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On A Boat! Kayaking and Canoeing Options Within Driving Distance

I'm on a boat! Kayaks and canoes count. Head to these paddling spots for some open-water action.

Monterey Bay Kayaks
Here's the thing about otters. They're pretty much the cutest animals on the planet. And if you kayak here you can see them (and seals) in their natural habitat, which means they'll be even cuter. Take your pick of kayaking scenery: beach and vibrant kelp beds (slimy but awesome) or coastal wetlands. If you’re in the mood for a Jennifer Aniston-esque ab workout, their Monterey Bay location rents out stand up paddleboards. (Don’t worry—wetsuits, life jackets and ankle leashes are provided).

Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking Center
This place has been around for almost three decades, boasting a prime Sausalito beachfront location, knowledgeable staff and top-of-the-line rental equipment. Paddle around Pillar Point Harbor to catch lounging sea otters or venture out into the Bay if you're feeling more adventurous. They even offer night-kayaking (Full Moon and Starlight Trips), which is a pretty A+ second date if you ask us (never confine yourself to a kayak with someone on a first date). 

California Canoe & Kayak

A 30-minute ferry ride to Oakland drops you three blocks from their Jack London Square launch in Oakland. The protected waters of the Oakland Estuary are perfect for first-timers, and after a morning paddle (read: calm waters), drop in for lunch at Kincaid’s Bayhouse or Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar. If you plan a Sunday trip, make sure you’re off the water in time to catch the local growers at the Jack London Square Farmers Market.

River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips
Their mission is to cure “NDD” (Nature Deficiency Disorder), which we fully endorse, especially on the Redwood-lined Russian River. Pack a picnic for an eat-and-float, or stop off at one of the sunny beaches with nearby swimming holes along the river. Definitely worth the trek.

Johnson’s Beach & Resort
More inclined to bask than paddle? Stake out a sunny spot at Johnson’s beach in Guerneville. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are available for rent (hourly or daily), but so are inner tubes, umbrellas and beach chairs. It's good old-fashioned summertime here: Their bargain snack bar stocks cold beer, solid cheeseburgers, and a top-notch assortment of frozen candy bars.

Burke's Canoes
Burke's Canoes on the Russian River has over 300 aluminum canoes (which fit two adults and two children). Paddle the beautiful and mostly mellow Russian river for 10 miles and the shuttle will be back to pick you up. For a peaceful trip, get there early and hope to see a great blue heron doing its thing over the still water. Mid-day and afternoon trips are perfect for city-escaping groups - paddle two strokes, drink a beer. Float. Good.