Scenic kayaking in Washington State

I’m thinking about a road trip. Anyone from the northwest have suggestions for good sea kayaking locations in Washington State? I’m thinking along the lines of car camping and day trips instead of over-nighters.



Need more info
Need more info than that. What sort of kayaking do you do? What sort of skillset to you have? There are many places to paddle here from coastal rock gardens with potentially terrifying conditions to calm lakes and bird watching. Island hopping, tidal races, surfing…I’m sure you get the point.

What’s your poison?

I primarily boat whitewater in small kayaks. I don’t get out in the Saltwater with a long boat very often but when I do I usually enjoy rock gardens and scenic settings with cliffs and what not. Also if there’s some good rips to fool with that would be good. To be clear, I am talking about bringing a sea kayak.



Washington Water Trails Association
Google it, if you have not done so already. I joined their org and got a guidebook to the Cascadia Marine Trail. Their website contains good info but to get more details you need to join (it’s not expensive). I bought a bunch of their really nice kayaker-specific maps, too.

We’re heading to WA state soon, driving with our sea kayaks this time!!! Also going to be doing day trips from car camp, both saltwater and freshwater. Plenty of beautiful lakes and reservoirs, in addition to the coastal paddling. I’ve done other road trips there and hope to paddle at Lake Chelan, Osoyoos, Banks Lakes, and others, in addition to ocean paddling from Port Townsend, which is the main focus. Supposedly some good surfing near Salt Creek Rec. Area but I can’t confirm it–we were just looking into tidepools when we went.

Oh, yeah…Capt. Jack’s Almanac will be helpful!

Randel Washburne
I found this book useful. You might too.

I’ll check out those sources of information.



Puget sound
The sound has enough day kayaking trips that it would take decades to wear the place out.

Check tides and currents when making your plan for the day. We don’t have anywhere down here with a serious tidal rapid, but you can run into a 3-4 knot current on some popular routes.

Note that you can roll your kayak onto our ferries (they charge for it, but less than a car). This opens up some possibilities for you. For example - I’ve taken the Seattle-Bainbridge Is ferry, then paddled from there to Bremerton and returned on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry.

For an almost remote car camp trip - check out Lake Ozette - there is a listing in the places to paddle section.

san juan islands
are popular

Rough stuff
The west side of the Olympic Peninsula has surf, but from what I’ve read it is for very skilled sea kayakers with lots of experience in that kind of water, with few bail-out spots.

Cattle Pass in the San Juans is another venue that might be of interest–again, only if you have appropriate skills and knowledge.

You might do better to ask good shops for local knowledge. In the San Juan Islands, Body Boat Blade can help you. Right now, though, the two principals are paddling around Vancouver Island.

Good luck, and have fun.

Bang for buck…N. San Juan’s.
This is my state and backyard. Been all over it, surf the coast and straits and spend over 100 days each year in the San Juans.

I’d say that given your information you’d LOVE a tour of the Northern San Juan Islands departing Anacortes Wa. Cypress Island, Clark, Matia, Sucia, Patos (favorite), Pt. Doughty on Orcas, Jones, James, and back home. You could do a loop. These northern islands are close together but each is worth a visit.

Super scenery, nice weather this time of year, relatively protected but some fun tide rips if you choose, fair chance of seeing whales, nice camping, etc. Relax and spend more time at just the Northern group or paddle on out to Stuart from them then cut back through via Jones, inner islands and James.

Don’t think you’d be disappointed!

Other areas are great as well such as the coast from Neah Bay south, but weather coud be a concern as could fog. It’s more comitted. South Puget sound is fine but the San Juans are far prettier. Ross Lake is likewise fun but camping options more limited and a very NAZI Park Service situation in terms of camping where and when! Gogle some of these islands and research things a bit.

If out this way and need any help email me.

I’ve printed out your suggestions, Thanks!

Day trip suggestions
In keeping with you desire for day tripping and car camping:

Deception Pass has great dynamic conditions that are not weather dependent. Canoe Pass is the Northern passage; it’s about 70’ wide or so and offers a big eddy to play in on the ebb and has currents that range from 4.5kn on a small ebb to 8.3kn on the extreme ebbs. The S. side of Pass Island also has some interesting features on the ebb, though boat traffic can be a bit hazardous. The bailouts are simple and the narrows are short so if you blow it you won’t get too far out there. On the Flood Canoe pass can be a bit dicey as the flood slams right into Razor wall, a wall covered in large barnacles, but can be fun if you have expert boat handling skills. However, the Room of Doom, beneath the bridge on the S. side of the main channel, offers big whirlpools and boils and little rest if your up for it. The RoD forms up best at 6kn or better, though which can be a bit of a limiting factor and also requires expert boat handling skills. Additionally, if you launch from Bowman Bay be aware that you will not get back for several hours. Be aware that the flood really does require expert skills and, preferably, a group to play with.

In the South Sound a fun paddle is from Titlow, N through the Tacoma Narrows to Gig Harbor and the Tides Restaurant, which offers a place to tie up a kayak and will welcome you inside dripping wet in your drysuit. If you time it right you can have an easy run north and south.

Hammersley and Totten inlets are excellent south sound paddles that can offer some sporting conditions and beautiful scenery and are a little more forgiving of those without top tier skills.

Pikabike mentions Cattle pass. A great run either from Lopez or from Anacortes, but requires good trip planning skills and understanding of planning crossings in waters with currents. Also, Cattle Pass is a tide race that can be as wide as 3/4 of a mile with no way out. If you try the Anacortes route you must cross the Rosario Strait which is several miles wide with strong currents, a lot of shipping to contend with as well as ferries. Cattle Pass requires expert boat handling skills.

on the South side of Orcas Island east of East Sound there are Peavine and Obstruction Passes which can be rather sporting and can be accessed as day trips, be aware that currents can run contrary to what you might think so check a current atlas and/or daily predictions at NOAA.

Freshwater Bay to Crescent Beach is a good paddle with good rock gardening potential and is 8nm RT. The Strait of Juan de Fuca can run at 2kn E/W so keep that in mind for planning.

If surfing is in your plan, Hobuck at Makah Bay is nice with good camping great surfing (surf event are an annual thing there)and easy access to paddling to Shi Shi (can be an evil dumping beach) and to Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island. Cape Flattery can be extremely dangerous and is very committing. Consider your skillset very carefully and don’t paddle these coastal routes alone as they can be quite treacherous. and will require expert boat handling skills. If the long drive to Hobuck doesn’t sound very appealing there is Westport, Pacific Beach and Long Beach which also have good surfing but nothing else. Get there early as the break gets rather sloppy around 1300, generally.

Cape disappointment is also nice, offering some challenging routes in the vicinity of the Columbia River Bar. Be aware that this area has brought grief to many kayaker and their families and requires expert boat handling skills and planning skills. Hazards to be particularly wary of are the north Jetty, Deadman’s Cove (can close out) and Jetty “A” which sports a nasty tide race, big rock that uncover/cover with the swell and nasty boat eating breakers on the west side. Jetty “A” can be a bad place to be on the Flood, especially close in on the west.

I realize that all of the place I mention require expert skills. You mention in your post that you like to go rock gardening and like to play in tide races. When I say these spots require expert skills, I mean it. These areas require planning and preferably a team, not just a group; since this is a road trip and your team may not be going with you a group will do.

One other thing, all of the spots I mention have good camping relatively nearby.

Good stuff
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