Family Canoe

i am looking for a family canoe (2 adults + 4 and 6 year old) to be used on on a variety of waters. So every thing from small ponds to rivers (minimal rapids). Even occasional ocean when the conditions are right.

We’ve been considering royalex explorer and old town camper in the 16 foot range as well as the Sundowner 17.

We are probably headed in the Sundowner direction since its a bit bigger for the family and gear…

any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated.



Going, going, they may be gone
New Royalex canoes may soon be gone. The raw roayalex sheets used in their manufacture have not been produced in over a year. The canoe makers are working on a dwindling inventory of those sheets. You can go heavy and inexpensive in a polyethylene canoe, or lighter and more expensive in a composite canoe. You must weigh your wallet against your back.

My starting point for you is the Wenonah Spirit II canoe in composite. It will take your family everywhere you state you want to paddle. It is easier to paddle than the canoes you mentioned and as stable. It is more stable than the 17’Sundowner and as fast as the royalex Sundowner. The original composite Sundowner is faster, not quite as stable, and of less capacity and seaworthiness.


Consider the “17 Wenonah” in Tufweave

Lighter than Royalex, stiffer, more repairable, and a very good design for a family canoe.

Explorer, Camper, and Sundowner?
Sundowner sure seems to be the odd man out in that group. I’ve owned one and liked it very much but I’m not so sure it’s what you’re looking for. Probably less stability and less freeboard.


I second the Spirit II
Great boat. I have an old Kevlar version with the sliding bow seat, which worked out great when I paddled with my youngest daughter. Sliding the seat forward to the narrowest part of the boat made it easier for her to get the paddle in the water, and helped to trim the boat. The trouble is it’s an expensive boat. I’d start with a cheap used boat (at least 16’) until you are sure that the family is going to take to canoeing. My youngest daughter loved it from about 9 to 13. The older kids wouldn’t have anything to do with it. At your kids current ages attention spans can be short, so your trips will probably be short as well. You probably won’t need an expensive touring boat for a while.

Do not get the Camper!
Not enough canoe for two adults and two kids - and not a good shape for all-around use.

The Spirit II would be much better - you really need to start looking at the 17’ mark. Or a used OT Tripper, maybe?

Super Helpful
Huge thanks to all. The retailer I was talking to does have a spirit 2 in royalex. Perhaps that is our boat. Curious as to why he was pushing me into a sundowner.

Thanks again!

…not certain either unless he’s just trying to get rid of it? Sundowner is fine for more experienced paddlers without mobile kids and/or dogs, but the Spirit would be a better fit.

Look for a bigger canoe
Considering you want to take two kids with you look for a larger canoe. Look in the 17 or 18 ft category.

The Wenonah Spirit II is great and the Tuff weave is rally nice.

Get a 17’ boat.
I think it will be much more comfortable for you with the kids.

Your family canoe
To this very good list of possibilities I’d add the Wenonah Boundary Waters, a capable, comfortable 17 footer with good capacity and really strong initial stability, an important consideration with kids in the boat.