25 Places to Paddle Across the Country
The days are getting longer, the air is getting warmer, and your days on the slopes are getting numbered. So what should a skier do in the off season? The answer is – embrace the long days, the warm weather, and grab a kayak or paddle board.
Not only do stand up paddle boarding and kayaking offer an amazing work out, but you get to do it outside – on the water – under the sun.
Here’s a list of the best places to paddle from California to the Keys:
Redondo Beach, CA
Paddle board with the whales in Redondo Beach, CA. Redondo is home to the second largest creature in the world, the Fin Whale. And if you’re lucky you’ll spot one of these enormous mammals while cruising on your SUP.
Be sure to keep your distance though, and enjoy the rush that comes with sharing the water with these amazing animals.
La Jolla, CA
If you love wildlife, the La Jolla Cove Marine Sanctuary in La Jolla, CA is a top spot for stand up paddle boarding. La Jolla Cove is sandwiched between sandstone cliffs, keeping it completely sheltered from the surf for ideal flat water paddling.
If you choose to take the trip to La Jolla Cove you’re sure to see sea lions hanging out on the rocks catching some sun, or swimming around underneath you. Also expect to see marine life like dolphins, yellowtail, rays and even leopard sharks!
Lake Tahoe, NV
I know, I know Lake Tahoe is in both Nevada and California, but the best place to paddle on this enormous clear blue lake is Northern Nevada. The water itself is reason enough to come here, and did I mention the scenic views?
There are snow covered mountains surrounding this pristine paddling oasis everywhere you look. If beauty and nature are something you’re seeking, you have to paddle Lake Tahoe.
Lake McDonald, MT
Grab your board and head to this opaque turquoise wonder located in Glacier National Park. The floor of Lake McDonald is covered with colored pebbles, and surrounded by glaciers as far as the eye can see.
This gorgeous paddle destination is best in the early morning or late evening. And its mellow beaches and calm waters make it the perfect place for your Montana SUP adventure.
Grand Lake, CO
Fed by the headwaters of the Colorado River, Grand Lake is Colorado’s deepest and most beautiful lake. Surrounded by mountains, Grand Lake provides the perfect backdrop for a day of paddling and plenty of wildlife to see.
Keep in mind Grand Lake offers up an abundance of fish, including rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, mackinaw and kokanee salmon – so don’t forget your rod at home, because you’re sure to make a catch!
If you’re in Texas, paddle boarding the Galveston Island State Park Trails is a must. Most of the trails at Galveston are protected by breakwater, making them ideal for stand up paddle boarding.
These trails range anywhere from 2.5 miles to about 5 miles in length, so there is sure to be something for every paddler to enjoy. For a more in-depth look at the trials surrounding Galveston Island State Park, take a look at the Paddling Trail Map.
Padre Islands, TX
Located between the mainland of South Texas and Padre Island, Laguna Madre Bay is an unspoiled gem. Known as one of six hypersaline (saltier than the ocean) lagoons in the world – this beautiful watering hole is one of the most overlooked destinations in the country.
Explore and ride the waves at Laguna Madre Bay while enjoying the perfect weather found in the gulf.
If you’re looking for a unique paddling experience, visiting the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior should be added to your bucket list.
Paddle through caves and get an up close look at the stunning rock formations found here while taking in the South Shore of Lake Superior, where you’re sure to find sandy beaches, gorgeous lighthouses, and an abundance of shipwrecks and forests.
Glen Arbor, MI
Located on the West Coast of Michigan, Crystal River in Glen Arbor is a great place to paddle. This long meandering waterway flows from Glen Lake through sections of Michigan’s enormous Sleeping Bear Dunes, offering one of the most gorgeous landscapes for stand up paddle boarding.
If a day trip is what you’re looking for, Crystal River is the place. Start off by having brunch at one of Glen Arbors many restaurants before making your way down this shallow, sandy river featuring tons of native wildlife and beautiful pines.
Yeah – I know, this is something you weren’t expecting, but Detroit actually has a maze of canals located on the Eastside that show off some of the city’s best kept secrets.
Places like Harbor Island, Klenk Island, Fox Creek and the Historic Fisher Mansion can be seen along the canals. Known as the “Venice of Detroit” or the “Canal District”, Detroit’s Creekside Neighborhood has a rich history and an important significance to the Detroit we know today.
Grab your board, head for the Hudson River, and be sure to take in everything the city has to offer. From views of the Brooklyn Bridge, to the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Skyline and everything in-between – there are opportunities for sight-seeing everywhere you look.
If you’re a more experienced paddler looking for a challenge, the city also offers Croton Point Park, or Rockaway Beach in Queens.
Acadia National Park, ME
Acadia National Park in Maine gives you the perfect opportunity to paddle around the rugged Atlantic coastline of Mount Desert Island. Take in the spectacular views of myriad islands, small coves and staggering mountains while peacefully paddling in this East coast oasis.
If the ocean isn’t your thing, there are plenty of inland lakes at Arcadia so you can enjoy pristine freshwater lakes surrounded by green fields and luscious pine trees.
Squam Lake, NH
Squam Lake just screams serenity the moment you place your paddleboard in the water. This glassy New England Lake allows you to paddle your way to 30 different islands, and is the second-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire.
This inland lake is a nesting place for such wildlife as common loons, but keep an eye out for Bald Eagles and great blue herons as they are also known to make an appearance from time to time.
