There aren’t many cities where one can go from an afternoon of traffic to a paddle with a mountain view. Here’s how to score some self-propelled boating:
• Agua Verde Paddle Club is conveniently nestled below a great taco destination, Agua Verde Cafe (just one of many Seattle restaurants you can boat to). Located on Portage Bay between Lakes Union and Washington, the boat house has canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards available by the hour. If lines get long, head ’round the lake to the Northwest Outdoor Center on Westlake to rent a kayak and get schooled in a whitewater or sea kayaking class.
• There’s no shame in needing a guide, especially when the leader shows off amazing views of the sun sliding behind the Olympics during the Alki Kyak Tours sunset tour. Trips depart nightly from Seacrest Boathouse, next to where the water taxi hits West Seattle; look for a special price on Tuesdays.
• Keep it simple with by-the-hour rentals (just $8.50 on weekdays, $5 for students) at the UW Waterfront Activities Center on Lake Washington. Even calmer is Green Lake Boat Rentals, a good location for first-time navigators who want to stay in protected waters. Try paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, and even do-it-yourself yoga on a paddle board, then hit the attached coffee house to warm up after capsizing.
• Outside Seattle, explore the Stehekin Valley at the head of Lake Chelan, close to the North Cascades National Park. The Stehekin Adventure Company leads guided kayak trips up the lake’s western shore to an old hotel site and past native pictographs. For the best chance at seeing wildlife—like whales—up close, try an Elakah Expeditions tour on Lummi Island. Orcas are most commonly seen in late spring, but always more likely are seals, 700-foot cliffs, and, on the full day tour, a gourmet lunch sourced from local growers.
Kayaking sound too tiresome? Check out our other boating ideas for the summer.