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The best places to kayak in Vancouver

Summer is just around the corner, and for many adventure-seekers, kayaking is one of the best ways to spend a sunny day in Vancouver.

Living on the Canadian west coast, we’re fortunate to have an abundance of places to kayak in Vancouver. There are rivers and streams to islands and coastlines. With so many options, it can be difficult to know where to start.

That’s why I’ve put together this guide to the best places to kayak in Vancouver, BC.

While multi-day kayak trips offer a chance to escape into the wilderness and possibly even spot some whales, kayak day trips from Vancouver are a great way to experience stunning views without the need for an overnight stay.

Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, there are plenty of options to suit all skill levels and interests. Some of the best places to kayak in Vancouver are easily accessible by car, while others can be reached without leaving the city.

From calm lakes and slow-moving rivers to scenic coastlines and hidden coves, there’s something for everyone in this list of the best places to kayak in Vancouver.

These places are also great places to paddleboard in Vancouver BC too!

So, grab your paddle and let’s explore some of the most beautiful and exciting places to kayak in Vancouver, BC.

Best Vancouver kayak tours

desolation sound kayak

Not quite ready to head out on your own, or don’t own a kayak? Check out these awesome kayaking tours in Vancouver BC where you’ll get all the equipment you need as well as a guide to tell you all about the local area and help you spot wildlife.

Snorkel, Kayak, and Seal Adventure: Vancouver Boat Tour

If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable adventure on the water, this half-day eco-adventure that combines kayaking and snorkelling with Vancouver’s resident harbour seals is a must-book.

Departing from Horseshoe Bay with your adventure guide, you’ll head towards the Pam Rocks seal colony in Howe Sound, where you’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the seals.

The tour includes all snorkelling and kayaking equipment, including wet suits, so you don’t need any experience to fully enjoy this unique adventure.

Once you don your snorkelling gear and slip into the water, you’ll be under the watch of a snorkel guide, who will ensure your safety while you swim and interact with the seals.

Kayakers will have the opportunity to float nearby the seals and enjoy playful encounters as the seals may bob along the surface next to the kayaks or swim underneath.

Snacks, hot soup, and cold drinks are also included, ensuring you stay refreshed and energized throughout the adventure.

Previous customers rave about the fantastic experience they had, highlighting the helpful and friendly staff and unique adventure.

The Gulf Islands: Kayak Outing with Seaplane Experience

If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable adventure on the Canadian Pacific Coast, check out this floatplane and kayaking tour of Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands.

The Gulf Islands of BC are home to some of the most diverse in the world and give you the chance to see a huge variety of wildlife such as bald eagles, seals, dolphins, otters, and starfish.

The tour begins with a seaplane flight to Salt Spring Island, where you’ll meet your guide and go on a tour around the coves and beaches. You’ll learn about the ecosystems and enjoy a picnic lunch on a deserted beach.

The tour includes all kayaking equipment, lunch on the beach, travel costs, and a round trip on the seaplane.

The tour is suitable for all skill levels, and no prior kayaking experience is necessary.

Previous guests have raved about the fantastic scenery they were kayaking through, their guide, and the excellent care they received.

The best places to kayak in Vancouver Canada

Before we dive into the top places to kayak in Vancouver, it’s important to keep safety in mind.

While kayaking is a fun and exciting activity, it can also be dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), and make sure you have the necessary safety gear, including a whistle, a paddle float, and a pump.

It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecast and tides before setting out on your kayaking adventure.

With safety in mind, let’s explore some of the best places to kayak in Vancouver.

Read more: the best gifts for kayakers and paddleboarders

1. Kayaking in Deep Cove

deep cove kayak
Coming back from Twin Islands on my paddleboard

When it comes to kayaking in Vancouver, Deep Cove stands out as a favourite among locals and visitors alike.

There are several reasons why Deep Cove is considered one of the best places to kayak in Vancouver.

Firstly, it’s incredibly accessible. Only a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, it’s a great spot for a day trip. You can rent a kayak from Deep Cove Kayak centre or bring your own.

Another reason why Deep Cove is so popular is the stunning scenery.

Read more: Best paddleboarding and kayaking routes in Deep Cove

Paddling around the calm waters of Deep Cove offers serene views of the surrounding mountains and lush forests. And for those looking for a longer adventure, the nearby Indian Arm provides the perfect backdrop for a multi-day kayak and camping trip to Twin Islands.

But the appeal of Deep Cove goes beyond just kayaking. This quaint seaside town is home to a variety of local shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of other things to do in Deep Cove including hiking Quarry Rock or many of the other trails nearby.

Plus, if you’re not sure about renting a kayak on your own, you can book kayaking tours in Deep Cove where you’ll learn kayaking techniques and learn more about the local area.

