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Get Out on a Boat in Seattle and on the Eastside

Take in a stellar Seattle summer day the best way there is: by boat (or kayak!).

photo: alex reynolds/flickr


One of the best ways to take in a stellar Seattle day is by boat, be it a kayak, a pedal or paddle boat. 

These kid-friendly, accessible water activities will have you and your family boating on the water regardless of your boating experience. 


Kayak rentals at Agua Verde Café & Paddle Club

Smack-dab in the middle of the two most popular paddling destinations in Seattle – Lake Union and Lake Washington – the Agua Verde Paddle Club offers a chance for families of all skill levels to do some lake kayaking. If you are new to the activity, or have small children, make your first kayak outing a short excursion around Portage Bay (Agua Verde sits on the north shore). Paddle by houseboats and maritime businesses to a protected area on the south shore with lily pads, beaver dams and turtles.

Older kids can paddle with their parents through the Montlake Cut (they must be at least 80 pounds to accommodate the spray skirt), with passage to one of the best destinations on the lake for non-motorized craft – Foster Island and the Arboretum. Kids will love exploring under foot bridges and through narrow passageways and spotting wildlife (look for bald eagles high up in the trees as you approach). There are numerous places in this lovely area to beach your craft and enjoy a picnic. For a more urban experience, head west from Agua Verde under the University Bridge and into Lake Union to enjoy a spectacular view of the Seattle downtown skyline and the houseboats that line the shore.

Kayaks are rented on a first-come, first-serve basis. Anyone 17 and younger must ride in a double kayak with an adult accompanying them. Life jackets and paddles are provided, including special equipment for little ones. 1303 NE Boat St, Seattle, 98105


Free public sailing with the Center for Wooden Boats

A local family favorite, the free public sail on Sundays at the Center for Wooden Boats offers visitors a memorable maritime experience on a classic wooden sailboat. The power of the wind will guide you through the waters of Lake Union, zigzagging past other boats and landing seaplanes, much to kids' delight. The ride takes about an hour. They sail rain or shine, but high winds may cancel the trip.

Reservations are only taken the day of, in person, and these rides sell out early. Be there when the doors open at 10 am for the best chance. They don't sail until 2 pm, so you'll have time to learn about the history of wooden boats at the museum, ride the South Lake Union Street Car downtown or rent one of their classic row boats for your own trip around the bay. Also, don't miss the pond boat sailing, where kids can be captain of their own pint-sized rig. 1010 Valley St, Seattle, 98109


Boat rentals at the Green Lake Boathouse

The pedal boats at Green Lake are a great little outing, especially for small children. You won't have to navigate choppy waters. The boathouse has two types of pedal boats: a two-seater and a four-seater, in which all riders get to pedal. Life jackets are included.

Photo: chelsea marie hicks/flickr

Green Lake's many boating options offer something for everyone.

The boathouse also rents kayaks, rowboats and stand up paddle boards. Snacks (and dogs, if you have one) are allowed on the boats. They are first-come, first-served, so come early on a nice day. The café at the boathouse is stocked with sandwiches, bagels, ice cream, and coffee, and plenty of family-friendly restaurants border the lake. Added bonus: Green Lake Park playground is one of the best in the city and sits just across the parking lot. 7351 E Green Lake Drive N, Seattle, 98115


Stand up paddle board rentals at Surf Ballard

Ok, so it's not a boat, but it is all the rage, and chances are your kids will feel pretty cool after mastering stand up paddle boarding. Several places around town rent the boards, but Surf Ballard is great for families because it gives them a chance to watch boats heading through the locks. If you're lucky, you'll have a harbor seal come check you out. Board rentals are $40 for two hours, or $32.85 per board for groups of 2 or more.

The staff at Surf Ballard recommends rentals for kids ages 11 and older, because of the strength needed to maneuver the board in the ocean current. The boards are easier than they look for even a novice to handle, but if you prefer some instruction, Surf Ballard's partner, the Washington Surf Academy, offers lessons daily. For $70 per person, you get a paddle board, paddle and two hours of hands-on instruction. 6300 Seaview Ave NW, Seattle, 98107


 UW Canoe and Rowboat

From May thru August you can visit the UW Waterfront Activities Center directly behind Husky Stadium and rent canoes (carrying up to 3 people) or rowboats (carrying up to 4 people). Launch into Lake Washington and paddle across the Montlake Cut into the Arboretum (and under the Evergreen Floating Bridge or go west thru the Montlake Cut into Portage Bay and Lake Union if you are feeling ambitious. You must be 18 years old with valid ID to rent the boats. Children must weigh at least 25 lbs and walk on their own. Rentals are first come, first served.   See also "What's a mom and a squirrelly six-year-old to do? Rent a canoe!" 

Cost is $10/hr weekdays, $12/hr weekends. Discounts for UW students, faculty and alumni. Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m.- 7 p.m., Weekends 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. All boats are due back by 8 p.m.  206-543- 9433; www.washington.edu/ima/wac/canoe-boat- rentals/


Mercer Slough by Canoe

Mercer Slough Nature Park in Bellevue  is one of our most beautiful urban wetlands. You can rent canoes to paddle the slough or take part in three-hour guided canoe rides, led by Bellevue park rangers (May - Sept, weekends only).  See "A Parent Review: Canoe the Mercer Slough"

There's no need to worry about motorized boats on this adventure. Be on the lookout for herons, otters, beavers and, if you make it that far, the swallows that nest on the underside of I-90 – an interesting juxtaposition of concrete and nature.

Photo: ceepdublu/flickr

Rent canoes to paddle the slough or take part in three-hour guided canoe rides, led by Bellevue park rangers.

On the guided tour, paddlers meander through the channel past scores of birds, blueberry fields, an occasional office building and a salmon ladder. The group links up every so often to learn about the animals and plants in the park and how the different ecosystems function. The rides are open to anyone ages 5 and older, but someone must have experience canoeing; it's a four-mile trip and takes some brawn. See "A Parent's Review: Canoe Mercer Slough".

Guided trips, held rain or shine, cost $16 per person for Bellevue residents and $18 per person for non-Bellevue residents; preregistration is required. Guided trips are Saturday and Sunday mornings, May - September. 

If you opt to explore the slough on your own, rent a canoe through Cascade PaddeSports and paddle around for a few hours. Both voyages kick off at Enatai Beach Park. 

Cascade PaddleSports at Entatai is open weekends only May - late June & Sept; daily from late June thru August). Hours  11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May thru August; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. after Labor Day. Canoe rentals cost $19.50 for the first hour and $9.75 for each additional hour. Call 425-452-6885 or visit ci.bellevue.wa.us/mercer_slough.htm or canoe-kayak.com to learn more. 3519 108th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA 98004

Editor's note: This updated article was originally published in August of 2012.

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