Canada is full of rivers, lakes, and bordered by oceans that are just waiting to be explored. One of the most intimate ways to explore them is with a kayak or canoe.
This list includes some of the best places to kayak in Canada for whitewater, flatwater, or in the ocean. While this list is in no way exhaustive, it’s based on my personal experience kayaking and canoeing in each area.
These places are the best because of their stunning beauty and most are easily accessible. Here are some of the best canoe trips in Canada!
Best places to kayak in Canada
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This post is written by Mikaela who writes about her adventures at Voyageur Tripper has been canoeing, hiking, and camping for over ten years.
She previously worked as a canoeing guide in Canada and spent a season guiding hiking and kayaking tours in the high Arctic. Mikaela is a Wilderness First Responder and Whitewater Rescue Technician.
Best canoe trips in Canada
Best kayaks for your Canada kayaking trip
Before setting out on your Canada canoeing or kayaking adventure, it’s important to have the right gear. Obviously, that includes a kayak suitable for your situation. Here are some of the most popular options.
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Kayaking Canada: safety
Important safety measures:
– Make sure to check the section of the river you want to go down is right for your skill level!
– If you don’t have any experience in putting together a kayaking trip, book a kayaking tour with a local outfitter or online for a safe trip and to make the most of your canoeing Canada holiday.
Nunavut is one of Canada’s least visited provinces but I am constantly singing its praises. The landscape of the tundra is like nothing you’ve ever seen. This makes sea-kayaking near Iqaluit, the capital, even more amazing. You get to kayak in Frobisher Bay and see Iqaluit from a unique perspective.
This trip has to wait until the summer months as you have to wait until the sea ice melts. You’ll need to go with an outfitter on this one and they will set you up with a kayak, dry suit, and all the other equipment you’ll need.
Getting to Iqaluit is definitely a journey from other places in Canada, but there are lots of other adventurous things to do in Iqaluit once you’re there. Don’t miss out on this arctic adventure!
2. Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario
When it comes to kayaking, Ontario has no shortage of great options! Killarney Provincial Park is one of the best Toronto road trips as well as a premier kayaking destination. There are many different kayaking and canoe routes to choose from in Killarney and this is a great place to kayak for beginners.
This stunning Provincial Park offers some of the best kayaking in Ontario and is relatively easily accessible (it’s only 4.5 hours from Toronto).
What’s more, the scenery is pretty incredible. It stretches across the north shore of the Georgian Bay and everywhere you turn there is a breathtaking view. Many lakes are linked together and surrounded by rocky, forested hills.
While you can canoe or kayak on any of the lakes for just a day trip, Killarney is a great destination for overnight camping. On a longer trip, you can kayak the whole park and it takes 8 – 12 days. There are great routes for weekend trips though, one of the best is Bell Lake to David Lake.
If you decide to kayak from George Lake to Kakakise Lake you could make a detour to the park’s most popular hike, The Crack.
Killarney truly is Ontario’s most beautiful park and taking a kayak or canoe trip is a great way to see it from a different view. Enjoy all the park has to offer!
3. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Algonquin is another excellent place for kayaking in Ontario and an iconic destination in Canada for canoe camping. There are tons of flatwater routes to choose from and a couple of whitewater:
- Canoe Lake to Burnt Island Lake makes for an easy weekend trip.
- For a less crowded option try Barron Canyon.
- If you’re looking for a longer, intermediate trip then try Lake Opeongo to Canoe Lake.
- For a fun whitewater trip, you can also kayak the Petawawa River. This route takes you from Lake Travers to McManus Lake.
There are many Class I and Class II rapids on the Lake Travers to McManus Lake route and only one rapid that you have to portage. Most of the larger rapids do have portage trails though in case it’s out of your skill level.
The Petawawa River takes about 4 days to complete but it has great campsites along the route and it’s one of the best rivers to kayak in Ontario. The scenery is beautiful and there are few things so relaxing than gliding through the water while enjoying nothing but the sounds of nature all around you.
As Algonquin is very popular for canoe camping, there are plenty of outfitters to choose from. The packages range from just a canoe/kayak, full gear, or gear and guided trip.
4. Missinaibi River, Ontario
This one is specifically for white water boaters. There are plenty of tough rapids here but you do have the option to portage around them if any are out of your skill level.
