Best places to live in N America for great sea kayaking?

What do you think are the best places to live in N. America close to great sea kayaking? What are the pro’s and con’s of those places?

For example, the SF Bay Area.

Pros: lots of variety with protected bays, estuaries, coastal open water touring, rock gardening, etc.; rich marine and coastal wildlife; mountain views; and a very active sea kayak community with multiple clubs and outfitters. Strong economy with plentiful jobs. Good air and road access to other paddling areas.

Cons: due to drought, risk of smoke from seasonal wildfires that can last weeks and months; high cost of living - housing, taxes, etc.

If you are looking for a variety of water: PNW, specifically, Seattle area (I lived in Kirkland for about 10 years).

Calm water paddling - Lake Washington, paddleable just about 365 days a year
Bigger water, squirrely currents: Puget Sound, San Juan islands
Whitewater: Deception Pass
Surf: coast: Westport, Ocean Shores, La Push, Makah Bay, etc.

If you want to learn all aspects of sea-kayaking, the PNW is great.

The only negative (for me): the water is always cold.
This is mainly the reason I’m now in FL, I like the 80+ water temps in the summer.


What are your favorite sea kayaking areas in Florida?

The PNW and greater Seattle is definitely a rich paddling area. Also looks like you have a lot of active clubs. But I hear you about the water temp - like N California, the water never warms up to Atlantic temps you’d see along the Mid-Atlantic and South (and even the Northeast) coasts.

Drysuits. The Gulf of Maine offers astounding kayaking and camping year round along some 3500 miles of coastline. Maine Island Trail Association membership allows access to some 400 islands for camping. In the winter the limiting factor is boat launch accessibility as some are not plowed out. And Noreasters of course.
I live on a lake near a sizeable lake one hour from the coast and in the middle of a variety of paddling venues.

March is not a fun month though. Mud season and variable rainy days that are dreary. Its a good time to go to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Anywhere from Pensacola to the Everglades minus Tampa and environs are my favorites. We will be back in Apalachicola this winter and Cedar Key and Everglades

I can afford my home On two acres with five hundred in a land trust abutting me… Even with the real estate price surge the average home price is under 400K.
The cons are heating prices. If you have access to a woodlot and a stove and time to tend it the price is reasonable. If not you have oil or electricity and are at the mercy of suppliers.

Taxes really are not that bad overall.

1 Like

Of all the places I have paddled, my favorite place is the Columbia River. It has all sorts of conditions, nice surfing waves at times and places. The best part is the wind waves do not go to shore. The wind follows the river for the most part, so you can surf for miles and never go to shore. A huge bonus is that if everything goes bad, you are almost never more than a quarter mile from a nice friendly sandy beach without a shore break. The beaches are nearly all public domain. Most of the islands are open to the public too.

At times there are huge stellar sea lions that I don’t care much for, but they generally leave you alone if you stay away from them. I’ve been told that there are bull sharks, but I have never seen one.

I definitely prefer fresh water, over salt water–no cleanup required. Maybe the very best thing is that I don’t have to drive very far to go paddling–lots of launch sites within 10 to 15 miles.

1 Like

I’m probably not the one to suggest good paddling places, I just like to paddle.
My daily is on the St Johns (near Jacksonville); weekends, weather permitting, I like to be on the ocean.
Winter paddlers tend to go inland - enjoy the springs with no crowds (as in summer).
I haven’t been down there in a while, but the Ten Thousand Islands area is a nice Winter trip, or, in the same area, do the ‘Wilderness Waterway’ (Everglades) trip (inland one way, Gulf the other).

I really like the Charleston area.
It has swamps, canals, tidal rivers, harbor and ocean. Interesing history and abundant wildlife. Uninhabitated islands nearby and freshwater a little further inland.
Added bonus is a fantastic city to hang it in before/after paddling.

We live in Sandpoint, ID – maybe 60 miles south of the Canadian Border. I moved here 40+ years ago for the alpine skiing and did not kayak at that time. Around 2007, I worked temporarily in Nanaimo on BC’s Vancouver Island where we started kayaking. When I got back to Idaho I suddenly noticed that our town is on a lake (Lake Pend Oreille)! It’s about 110 miles around its lengthy circumference and about 1260’ at its deepest (I’ve not swum down to double check). Various streams feed the lake from our nearby mountains, but the major contributor is the Clark Fork River which brings in water from the Montana mountains. There are two nice deltas and a few islands, as well. So it’s great for kayaking!

The lake is actually a natural reservoir draining via the Pend Oreille River, which then joins the Columbia River. So, in theory, with some camping and portages around various dams, you can kayak to Japan or to any continent on our globe.

