Kayak launch at Sail Sand Point, Seattle [North Shore Recreation Area/Magnuson Park/Pontiac Bay/Lake Washington]
Looking for a great place to launch a kayak, SUP (stand up paddleboard), or canoe on Lake Washington? Cruise over to Magnuson Park and head north to the North Shore Recreation Area (a.k.a. Sail Sand Point). With tons of free parking, this free launch site on Pontiac Bay is perfect for trips in the north section of the lake. Journey across the lake (northeast) to St. Edward Park or south toward Leschi and beyond. I always knew this launch was here but hadn't taken any pictures of it until recently.
When you get there you'll notice all of the Sail Sand Point boats dry docked near the parking lot and a few of their office buildings near the launch. Sail Sand Point is a non-profit community boating group that offers all kinds of sailing lessons & more. You'll see a lot of member boats in storage here and depending on the time of year, there'll be plenty of Sail Sand Point members hanging about the place. Don't be shy when you are there with your boat, even if you're a new paddler. Always feel free to ask questions and ask for help if you need it - these people are fellow water-loving-folk and from the community, just like you. Hey, they might even invite you to the occasional onsite BBQ! Interested in joining Sail Sand Point? Check out more info here.
We leave you with two sight-seeing possibilities right next-door to this launch - a few pics below of the boat graveyard along the trail behind the Sail Sand Point office & another of the gi-normous Arena sports complex next door. The graveyard? It's just awesome. The gi-normous Arena sports complex? It's important to us because of the rumored bar inside…perhaps a light beverage after a long day of paddling on the lake?
~Paul & Amber ETC
Looking to paddle in Seattle? Everyone's Travel Club is here for you and we've put together a quick Seattle paddling top ten! Whether you plan to stand up paddle board, canoe, or kayak, these destinations are sure to please. Need more info? All of the linked words in the paragraphs below take you directly to an ETC post or video related to the destination. Enjoy!
If you have only a few days to paddle in Seattle, the most bang for your buck is exploring the Washington Park Arboretum near Seattle's University District (go Huskies!). In this still-water wildlife refuge you'll paddle through narrow, peaceful waterways, trees overhead, and feel like you're in the jungle. It's the urban Everglades. Need a boat? Rent it from the UW WAC boat house nearby.
2. Shilshole Bay/Golden Gardens
A golden sunset at Shilshole Marina
A Shilshole Bay paddle surrounds you with some of the best parts of Seattle - mountains, beach, the Puget Sound, sailboats, sea-life, and a great neighborhood nearby. Golden Gardens is the place to be for beach goers once the sun finally comes out in the summer. Sailboats fill the docks at Shilshole Marina. After a paddle exploring sea-life close-up at low tide, head into the nearby hood (called Ballard) for food, shopping, concerts, and sight-seeing. Use the public parking and boat ramp at the North end of the marina to launch. Check the tides/weather before you go and watch out for boat traffic. Make sure to spy dead Leif and the sea serpent chillin' on the breakwater!
3. Lake Union
Gasworks Park on Lake Union
Tour some Sleepless in Seattle houseboats and enjoy great city views. Pull your boat up on the dock at Ivar's Seafood house for some local seafood. Watch seaplanes land and take off, heading to the San Juan Islands and beyond. Parking can be tricky at the south end of the lake, although there is a great launch site. We prefer the sunnyside boat ramp on the north end. Need a boat? Aqua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club is the place to rent kayaks (and eat burritos) in this area.
4. Lake Washington, North
Landing across the pond at St Edward Park
Nothing beats the feel of paddling on Lake Washington. After trips in the saltwater, the no-tides freshwater here is always a welcoming change. On the north end of the lake, Matthews Beach Park is a great place to launch with Sand Point to the south and St. Edward Park across the lake to the East. Like we said, no tides to worry about here, just watch out for wind & boat traffic and bring your bathing suit in the summer.
5. Lake Washington, South
Paddling in Andrews Bay
Our favorite place to paddle and launch in the south is Andrews Bay, right next to Seward Park. A favorite anchorage for sailboats overnighting on the lake, Andrews Bay is the perfect launch site with concrete steps right down to the water. From there, paddle around the sizable old growth forest park peninsula that is Seward Park. When you get to the other side to take out - you're pretty much back where you started!
6. Alki Beach/West Seattle
A view towards Alki & downtown from the lighthouse
Talk about city views. Launch near Salty's seafood restaurant (maybe hit their great happy hour first). Paddling north from there, turn the corner and cruise the Southern California- like Alki Beach. Restaurants, boat rental places, and shopping line the street, often crowded with skateboarders, beach goers, and rollerbladers. For a longer paddle, keep going and you'll pass the Alki Point lighthouse and eventually hit the heavily wooded Lincoln Park to the south. Watch the tides/weather and don't let the summer vibe cloud common sense - the water you're paddling in is chilly all year!