Top tip from a local: Make sure you book your rental from Deep Cove Kayaks well in advance in the summer months – they book up very quickly, especially at weekends. Also, Deep Cove gets very busy in the summer and parking can be hard, arrive early!

2. Kayaking at Horseshoe Bay

horseshoe bay vancouver bc

Horseshoe Bay is not just a gateway to the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island; it’s also a fantastic place for kayaking in Vancouver.

It’s about a 45-minute paddle from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island, or head over to Whytecliff Park in just 30 minutes.

The kayak trip from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen is not only convenient, but it also offers incredible views of the Georgia Strait.

On a clear day, you might even spot seals or whales in the distance.

While Deep Cove offers some protection from the weather, Horseshoe Bay’s open waters mean you need to keep an eye on the weather conditions before heading out.

But when the conditions are favourable, kayaking from Horseshoe Bay is an unforgettable experience, especially on a sunny summer’s day.

3. Kayaking on Sasamat Lake

sasamat lake vancouver

Located towards the East of Vancouver, Sasamat Lake is a great place to kayak in Vancouver. This picturesque lake is an oasis of calm and tranquillity.

What sets Sasamat Lake apart is its crystal-clear waters and stunning natural scenery. As you paddle around the lake, you’ll be surrounded by lush forests and breathtaking mountain views.

Plus, with a variety of kayak rental options available during the summer months, you can easily explore the lake at your own pace. Or take your own kayak or paddleboard to hit the waters at Sasamat Lake.

And with plenty of nearby hiking trails and picnic areas, you can easily make a day out of your kayaking adventure.

4. English Bay & Kayaking in Stanley Park

best kayaking in vancouver

Would you like to know the local’s favourite spot for kayaking and paddleboarding in Vancouver?

As someone who lives in Vancouver’s West End, you’ll find me launching my paddleboard several times a week in the summer at English Bay.

Not only is English Bay a great place to launch your kayak or paddleboard, but in the summer, there is a place where you can rent kayaks too. You’ll also get stunning views of the city skyline and Stanley Park.

When you’re kayaking in English Bay you can also spot harbour seals which makes it an exciting experience for both seasoned kayakers and beginners.

5. Kayaking on Bowen Island

things to do on bowen island

Bowen Island is one of the best day trips from Vancouver and also one of the best places for kayaking near Vancouver too.

Just a 20 minutes ferry ride away from Vancouver, you can combine a beautiful kayaking trip with gorgeous scenery and a peaceful island vibe.

Bowen Island has everything you need for a memorable kayaking experience. You can rent kayaks right off the dock near the ferry terminal at Bowen Island Sea Kayaking.

They offer two different three-hour tours, including the southern tour that takes you to Apodoca Beach and the northern tour that showcases the beautiful mountains.

You’ll have the chance to spot seals and bald eagles along the way, making for an unforgettable experience.

But it’s not just the guided tours that make Bowen Island a great place to kayak.

You can also explore the coast around the island on your own, paddling along the shoreline and taking in the breathtaking views. And if you have time, be sure to drive over to the west of Bowen Island and explore the Pasley Islands. These islands feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere, yet they’re only about an hour away from downtown Vancouver!

6. Kayaking the Pasley Islands

If you’re looking for the best place for kayaking near Vancouver, you should definitely consider the Pasley Islands.

These islands are easily accessible from the western end of Bowen Island and are an archipelago of 8 islands that make you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from the city.

One of the islands in the Pasley Islands offers a fantastic public beach, which is perfect for a picnic and a swim.

If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one from the Bowen Island kayak rental store. They also offer full-day tours which are a great way to explore the Pasley Islands and take in the stunning scenery.

7. Pitt Lake

pitt lake vancouver

If you’re looking for one of the best places to kayak near Vancouver, look no further than Pitt Lake, located north of Coquitlam and Maple Ridge.

While you can simply kayak up the lake for a leisurely paddle, there’s another awesome option you can try too.

Pack a tent and some drinks and food and get ready for one of the best kayaking trips in Vancouver by crossing Pitt Lake towards Widgeon Slough. From there, it’s just a few hours’ walk to Widgeon Falls, with a campsite along the way where you can drop off your belongings.

While the kayaking portion of the trip is only about 30 minutes long, the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and crystal-clear waters of Widgeon Slough and the fun of camping in the backcountry make this one of the best kayaking trips near Vancouver.

8. Kayaking Granville Island and False Creek kayaking

kayaking in false creek things to do on the water in Vancouver

If you’re looking for the best place to kayak in Vancouver, False Creek should be at the top of your list. Not only does it offer a stunning view of the city, but it’s also conveniently located in the downtown core.

Vancouver Water Adventures offer kayak and paddleboard rentals as do Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre. They’re two very popular places for kayak rental, Vancouver.

