Shake up the traditional family vacation, skip the theme parks and resorts and head out to the open water. Kayaking is an amazing way to see more of a local region without breaking the bank. Whether you want to rent kayaks for the day or join a tour, here are 10 kid-friendly kayaking adventures in the United States.
Channel Islands, Calif.
Put kayaking on California’s Channel Islands on your bucket list. Channel Islands National Park is conveniently located near Los Angeles and only accessible by boat. You might even spot some whales on your kayaking adventure. Join a tour with Channel Islands Adventure Company and spend half the day exploring sea caves around Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. Make a day of it and bring along a picnic and plan for a hike to stretch your legs after kayaking.
San Juan Islands, Wash.
There’s a reason sea kayaking with kids is so popular along San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. Jump on a family-friendly tour from Fidalgo Island for an hour or two or half the day. Ask your guide about the surrounding ecosystem and environment to sneak in an educational experience.
The Everglades National Park landed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 and was referred as the “River of Grass” by writer and activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Take a kayaking tour with a company like Everglades Area Tours to safely explore the tropical wetland. Stop and go shelling at nearby beaches and snap some wildlife photos along the way. Keep an eye out for curious leopard frogs, roseate spoonbills, wading birds, burmese pythons and of course, alligators.
New York City, N.Y.
Despite New York City’s reputation as a concrete jungle, families enjoy free, seasonal, kayaking along the city’s major waterways. Look for opportunities along Governors Island, the Downtown Boathouse, Long Island City and beyond. Seeing the urban landscape from a whole new perspective will give your kids a new appreciation for the natural beauty of New York City.
Hawai’i’s beauty is best explored off the paved roadways and attractions and into the lush wilderness. Head to Kauai for a tour of sunny coastal rivers and mountain bogs. A tour with Kayak Kauai takes guests through a Wailua Sacred Falls Tour complete with a hike to a bridal-veil waterfall. You can also explore volcanic sea caves and encounter dolphins from Polihale to Milolii.
Mono Lake, Calif.
Situated between the Eastern Sierra and Great Basin, Mono Lake in California looks otherwordly. Join a guided natural history tour from Caldera Kayak and make your way along the shoreline and to the inlet of Rush Creek. While dipping your oars into the water, look for brine shrimp, alkali flies and more than 300 bird species migrating through the area. You might even see deer and coyotes on land.
Red River Gorge, Ky.
It’s entirely possible to kayak right under the earth’s surface at Red River Gorge in Kentucky. The Gorge Underground tour takes guides through the darkness of Gorge Grotto through the mountainside for an hour-long journey under the earth’s surface. The family-friendly adventure takes groups of 20 through the Red River Gorge Underground to explore the cavern and learn more about its history.
Sequoia National Forest, Calif.
Explore the towering trees, canyons, and waters of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. For calm kayaking and canoeing, head to Hume Lake with kids for an adventure on the water. After a morning of kayaking, take a walk through the giant sequoias and see the largest tree on earth, the General Sherman Tree, that dates 2,100 years old and weighs 2.7 million pounds.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.
Take in the beauty of northwestern Wyoming at Grand Teton National Park with 40-mile long peaks, 310,000 acres and plenty of rivers and lakes. For a complete Grand Teton experience, spend two days with OARS for a Jackson Lake kayaking tour. You’ll navigate the sea with expert guides before hiking Grand Teton National Park and camping on Grassy Island. There’s also plenty of chance to spot moose, antelope, bison and other wildlife.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
With 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, glaciers and rainforest, Glacier Bay National Park dazzles with deep sheltered fjords and dense wilderness. There’s perhaps no better way to explore Glacier Bay than with kayaking through its deep wilderness. Get to know the area with a guided excursion with Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks for wildlife viewing daytrips through Bartlett Cove. Experienced kayaking families can also go exploring on their own with rented gear and spend the night camping under the stars.