Where should we go for a week long kayaking trip this summer?
January 25, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Where should my dad and I, both beginner kayakers, go for an extended kayaking vacation?

Hi! My dad (who is about 60) and I want to go on a week-long kayaking trip this summer. We did a day trip recently, and loved it. We've both only been in kayaks a few times, so we're definitely beginners.

Can you recommend somewhere in the US (or perhaps Caribbean) to go for an extended trip? It would have to be guided/organized and not crazy strenuous. My dad is not a big fan of camping, either, so something that is slightly more luxurious (I know, I know) would be preferred.

Bonus points if there are any specific companies you can recommend!

posted by caoimhe to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Are you talking about flat water / sea kayaking or whitewater?
posted by bluedaisy at 8:17 AM on January 25, 2012

Southeast Alaska has wonderful kayaking- sea life that you wouldn't believe etc. I have done specatcular week-long trips out of Gustavus in the past coordinated by Spirit Walker Expeditions before and week-long trips from Juneau with, I think, Alaska Discovery? There was pretty comfortable camping (the guides did all the cooking etc.) but in that part of the world there's no way to not be camping on a trip like that. Definitely fits in trip-of-a-lifetime categories, however, even though you don't enjoy Caribbean weather.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:21 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Alaska. There are tons of guided tours available for all skill levels. And it's bleedin' gorgeous.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:25 AM on January 25, 2012

The San Juan islands in Washington State are also really nice - I did a two-day tour there last summer and would have liked to do more. That was camping, but pretty comfortable camping.

If you don't want to camp, try searching for "inn-to-inn" kayaking - I know there are companies that offer those sorts of tours in Maine.
posted by mskyle at 8:54 AM on January 25, 2012

I have taken several trips through Wilderness Inquiry - one of which was a week-long kayak trip.

I really like WI's philosophy about making wilderness exploration available to all, regardless of ability. It's not a cushy trip by any means - we stayed in tents, we helped out around the campsite, we actually did kayak for 4-5 hours a day. We had 3 staff on our trip: two staff guides and one guide-in-training (who was a trained nurse). On the participant side, we had one woman in her 60's who was recovering from open heart surgery, one woman in her 20's who had muscular dystrophy, and the other eight of us participants ran the gamut of experience and ability: from a man who had recently trekked to the Everest base camp (a totally normal thing for him, the way he talked!), to an overweight woman who didn't know boo about kayaking (that was me).

Somehow they made the trip great for all of us. Those who were more able to paddle did more paddling. Those who preferred to chill at the campsite chilled at the campsite, and those who wanted to go hiking went hiking. The guides treated us all with respect and knew what they were doing (working with people of varying abilities, etc.). It was awesome on so many levels.

Anyway, they have trips to Prince William Sound in Alaska, the Slate Islands in Ontario, Lake Powell in Utah, the San Juan Islands in Washington, several different lengthed trips to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior (this is the one I went on - the 5-day trip), a Yellowstone Backcountry trip, and if you're looking to escape cold weather with a trip to the Caribbean, there's a Bahamas trip. Each of these trips have different lodging options...you'd have to dig through them a bit to see which are camping based and which are lodge based.

I would highly recommend Wilderness Inquiry, without reservation. I'm going on one of their trips this year myself and I cannot wait!!
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:05 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The San Juans are wonderful. There is also The Cascadia Marine Trail.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:34 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "midcoast" region of Maine might be a great place for this - short kayaks between pretty coastal towns with B+Bs. I don't have any particular tour company to recommend, though.

Places to start looking:
Maine Island Trail is a 300+ mile sea trail for kayaking among the islands all along the coast.
Maine Kayak Inn to Inn tours is one operator that offers multi-day coastal kayak trips where you stay at B-and-Bs -- but I don't have personal experience with them.
NYT article describing one 3-day trip (with camping) along the trail. They list several companies.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:01 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am not a camper, and had never actually slept in a tent. (Passed out, yes. Tossed in misery, yes. But slept, no.)

Last summer I spent five days kayaking in the Grand Tetons, and camping in (amazingly beautiful) spots each night. I (and the whole group) were comfortable, well-fed, and (surprise!) I actually slept. Can't recommend this trip, or the staff, highly enough. The company is OARS. I was paid to write the story, but I would honestly spend my own money to do this again.
posted by cyndigo at 10:28 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

San Juan Islands in Washington / Gulf Islands in British Columbia. Generally speaking, the seas are calm, and there are a lot of B&Bs and resorts to stay at. It's also very warm in the summer, there are great view of the Cascades, the Olympic Mountains, and the Coast Mountains. There are also killer whales, seals, sea lions, all sorts of cool stuff. The area is easiest to get to from Victoria BC's airport.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2012

I took two lovely canoe trips in Maine many years ago - one was a three-day trip on the Saco river , probably through these folks but I don't know for certain.

The other was a 4 or 5 night trek up in Jackman. It was probably the bow trip (I remember that portage. It was not fun - but then again, kayaks are a good deal lighter and less cumbersome than fiberglass canoes), but again, I don't know for certain. Both were absolutely beautiful and provided many lasting, fond memories.

Not too long ago I read a really nice photo essay about kayaking around the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland; there are so many little inlets and nooks and crannies that you could take weeks to navigate the entire circumference of the bay if you wanted to. Lots of pristine wetlands.
posted by usonian at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, everyone thanks so much!

As for sea kayaking v. lake, we've done sea, but we're up for anything.
posted by caoimhe at 3:56 PM on January 25, 2012

If you're somewhere near the middle of the US or Canada, I'd recommend the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. (Park Map PDF)

The Apostle Islands are a group of islands that are not overcrowded, relatively sheltered (so small waves) and for the most part within a couple miles of each other. Each island is unique and there are plenty of neat lighthouses, trails, and sea caves to visit. The sea caves are especially cool to visit in kayak.

Most of the islands have primitive camping, but if you're not interested in camping you could certainly stay at an area B&B and do a variety of day trips.
posted by John Frum at 4:02 PM on January 25, 2012

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