6 Scenic Kayak Trips in Unique Places

Wherever you are in the world, there’s a fine place to paddle your kayak. Whether close enough to your urban area for a weekend trip or halfway around the world, these beautiful waterways offer hidden delights.

Doubtful Sound, New ZealandDoubtful Sound, New Zealand
Doubtful Sound is also called the “Sound of Silence,” and you’ll understand why as you cruise these waters rich in forests and rarely seen black coral. As a bonus, you’ll likely encounter New Zealand fur seals, penguins, and amazing waterfalls around almost every corner.

Chattahoochee RiverChattahoochee River, Georgia, USA
Thrill seekers who arrive in Columbus, GA can’t help but be excited when seeing the Chattahoochee River for the first time—frothing and churning the thunder of fast-moving water falling somewhere in the distance. Kayaks can now be ridden over some of the biggest and most thrilling whitewater rapids in the American East.

The whitewater on the Chattahoochee can reach up to 13,000 cubic feet per second in volume during high water release levels. The speed of the rapids on the Chattahoochee makes them the largest whitewater rapids south of Canada and east of Colorado.

©istockphoto/AneeseSea of Cortez, Mexico
This rich body of water is only a short drive from the US border and is one of the top kayaking destinations in the world. You can take your boat through coves and caves and pull up on an empty beach to watch dolphins play or whales make their journey south. With 2000 miles of coastline, the Sea of Cortez is one of the most lush waters on the planet with more than 900 varieties of fish. The warm weather is also on your side when you’re paddling this sea, making it an ideal destination for a winter adventure.

Zambezi river in ZimbabweZambezi River, Zambia, Africa
Sure, Africa is known for its safaris, but this is where you can find the best Grade 5 rapids in the world—along with a hippo thrown in. This legendary big-water river, doesn’t skimp on excitement. The Zambezi River below Victoria Falls has been classified by the British Canoe Union as Grade 5—“extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas.” Massive towers of water plunge into the river year-round and it’s over a mile wide. Steam rising from the falls can be seen over ten miles away. The views are spectacular and the waves are so exciting you won’t even worry about the little crocodiles floating past your boat.

CalanquesCassis, France
The Provencal writer Fredric Mistral once said, “Anyone who has seen Paris, but not Cassis, hasn’t seen anything.”

Sea kayaking is the best way to discover the fabulous coast of Cassis, paddling on the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Hemmed in by high white cliffs, the fishing village of Cassis is one of the best kept secrets of the Cote d’Azur. There are no tacky cabanas, no blaring disco beats, and no surf side cocktails at this paradise-by-the-sea—only the purr of a passing yacht or the sound of the waves licking the picture-perfect beach. As you kick back on the calm sea in your kayak (unless the Mistral—a mean wind—comes up), you can cruise beneath the Calanques (kah-lahnk), the narrow inlets created by sharp cliffs that border the shore.

NahanniThe Nahanni River, Canada
The Nahanni, a true Canadian icon, winds through canyons more than half a mile deep and plunges over the Virginia waterfall, which is twice as big as Niagara. This beautiful river is situated in a mountainous landscape and glacial waters flow through Canada’s deepest canyons, past hot springs and towering rock walls. Paddling on this river you’ll quickly understand why it was declared the first World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1978.