There are other lakes and streams in North Idaho and we occasionally kayak on those. We typically take two kayak trips per year to the waters off Vancouver Island. So this is another vote for the PNW, albeit more from the interior. Here we use the water for play at least twice, in the cold months for skiing and in the warmer months for kayaking.

Have you paddled in Glacier National Park or Yellowstone? There are some nice places in the more remote sections. Those two are places I would like to visit with my kayak, but they are too far away :frowning:

I’ve only paddled northeast Ohio, a little bit of the Saratoga Springs area of New York, and midcoast Maine (~ Brunswick to Camden). I’m grateful for the lakes I have in Ohio, but of course I’m biased to Maine. Rocky coastline, quite a few islands with public access and lots of lakes as well. And as Kayamedic said, housing is reasonable if you’re not on the ocean and get a little east of Portland. And taxes can be very reasonable too depending on the county and town. My old place is a half mile from an ocean launch and my yearly tax and insurance costs about the same as a two week motel stay in the summer. But also as Kayamedic said, heating fuel is expensive if you live there year-round.

1 Like

The Coast and the Great Lakes.

I’ve not paddled Glacier (4 hours away) nor Yellowstone (7 1/2 hours away). Some chance we might try the Glacier area, having kayaking friends there - but they are more likely to join us in the Vancouver Island area.

I live near the Chesapeake Bay, and after over 20 years of kayaking will never get to explore all of it. It is the largest estuary in the United States. While it does not have the spectacular shorelines of the Pacific Northwest or the Maine coast. It does offer at least 7 months of warm water paddling, no wet suit or dry suit required. With climate change it’s now rare there isn’t some place to paddle in the winter, although there are increasing days in the summer where some people find it too hot to paddle in the summer.

The Bay, including its tributaries has 11,684 miles of shoreline and has over 150 major rivers, streams, and tributaries flowing into it, plus many more smaller streams and creeks. It is about 200 miles long and varies in width from 4.5 miles to 30 miles.

Within a reasonable drive for a day trip there is everything from big open water, wooded streams, marsh, cypress swamp, urban paddling and more. Not far away is the Atlantic and in the other direction serious whitewater can be found.

Throughout the area there are ample and an expanding number of free launch sites, paddle-in camp sites, water access car camping sites, and a growing number of water trails. While there is significant development around much of the Bay, there are also quite a few wilderness areas with little or no development.


Someone asked about favorite places to sea kayak in Florida: my favorites (#1) the Keys - everything from calm mangrove tunnels to long backcountry paddles. The Everglades and 10,000 islands have lots of paddling and camping possibilities - it’s popular to leave from Chokoloskee or Everglades City and spend a few days to a week out in the wilderness. I love paddling the spring fed rivers and while a sea kayak is certainly not necessary it does allow you to cover more distance and not just float downstream. I would like to do more exploring in NE Florida and the Panhandle but those are overnight trips for me (I’m in St Pete - we actually have quite a bit of good paddling around here as well).

Paddled Yellowstone lake twice. Did a three days from West Thumb in 2015. Visited last summer and paddled from a rocky beach near Steam Boat to the Yellowstone river and back. It is interesting to paddle near hot springs and vents.

If you paddle on Yellowstone water your boat must be inspected and permitted. Good for 1 week, $20.

Perhaps but there are plenty of paddlers that do the length of the St John’s river. River is 310 miles. Most in sea kayaks. It is 3miles wide at the lower 75 miles and can be rough.

Of course Florida has 1800 miles of shoreline.

I live on the north coast of America (Cleveland). Like many Clevelanders, I ignored the lake…until I bought a sea kayak. Now having a coastline is important to me, and one of the things keeping me here, when the winters provide plenty of motivation to seek my fortunes elsewhere.

There are obviously advantages to living near an ocean coastline, but most of the ones I’d consider along the east coast bring other disadvantages I would want to avoid, like tropical storms. We are getting ready to take a trip to LA after the holidays, and my wife asked me if she should choose our hotel so I can take advantage of a Pacific coastline and do some paddling. I don’t know what it would be like, paddling off the coast of SOCAL. It’s hard to beat the great lakes for sea kayaking. You just have to be prepared for those winter months.

I’ve paddled off the coast of Washington state…the waters around Whidbey Island (where my Navy daughter was stationed) are amazing. But Seattle residency isn’t for everyone, or even most people.

West coast of BC. This is the equivalent of the far north for canoeing.

I think you can’t beat the coast of Maine, especially Penobscot Bay and Muscongas Bay. Beautiful islands, rock gardens, wildlife, and a culture of living by the sea. I find the winter is a plus if you are also a snow sport fan-great skiing and snow shoeing in the Western mountains a couple of hours away.