluded bays and visit historic lighthouses, or set out on overnight coastal tours into labyrinths of tide-washed granite islands.


Kayaks beached on shore while people chat
Photo: Visit Kitsap Peninsula

7 Washington

With a diverse geography spanning the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific coast, it’s no surprise Washington offers plenty of opportunities for paddlers. Make 2024 your summer to sea kayak the bucolic San Juan Islands, where you can join a local outfitter for a day tour or rent kayaks and set off on weekend to one-week trips in Puget Sound.

Washington also abounds with whitewater, making it a great destination for a road trip. Rivers like the Skykomish are popular all-season runs in the Seattle area. The White Salmon near Hood River allows you to take in the scenery of the fabulous Columbia River Gorge.

There are plenty of good destinations for canoeing as well, including Lake Chelan, a ribbon-like body of water immersed in the North Cascades, Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, and Lake Wenatchee in the massive Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.


small dog runs toward two kayaks on a sandy beach
Photo: Visit Wales

8 Wales, United Kingdom

Located on the west coast of Great Britain, Wales’ geography ranges from tide-washed coastal areas to the 3,500-foot-tall mountains of Snowdonia. For expert sea kayakers, a trip to paddle places like Anglesey is like experiencing Mecca: This is arguably the birthplace of modern British-style sea kayaking, where some of the finest paddlers have pitted their skills against immense tidal streams and surf. A wide variety of sea kayak skills courses are available for all levels of paddlers. Meanwhile, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is renowned for its sea caves, hidden beaches and marine wildlife, making it another great destination for kayak touring.

For a mellower experience canoeists and recreational kayakers can paddle the smaller waters of Snowdonia National Park, including Llyn Padarn. Also in Snowdonia, the River Tryweryn with its class II to IV rapids is an example of the great opportunities for great whitewater kayaking in Wales. Finally, the River Wye is one of the U.K.’s longest waterways, with a rich human history ranging from ancient cave dwellings to Roman settlements and some of the country’s greatest biodiversity, including aquatic mammals and many species of birds. Canoeists can trace a 251-kilometer water trail along its entire course.

a canoeist paddles on calm lake under clouds
Photo: Image Bank Sweden

9 Scandinavia

Long summer days are but one attribute of paddling in Scandinavia. Between Sweden, Finland and Norway, there’s a huge array of experiences available for canoeing and kayaking. The Swedish backcountry offers multitudes of canoe routes amidst a classic landscape of lakes, rivers and boreal forest, with Pieljekaise National Park’s lakes and rivers reflecting the great opportunities for multiday trips in Swedish Lapland.

Not to be outdone, the Lakeland area in the central Finland interior features a similar landscape with multiple protected areas that are best explored by canoe, including Kolovesi National Park, Paijanne National Park and Linnansaari National Park, which is home to a unique population of freshwater ring seals.

Both Finland and Sweden offer outstanding sea kayaking, too. The fjords and islands of Norway’s Lofoten area, however, take coastal scenery to the next level with incredible seascapes and historic fishing villages clinging to the rocky shore. Globetrotting paddlers can go even farther by planning the trip of a lifetime to Svalbard, an extremely remote cluster of Norwegian Arctic islands home to glaciers, polar bears and reindeer.


a kayaker paddles toward a bridge near a picturesque city in Portugal
Photo: António Duarte

10 Portugal

Portugal is an off-the-radar Mediterranean paddling destination that’s gaining recognition as one of Europe’s best places to kayak for its smooth-flowing rivers and idyllic pastoral scenery. The Douro River flows through a living picture postcard of sparsely forested hills, ancient homesteads and some of the planet’s best vineyards. The climate is mild, the people are friendly, and you can paddle inn to inn on guided canoe or kayak tours with local experts handling the logistics for a more immersive journey. Tributaries of the Douro, including the Mondego River, offer unique experiences on smaller watercourses with the same Old World feel.


Feature photo: Travel Alaska



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here