Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

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 lush­est 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.