Kayaking is a perfect summer activity. It’s a fun family-friendly adventure, it’s affordable, and—best of all—it will help you beat the heat. And there are dozens of places that offer kayak rentals, lessons, and even full-day tours. Here are 10 kayaking spots around New England where you can get on the water and paddle away.
Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts
For families stuck in the city this summer, these sea kayaking tours are a perfect option. See Boston from a different point-of-view as you make your way around Spectacle Island. Half-hour sea tours are available for beginners on Mondays and Wednesdays and combine beautiful scenery, an overview of park history, and kayaking safety and skill development. Tours are personal—limited to 10 people—and are guided by one certified leader. More experienced kayakers are welcome to paddle their way to the islands. Just use caution. The harbor is active with huge ships that cannot stop for kayakers. Avoid the risk with other nearby options for experienced kayakers, like Quincy and Hingham Bay.
Boston Harbor Islands Partnership, 15 State St. Boston. 617-223-8666. bostonharborislands.org/sea-kayak-tours
Plum Island, Massachusetts
Just 40 minutes north of the city, Plum Island Kayak in Newburyport offers an experience for everyone, from novice to expert. Take a guided tour along the protected marshes and waterways, a great option for beginners. For those not interested in a group-setting, there are plenty of rental options as well as private tours and lessons. For families, there are special child programs and a “Seal Paddle,’’ where guests can track down and observe the adorable ocean creatures. Kayak rentals start at $45. Tours start at $45.
Plum Island Kayak, Inc., 92 Merrimac Street , Newburyport, 978-462-5510, http://www.plumislandkayak.com/
Squam Lake, New Hampshire
This lake is the famous setting of the classic movie “On Golden Pond.’’ This scenic destination is known for its serenity and active nature. Here you’ll find some of the best kayaking in the state with calm, clear waters and beautiful views. There’s even something for the non-kayaker: you’ll find plenty of hiking, biking, and lounging options as well as nearby restaurants and family attractions. While there aren’t guided tours, visitors can rent boats for personal use and enjoy the waters however they please.
Squam Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 665 Ashland, New Hampshire , 603-968-4494, visitsquam.com
Lake Umbagog, New Hampshire
Rest the paddle on the deck and watch the wildlife at work and play in Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. Locals say it’s best to be off the water by mid-afternoon, though. The lake is pretty shallow and tends to get windy before dusk—not good for the newer kayakers out there. In the late mornings and early afternoons, though, the waters are beautiful and can accommodate all skill levels. Northern Waters offers guided tours or you can set out on your own. They offer kayak rentals— starting at $30—as well.
Northern Waters, Route 16, Errol, N.H., 603-447-2177 (winter), 603-482-3817 (summer), www.beoutside.com
Saco River, Maine
This is a must-visit for a Maine summer vacation. Saco River Canoe & Kayak, in Fryeburg, Maine, is situated right along the most popular river access point. With group and private tours for beginners and experienced boaters, they make it super easy to learn the ropes and get you on your way. Carry along a picnic lunch and stop at one of the sandbars on the way (believe it or not, there is room in the kayaks!). Or just sit back and enjoy the local wildlife and gorgeous scenery. On most days, the river is calm, making this a great option for families and newcomers alike. Rentals start at $45 in the summer, $26 off-season.
Saco River Canoe & Kayak, P.O. Box 100 Fryeburg, Maine, 207-935-2369, http://www.sacorivercanoe.com/
Acadia National Park, Maine
Put in at Seal Cove, on the southwestern edge of Mount Desert Island, enjoy the solitude of Blue Hill Bay. Unlike the other more populated Bar Harbor waters, you’ll get scenic views and less water traffic. You may even spot a seal or two on your way and porpoises are known to pass right near the paddles. If you don’t want to head out alone, Maine State Kayak provides all-inclusive half-day tours with transportation from their shop, all necessary gear, kayak rentals, and parking for $48.
Maine State Sea Kayak, 254 Maine St., Southwest Harbor, 877-481-9500, mainestateseakayak.com.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
This is a beautiful place to learn to kayak: the waters are relatively calm and you’ll paddle by the scenic Vermont farmlands. True North Kayak Tours offer an experience for every skill and interest level. Design a custom tour and hit the water your way. Or sign up for one of their many programs (starting at $85) or group lessons (starting at $45). Guides are specially trained and lead tours to lesser-known areas with stunning views.
True North Kayak Tours, 802-238-7695, www.vermontkayak.com.
Coastal Region, Connecticut
Coastal Connecticut’s waterways are beautiful, diverse, and user-friendly. From large tidal rivers to smaller freshwater lakes and marshes, the region’s waters are made for kayaking. The calm waters are great for beginners and everyone can enjoy the peaceful scenery and local wildlife. A few favorite places are Thimble Islands, Mystic Seaport, and Griswold Island. Whether you want to sea kayak or learn in a lake, Connecticut Coastal Kayaking provides tours, rentals, and classes for reasonable prices (starting at $90).
Connecticut Coastal Kayaking, 18 Oak Tree Lane, Lyme, Conn., 860-391-3837, ctcoastalkayaking.com.
Napatree Point, Rhode Island
Paddle straight out and around Napatree Point to the arc of beach jutting out from Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Observe local wildlife or park your paddles and kayaks on the sand and relax in the warm summer sun. The beaches here are also known for being the least crowded in the state—a bonus if you’re worried about embarrassing yourself!Watch Hill Outfitters in Westerly, R.I. offers kayak rentals starting at $45.
Another option for the risk-takers is to kayak from Barn Island in Connecticut. Just watch the weather and make sure it isn’t too windy before attempting open waters.
Napatree Point Harbormaster, Westerly, R.I., 401-593-2022, napatreepointkayak.com
Upper Wood River, Rhode Island
This river is great for easy-going kayakers. The waters are calm and the area itself is undeveloped. Make your way through the deep woods by boat. Pack a picnic and stop around the waterfall to make a day out of it. Queen’s River Kayaks has rentals starting at $25, which include life jackets, paddles, maps, dry bags, and transportation. While guides are on hand, visitors are encouraged to go off on their own and design their own experience. Guests can take their time, as long as they are back before nightfall.
Queen’s River Kayaks,West Kingston, R.I., 401-284-3945, queensriverkayaks.com.