There is nothing quite like Lake Willoughby in Vermont. This emerald-green lake sits between Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor, and is known for its clear, beautiful water and astounding depths. Carved by the glaciers, Willoughby can exceed 300 feet in some spots and water temperatures can remain cold even into the summer months.
Wild life is also abundant here, Peregrine falcons nest along the sheer cliffs that surround the lake. And if you happen to be in the right place at the right time you’ll get to witness one of them catch a fish!
Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, NC
Known as “The Loop” – this is one of the go-to places to paddle if you’re headed to North Carolina. The 3.5 mile course allows you to paddle around Harbor Island, located in the town of Wrightsville Beach.
Take in views like the main drawbridge that connects Harbor Island to Beach Island and keep in mind, if the weather is looking hairy, or you’re short on time The Loop is the perfect destination for a fast, no-frills, paddle session.
Mason’s Inlet, NC
Sitting smack dab in the middle of Wrightsville Beach and Figure 8 Island, Mason’s Inlet is a premier
paddle destination if you’re looking to catch a few waves. The sandbars cause waves to break out far from shore, so you get a nice long ride in.
Surfers aren’t so keen on paddling that far out (so you’ll never have to worry about being bombarded with crowds), but if you’re on a SUP you’ll get there in a flash!
Kiawah Island, SC
If you’re looking for adventure, this off the beaten path paddle destination is full of river channels. Located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, Kiawah Island is home to an abundance of wildlife and is a great place to connect with nature and peacefully paddle through Low Country estuaries.
A sunset paddle around Kiawah is just what the doctor ordered, offering cotton candy views and the soft sounds of the tide rolling in.
Hilton Head Island, SC
Accessible by both the public boat ramp off Marshland Rd. on the North End of the island, and the Cross Island Public Boat Ramp on the South End – Broad Creek is the ideal place to paddle when visiting the Low Country.
At high tide you’ll find tons of meandering routes, making it nearly impossible to take the same one twice. And at low tide, watch your footing because hundreds of oyster beds are located throughout Broad Creek. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for wild life, as you’ll see plenty of dolphins playing in this intercoastal waterway – if you’re lucky you might even catch them strand feeding.
St. Simons Island, GA
Surrounded by rivers, inlets and the Atlantic Ocean, St. Simons Island is a paddling mecca located in-between Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL.
Paddle out and enjoy offshore sandbars, then cruise the waves back to the shore, or slowly paddle through marsh inlets between the island and the mainland. St. Simons Island is a barrier island, so you’ll never be lacking in nature or wildlife to fawn over.
Tybee Island and Little Tybee Island, GA
Just 25 minutes from Savannah, Tybee Island offers great paddling on the Atlantic coast. It’s not lacking in the wildlife department either, you’ll find yourself watching pelicans dive for mullet or searching for a loggerhead turtle nest.
And if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path experience head on down to the South End of Tybee Island, and take a short paddle across the Black River to uninhabited Little Tybee Island where you’ll find miles of untouched beaches. If flat water paddling is more your speed, follow the dolphins through the tidal creeks and marsh eddies.
Look at that. We’ve finally made it all the way to Florida! Located in Northwest Florida, Destin’s turquoise and blue waters make it the ideal destination for paddle boarding.
Intercoastal canals and Choctawhatchee Bay allow paddlers to explore Destin by way of water. If you’re a beginner, Destin is the perfect location to hop on a board due to its smooth and clear waters, you’ll also have the opportunity to encounter plenty of marine life as you paddle.
St Petersburg, FL
With the bay on one side, and the gulf on the other, St. Petersburg has earned itself a spot as a top paddling destination in Florida. With the perfect combination of weather, water and marine life it’s no wonder this is such an appealing destination.
And not just in the summer – you can paddle St. Petersburg year round! Whether you’re searching for the perfect eco tour or just soaking up the sun and the scenery, this fabulous paddle spot in Florida is worth checking out.
Miami Beach, FL
Whether you’re admiring the beauty of Miami Beach’s crystal clear waters from your board, or traveling into Biscayne Bay to check out the beauty if the Vizcaya Museum – this unique location has something for every paddler to enjoy.
We recommend trying to head out around sunset to view the sky’s captivating colors and the shimmering city skyline that can only be seen at dusk.
Key West, FL
At the bottom of Key West is Fort Taylor. One of the most pristine places to enjoy a stand up paddleboard adventure. This unique state park offers the best beaches for launching your board and going for a cruise.
With mild waves, clear blue waters, and unbeatable views – this is one of Florida’s best hidden gems. Make sure you check out everything Fort Taylor State Park has to offer!
Bahia Honda State Park, FL
Known as one of the most remote places in all of Florida, and the United States – Bahia Honda State Park is actually a lush island in Big Pine Key, FL. But it’s unique beauty and peaceful location make Bahia Honda a dream come true for paddlers.
Gentile waterways, calm tides and sleeping beauty turquoise blue water are just a few of the things that make Bahia Honda so special. The untouched waterways of Bahia Honda State Park make the perfect home for an abundance of marine and wildlife, like Shorebirds and Wading Birds that are commonly found here.
Now that you know my favorite paddle destinations to visit in the ski off season, I’d love to hear yours! What is your favorite place to SUP? Where would you really like to visit? Comment below to share your favorite places to paddle!