For beginners or those who prefer calmer waters, the area around Granville Island is a great option.

Vancouver Water Adventures offers False Creek kayak rentals from Granville Island, while Jericho Beach Kayak Centre provides courses, rentals, and tours from Jericho Beach not too far away.

While there may be more boat traffic around Granville Island, it’s still a fantastic spot for kayaking and provides a different perspective of Vancouver. Plus, the boats are limited in their speed and generally are very respectful of Granville Island kayak traffic.

I’ve kayaked and paddle-boarded down False Creek so many times and I always have fun. There’s so much going on, plenty of seal sightings and seeing the city from the water is just beautiful.

9. The Sunshine Coast & Desolation Sound

desolation sound kayak (17 of 24)

Desolation Sound is arguably one of the best places for kayaking near Vancouver.

I personally spent three days kayaking and camping in Desolation Sound. And even in the worst weather conditions, I had an unforgettable time and was completely wowed by the stunning scenery and incredible wildlife.

Kayaking through the calm waters of Desolation Sound, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking mountains, lush forests, and sparkling waters.

You’ll also have the opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife, including seals, sea lions, dolphins, and even whales.

Camping on the nearby islands provides a truly immersive experience, allowing you to fully disconnect and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

For this trip you’ll need a proper sea kayak and knowledge of reading tide times and how to get back into your kayak should you capsize.

You can read more about planning and booking a trip to the Desolation Sound in my guide.

10. Alouette River, Maple Ridge

kayaking on alouette river
Alouette river kayaking

The Alouette River is a fantastic place to go kayaking near Vancouver.

Located just a short drive east of the city, this river offers a unique and exhilarating kayaking experience. The river is characterized by its clear blue and mostly calm waters with a beautiful mountain backdrop of Golden Ears Provincial Park.

There’s plenty of opportunity to spot wildlife in the area, including eagles, otters, and plenty of other bird species.

In the summer, the water is pleasingly refreshing and I enjoyed swimming alongside my paddleboard while exploring this area.

11. Lower Sunshine Coast

smuggler cove marine park
Smugglers Cove Sunshine Coast

If you’re looking for some great kayaking options near the Sunshine Coast, you’re spoilt for choice.

With just a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and a 25-minute drive to Sechelt, you’ll be in the heart of some of the best paddling destinations in the area.

For those with their own kayak, exploring the Sechelt Inlet is a great option. Alternatively, paddle over to Buccaneer Bay on Thormanby Island for a relaxing day on the lovely beach.

If you don’t have your own kayak, Halfmoon Sea Kayaks offers rentals for a great price. You can head out on the waters at Secret Cove and explore its tranquil lagoons.

Halfmoon Sea Kayaks also offer a range of tours, both day and multi-day, to help you make the most of your kayaking experience.

12. Porteau Cove

porteau cove vancouver kayaking

If you’re looking for a unique and enriching kayaking experience near Vancouver, Porteau Cove is definitely worth considering.

Located about forty minutes up the Sea to Sky highway, Porteau Cove Marine Park is the departure point for a First Nations interpretive paddle on Howe Sound that offers stunning views of Squamish from the water.

Talaysay Tours specialises in cultural tours that take you on a journey of discovery, including the Howe Sound tour which provides insight into the history and legends of the Coast Salish peoples.

Kayaking through Howe Sound with Talaysay Tours provides not only a unique cultural experience but also an opportunity to take in the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.

Final thoughts on the best places to kayak in Vancouver British Columbia

Above you’ll find 12 of the best places for kayaking Vancouver has to offer.

Vancouver has a wealth of kayaking opportunities for both beginners and experienced kayakers. From the calm waters of Granville Island and False Creek to Alouette River and Pitt Lake, there’s something for everyone.

For a unique and enriching experience, consider kayaking with Talaysay Tours in Porteau Cove or exploring the stunning wilderness of Desolation Sound.

And for an adventure with a difference, don’t miss the chance to snorkel and kayak with Vancouver’s resident harbour seals on a half-day eco-adventure.

FAQs on where to kayak in Vancouver

Can you kayak anywhere in Vancouver?

You can kayak pretty much anywhere apart from the eastern side of Lions Gate Bridge in Burrard Inlet.

Can you kayak in Vancouver harbour?

You can kayak in False Creek and the harbour area there, but you cannot kayak on the eastern side of Lions Gate Bridge and the harbour around Coal Harbour and the Convention Centre.

Do you need a license to kayak in Vancouver BC?

You do not need a license to kayak in Vancouver. However, if you want to fish from your kayak you will need a fishing license.

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Hannah

Leave a comment

  1. Emily says:

    Vancouver is such a stunning place! I really hope to visit Canada some day. a caravan and kayak trip around Vancouver sounds perfect.