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).
Seattle has had 3 freakishly sunny April weekends in a row and word on the street is that next weekend could complete the month with dry weather! There really isn't a better place to soak up some of this normally-rainy-city-sun than Lake Union. It lies right smack in the middle of Seattle, right next to downtown. When it gets sunny and 'warm' it fills with sea planes, sailboats, powerboats, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, and Seattle's iconic house-boats (okay, so the house-boats don't come out only in the sun...they're pretty much always there).
I usually like to stay away from Lake Union and favor nearby Lake Washington due to less boat traffic and more woodsy places to paddle but, in my effort to cover all of the Northwest's waterways, decided to join the crowds and give it a go.
My friend and I launched from the 14th ave boat ramp in Ballard. It's near the Ballard bridge on the Ballard side, near Trader Joe's and the Ballard Greenlake (the empty lot across from T-Js...that I may paddle one of these days:)
The start of this paddle takes you through the Lake Washington Ship Canal and provides plenty of Instagram-fodder with barges and tons of metal-ish stuff.
As you head East you'll go under the Fremont and Aurora (it's really called the George Washington Memorial Bridge) bridges, by Gasworks park (to the North) and the City (to the South).
After about 45 mins to an hour & 1/2 (depending on your kayak/wind/how many pictures you take/sun-bathing) you'll arrive at Ivar's Salmon House. It's on the Northside of the lake just before the I-5 and University bridges. We were lucky that the patio was open this early in the season (they said they opened it last minute due to the nice weather). We grabbed a drink, took a break, and eventually took off back to 14th ave.
Total time on the water for us: 3 hours-ish
Free parking and lots of spots at 14th ave: yep
Tides?: nope, it's a lake.
Salty?: nope, it's a lake. Food at Ivar's is salty.
Choppy? not too bad.
Sunny on this trip for you next weekend?: ? ;)
~Paul, Vic -ETC
Oh how I love paddling in the Lake Washington ship canal, especially in cloudy, cold, rainy weather...no seriously, sometimes our gloomy weather gives some great photos and well, it definitely wasn't crowded out there.
I launched from a little public shore on 28th ave NW, just around the corner from the Habitude Spa in Ballard, just east of the Ballard Locks. Being east of the Locks means that you're paddling in fresh water. If you keep paddling east you'll eventually hit Lake Union (with great views of Downtown), the University of Washington, and Lake Washington.
A nice little paddle with a great launch site - it had parking, easy in kayak put in, easy out. Kayaking the Lake Washington ship canal is a Seattle paddling must - you just might wait for a little more sun in the forecast;)
P.S. It totally cleared up and got sunny in the afternoon.
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