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Kayaking Destinations Near Seattle

Kayaking is a great activity that keeps you in shape, healthy, and best of all, allows you to enjoy the fresh breeze on the water.

By: Guest Contributor | May 2020

Lake Washington Lake Washington photo by Derek Lenze

Since summer is coming up quickly, I have listed the best places to Kayak around Seattle, Washington that are all within an hour of the main city.

Seattle offers many different paddling routes that you can explore. Typically, if you want to see more of nature you will have to go further out of the city to locations like Deception Pass and Lopez Island of the San Juan Islands. The heart of Seattle provides prime paddling destinations where you can see the Space Needle and the surrounding mountains such as Mt. Rainier and the Olympic mountains.

The recommendations below feature options that you can paddle yourself, rent, or go on a tour.

Lake Washington

(Personal recommendation: Near Madrona and Central District)

Located within 15 minutes from downtown Seattle, Lake Washington is a great place to paddle on a nice sunny afternoon. Along the shore of the Madrona and Leschi area is an excellent place to start as you pass beautiful houses and nice neighborhoods along the side of the lake. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can paddle down to Lacey V. Murrow Bridge and stop at different shops that are found along Lake Washington Boulevard. Other highlights you can see along the way include Mercer Island and Seward Park.

Lopez Island San Juan Islands

If you are an experienced paddler or you just want to take a day tour in nature, then Lopez Island is a great destination. Lopez Island Sea Kayaks has several different trips available, ranging from an hour to a two-hour excursion at Fisherman Bay, to a two-or-more-day's excursion around Shaw Island and everything in-between. On the longer routes, you can find a variety of beaches where you can explore potential wildlife that includes seals, sea lions, and even orcas from time to time. To truly appreciate the beauty of the San Jan islands I recommend going on the longer kayaking tours.

Deception Pass

Deception Pass is one of my favorite places to kayak in Washington State. Located just a few miles East of Lopez Island, Deception Pass features an iconic bridge and provincial park to camp at if you are out of town. There are several places I recommend kayaking around Deception Pass. For a small calm lake paddle, Cranberry Lake on the Deception Pass Campgrounds is recommended. If you want the potential to see a plenty of wildlife then taking your kayak to Bowman Bay and Rosario Head would be a great idea. Last time I was there I saw many seals bobbing their heads in and around the kayaks and a family of river otters rolling around on the beach of the Bowman Bay boat launch. Another cool thing to do is to paddle around North West island which is a bit away from Rosario Head. There you can see a variety of different sea birds and herons hanging around.

Deception Pass, Washington State
Deception Pass, Washington State photo by Derek Lenze

Owen Beach, Point Defiance

Located just south of Seattle at the tip of Tacoma, Owen Beach features everything you need for a day of fun with the family. It represents the perfect blend of city life and the great outdoors. For recreational paddlers or people who do not own a kayak, there are kayak rentals at the Point Defiance Marina as well as classes and day excursions with touring kayaks. For the more experienced paddlers and those that have touring kayaks available, then Point Defiance is the place to go. Afterward, you can pop into the Woodland Zoo and see some critters that are native to Seattle and the surrounding area.

Lake Union, Seattle

If you are looking for something to do during the day while in the city then head to lake Union Park and paddle around. There you can rent both kayaks and paddle boards to get a great view of the marina as you paddle around. Some of the highlights at Lake Union include other paddlers, duck boats, yachts, and even seaplanes landing around you. Additional things to see while kayaking is Gas Works Park, Fishermen's Terminal and the Ship Canal. You could also combine this kayaking destination with Ballard if you wanted to spend the entire day in that area.


Ballard is located north of downtown Seattle and offers great tours near the doorsteps of the downtown area. Some highlights include the Ballard Locks tour provided by Ballard Kayak & Paddleboard Tours that allows you to actually paddle inside the popular Ballard Locks which is like a water elevator of sorts. It’s one thing to see it on land but it is quite another to paddle right on through! Other available tours include the Sound Tour, more of a nature-based tour), and the Discovery Point Kayak tour that gives you great views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympic mountains.

These are some of the top kayaking destinations that come to my mind when you mention Seattle. Whether you are paddling with an adventure group or paddling with friends, remember to be safe!

About Derek Lenze, Contributing Author

Derek is a keen water sports enthusiast with over 20 years of experience in kayaking, canoeing, and more recently paddle boarding. He is from Vancouver B.C. who frequents Washington state as his time allows. When he is not paddling or enjoying the great outdoors he can be found sharing his wealth of information on his blog Floating Authority.

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