What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kayaking holidays? Action-packed adventure holidays for thrill-seeking sports enthusiasts? Scores of excitable gap-year travellers clad in brightly coloured ponchos, tearing down white water rapids fearlessly? Novice holidaymakers taking on wild rivers with nervous smiles, the wind whipping their hair and water in their face, not quite sure yet if they’re exhilarated or terrified?
You’d be right, of course. Yet kayaking is so much more than the stereotypical image of the water-sport for the bold and brave, or an in-resort day trip to tick off. Kayaking holidays have come of age and can offer new, unparalleled and seriously impressive ways to see the world. Not to mention being suitable for all types of travellers.
Whether you’d like to be taken quite literally off the beaten track to explore unchartered territory or are simply looking to kick back with some much-needed rest and relaxation, we’ve rounded up ten of the world’s most desirable kayaking destinations. See the world from a different perspective …
St. Pete/Clearwater – Florida, US
The unique beach town of St. Pete/Clearwater is a dreamy sun-drenched paradise, renowned for its seriously laid-back beach vibe, friendly bohemian communities and impressive natural waterways. Whether your thing is a relaxed coastal kayak along the azure shores of St. Pete beach or a super-charged journey through the thick mangrove tunnels of Caladesi Island, there are options for everyone.
For something extra special, try a twilight Pass-A-Grille paddle. Watch the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico, as you coast along the protected waters of this historic seaside town. Family friendly, Pass-A-Grille’s paradise accolade is well earned. If you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s the perfect location to enjoy some quintessentially American food and drinks afterwards too.
Dubrovnik – Croatia
Dubrovnik has been a top-pick destination in recent years thanks to a pretty famous TV series. Sea kayaking the Adriatic is the perfect way to explore 2000 years of the region’s culture and history.
Take in the old town from your start-off point at Pile Gate, the perfect viewing spot for the imposing Fort Lovrijenac. Sail past the City Walls and Lokrum, the Cursed Island, before spending some time at the hidden caves of Betina, an excellent spot for snorkelling and enjoying marine life. As you can only reach this spot from the seaside, you’ll have a private, unspoiled view of the City Walls from a brand new perspective.
Halong Bay – Vietnam
Kayaking in Halong Bay is an experience unlike any other. The calm waters of the region make this the perfect choice for all skill levels, and a popular option for couples and groups of friends. Take in the unmatchable beauty of the 1,600 islands that make up this UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Gulf of Tonkin, and immerse yourself in some of the friendliest communities in the world.
You’ll explore the road – and waters – less taken. Discover hidden sea caves and secret tunnels, paddle past unspoilt beaches and sail through scenic waterways, floating markets and villages. You’ll be surprised at just how welcoming the locals are, as you’re welcomed into local homes for a meal, refreshment and conversation. The language barrier only adds to this memorable and truly authentic experience.
Bordeaux – France
For a family-friendly holiday that’s the perfect blend of gentle activity and well-earned R&R, a kayaking holiday along the Dordogne ticks all the boxes. This wide river lends itself to a serene trip, and you’ll literally go with the flow of the river along this unchallenging route, making it an ideal choice for all fitness levels.
Recharge your batteries as you sail past picturesque villages, historic sites, imposing chateaux and rose gold limestone cliffs. Peppered with boutique hotels, friendly locals and the best wineries in the world, take a break in-between kayaking at some of the region’s finest vineyards. When you’re a bit tired of your kayak, swap it for a bike ride and an interesting change of pace.
Glacier Bay – Alaska, US
Set against a dramatic backdrop of imposing glaciers and towering mountain peaks, reach the parts of Glacier Bay National Park that the arctic cruises can’t. Immerse yourself in the natural culture and history of the bay, and see first-hand how retreating ice is ever-changing the landscape, unveiling land that’s been covered for thousands of years.
Kayaking in Alaska is a lesson in serenity. It’s easy to feel small in this arctic wilderness but paddling these waters and seeing first hand some of the world’s most natural wonders is truly bucket list material. It goes without saying that good respiratory function is a must.
St. Ives – Cornwall, UK
On a clear summer’s day, it would be easy to mistake the coastal beauty of St. Ives for a stunning Caribbean island. With soft white sands, shallow shores and sharp blue waters, this is a perfect area to explore by kayak. You may be surprised to stumble across dolphins and seals amongst other marine life.
If you’re feeling brave, try a spot of snorkelling. The shallow waters mean the temperatures aren’t too ‘British’ (aka cold), and the clear blue waters provide perfect visibility for viewing aquatic life. If that’s not your thing, stand up paddle boards are available along the coastline, or kick back and relax with a lazy day at the beach. Just add sunshine.
Okavango Delta – Botswana
This is a true wilderness experience and a ‘must-do-before-you-die’ trip. What can be more awe-inspiring than safari by kayak, African sunsets as you paddle the Okavango Delta and true immersion in the most awesome nature and wildlife there is on the planet?
Not for the faint-hearted, a good level of personal fitness is necessary. As part of a guided tour, you’re likely to eat together, camp together, and take part in planned walks, sunset barbeques and big game spotting. Leisurely stops at some of the region’s finest wineries add to this once a lifetime experience.
Granada – Spain
With a unique geography, Granada offers snow-capped mountains, tropical coastlines and fertile plains, which all benefit from Spain’s ever warm, sun-drenched climate. There are kayaking options for all proficiencies in the region. Choose from sailing the lakes of Sierra de Huetor Natural Park or kayaking the coastline of Costa Tropical.
You’ll want to take some time for photographs at the protected area of Maro, and kayak through the region’s flora and fauna. The rivers and lakes of Castril and Sierras de Cazorla Natural Park also aren’t to be missed, providing the perfect paddling waters, as well as the ideal spot to cool down with a dip.
Lake Taupō – New Zealand
Kayaking is one of the most popular ways for visitors to Taupō to experience the best of the region and immerse themselves in the myth and legend of Māori culture.
Sail the Waikato Rivers and enjoy true stillness and tranquillity. Or explore Māori history as you kayak across Rangatira Point to view the iconic rock carvings at Mine Bay. These impressive carvings stand at over fourteen metres high, and, as they’re only accessible by water, you’ll get so much closer by kayak than you ever could by boat.
After a good dose of culture, make sure you visit Otumuheke Stream in Spa Park for a dip in the warm natural springs for a super-relaxing end to your holiday.
Beskid Mountains – Poland
Poland is renowned for its national parks and long and meandering rivers, but it also offers some of the most intense whitewater kayaking experiences you can find. Thunder down mountain rivers like the great Białka, famously described by the Polish Tourist Board as “horrifyingly cold, rushing, foamy and strewn with granite rock.” This kayaking experience isn’t for the faint-hearted, but also promises a wet-and-wild adventure that’s just perfect for thrill-seekers.
One of many action-packed choices in the region, it’s worth noting that a certain level of fitness and experience is required for these expert-level kayaking experiences. For something a little bit different, try the Farny Weir in Bydgoszcz – a more accessible whitewater rafting track located in the heart of the city centre.
Ready to book your kayaking holiday?
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