7. The Ship Canal - Fremont/U-District
Checking out house boats, paddling to the Montlake Cut
The Lake Washington ship canal connects the freshwater lakes of Lake Washington and Lake Union to the saltwater Puget Sound. The Fremont/U District portion takes you through the historic Montlake Cut, the finish-line for the nationally known Husky crew teams. It also gives you access to the Arboretum (to the east), Ivar's Seafood restaurant, downtown views on Lake Union, Gasworks Park on the north end of the lake, and you're close to the self- proclaimed "Center of the Universe" - the quirky village-like neighborhood of Fremont. A good launch site for a full-day paddle is the 14th Ave boat ramp in Ballard, kinda between the Ballard Fred Meyer and Trader Joe's. Park for free, launch, and head east.
8. The Ship Canal - Ballard/Fishermen's Terminal
Kayaks resting on the public dock while we eat breakfast nearby!
Launching from the 14th Ave. boat ramp and heading west takes you towards the Fishermen's Terminal and the Ballard Locks. Paddle next to giants at the Terminal - some of the fishing boats and their crews here are the stars of the popular television show "Deadliest Catch". Pull over at the public dock on the west end of the marina and enjoy breakfast at the popular Bay Cafe. Leave the Terminal heading west a little more and you'll get a view of boats leaving and entering the freshwater through the Ballard Locks. Don't get too close, it's a busy place for boats of all sizes. Want to kayak to a spa? Try the "Habitude launch site" nearby.
9. Discovery Park
The Beach at Discovery Park
The largest city park in Seattle also happens to be surrounded by water. If you are lucky enough to score a parking spot close to the West Point lighthouse, you can launch from there. Carrying an inflatable? Hike through the woods to multiple beaches. A better idea? Launch from the Point Shilshole "surfer beach" - across the water on the Ballard side, just south of the Shilshole Marina and across from Paseo (great Caribbean sandwiches).
Journey to Seattle's central park to soak up the rays (in the summer at least!) and paddle a few laps around Greenlake. Parking, equipment rental in the summer, and possible launch sites are on almost all sides of the lake. Look for some more secluded spots on the west side of the lake where there is also a nice kayak dock at the rowing center (and parking close to launch).
Looking for a nice paddle to get your heart-rate up, burn some calories, test your mind? Here's one for you - a paddle in the heart of Seattle WA, from Madrona Park to Luther Burbank Park on the Northern tip of Mercer Island. This Lake Washington trip took us about 2 hours roundtrip, involved some more open water paddling, and gave us great water views of the Northwest.
It all starts with some free street parking and a little bit of a rogue put-in (map below for location).
You see, for some strange reason, Seattle city beaches (like the nearby Leschi) don't allow you to put in a kayak in the summer. Luckily they aren't there the other 10 months of the year so launching is easy, but in the summer they shoo you away. Hence our launch site for the Leschi area - at the intersection of Madrona Dr and Lake Washington Blvd, just north of Madrona Park (pictured above and below).
Our destination is a great little sandy beach, a diagonal straight-shot on the map above, to the northern tip of Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island. See sandy beach below.
The paddle took us an hour each way, mainly because we went straight across the lake. The advantage to this is, and always is, if you paddle as the crow flies you'll get to your destination faster (unless it's crazy windy or there are tides, or sharks, or something else to slow you down). The disadvantage to this method on this paddle is that you will be far from land on most of the paddle - this can get boring (remember how I said it would test your mind in the intro?) and could be trouble if you flipped or had a boat malfunction...but, as always, prepare and be careful out there and you'll do fine.
~Paul & John ETC
In my old age (hey! I'm not that old) and my long Northwest paddling career (OK, only like 3 years), I've gotten pretty official about my kayak put-ins. The days of quietly inflating my kayak in a dark corner, waiting for some dock staff to turn their shoulders, and then lunging toward the water to launch before I get caught are just about over.
So, we've been working our way down the Lake Washington Ship Canal (Seattle, WA), checking out launch sites (see here, and here!). This one is just northeast-ish of Gas Works Park, next-door to the Puget Sound Yacht Club on Lake Union.
From here, you've got free street parking, great water views of Seattle, and you're close to Gas Works Park, beautiful houseboats in Portage Bay, and if you make a half-day out of it - the Arboretum and the University of Washington are around the corner towards Lake Washington.
Any negatives? Well, this area of Lake Union can get a little busy with boats of all kinds. Our favorite situation during this trip was a huge power yacht with the captain and crew all working to crane up their giant dinghy, all while leaving the boat in forward. As they scratched their heads in the back of the boat they didn't realize they were slowly moving forward toward the bank. They almost hit a kayaker and ran into a University of Washington research vessel before the captain realized it and hit the reverse...v-rooooom!
This busy area leads toward the 'Montlake Cut', the skinny waterway that connects the Seattle lakes. It can be a little choppy depending on boat traffic (a.k.a. SUP's beware!). It's worth it to make it to Seattle's Arboretum - stay close to the edge and you'll do fine.
Speaking of boat traffic, the Seattle Ducks (Land/aquatic tourist vehicles full of tourists with quackers) enter the lake from the Sunnyside boat ramp. They're not that bad wake-wise, and if you spend some time getting ready on the dock you'll get to vote along with the tourists - "Should I enter the lake fast or slow?" Then, 5 minutes later the next duck-boat will arrive..."Should I enter the lake fast or slow?"
Don't have a kayak? Aqua Verde and the UW are close to this area as well, both rent out various boats...Enjoy more pics at the bottom of this post!
~Paul, Amber, Vic ETC
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