You’ll begin in Missinaibi Lake where the scenery is of Canadian Shield just like in Algonquin or Killarney. However, over the course of the trip you transition to the Hudson Bay Lowlands.
This Ontario kayaking trip truly puts you in the heart of the wilderness but is still easily accessible. There is plenty of history to go along with this paddle as well, making it one of the best places to kayak in Ontario.
The Missinaibi is part of the Canadian Heritage River System and was very important to the fur trade back in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
There are also opportunities to learn about the Indigenous people – especially in the town of the first English Settlement in Ontario, Moose Factory. This is where you’ll find the Cree Cultural Interpretive Centre.
Another thing that makes this trip unique is that you take a train back to the put-in once your trip is complete. You take the Polar Bear Express from the town of Moosonee to Cochrane where you can get back on the local highway.
5. Lake Louise, Alberta
During the summer, Lake Louise is a very popular kayaking and canoe destination. It’s one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada and one of the best places to visit in Banff National Park. As such, it does get crowded very quickly.
That being said, the epic scenery does make this one the best places to kayak in the world for beginners. It makes for a relaxing day out on the lake as you’ll be on the vividly colored water all day. Take a picnic to enjoy as you are surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies and Mount Victoria.
If you would like to kayak then make sure to rent your boats from Banff Canoe Club. However, if you’d like to canoe then you can rent from the Fairmont Chateau that’s right on the lake. Other popular places to kayak in Banff and Jasper National Park are Bow River and Pyramid Lake.
6. Kayak to Tod Inlet, British Columbia
Kayaking from Brentwood Bay to Tod Inlet is one of the best places to kayak in BC and a popular activity near Victoria. There are many opportunities to see wildlife like blue heron, sea stars, and seals.
This is the perfect place to paddle for people of all skill levels. From Brentwood Bay to Tod Inlet, the paddle is only about 5 km and the waters are calm. The trip takes you along the edge of Butchart Gardens, a beautiful park near Victoria.
Once you arrive at the Inlet there is a small man-made beach and a few amenities. There are picnic tables, park benches, and pit toilets so factor in some time to stay and enjoy the scenery.
There are several other great places to kayak in Victoria:
- Victoria Harbour Kayak Tour (3 hours)
- Discovery Island Kayak Tour (6-7 hours)
- Broken Islands Kayaking Expedition (5 days)
7. Dumoine River, Quebec
The Dumoine River is part of the “Three Sisters” which are three parallel rivers that flow south into the Ottawa River and a popular option for a kayak trip in Quebec.
This river is full of fun Class I, II, and III rapids and has plenty of put-in areas so you can vary the length of your trip and the take out is at the Ottawa River.
There are definitely multiple rapids that you should portage around so make sure to do your research ahead of time on a Dumoine River trip report.
Dumoine River Expeditions offers a shuttle service so you can meet them at the take-out and they will drive you up to where you’d like to put-in.
There are two outfitters that run expeditions and they are Black Feather Outfitters and MHO Adventures. It’s best to go on a trip with an outfitter if you don’t quite have the skillset (yet) to do a trip on your own.
There are many great camping sites on this river and it’s a fantastic place for dark sky photography.
8. Noire River, Quebec
The Noire is another one of the “Three Sisters” and it’s actually the least popular. However, the rapids are still great so that just means fewer people on a fun river!
What makes the Noire special is that you have the greatest chance of seeing wildlife on this river and it has the shortest distance that must be portaged according to MHO Adventures.
Popular animals you might see are moose, black bear, fox, and mink. Be on the lookout as you make your way down the river…
It’s more easily accessible as it’s only six hours from Toronto or Ottawa and you can park right at the take-out location.
You take out at Black River Inn and Outfitter where they also offer a shuttle service. This is an incredible river with plenty of adventurous rapids.
The only downside is that many of the campsites are all sand. They are flat though! But the sand will get in all your things and all over your clothes.
9. Coulonge River
The last of the “Three Sisters” rivers, the Coulonge River is the perfect paddling destination when autumn sets in and the leaves are changing.
Many who go to the Coulonge River take longer trips than those traveling to the Dumoine or the Noire. Like the Noire, this river is also not very crowded.
Black Feather Outfitters also runs guided trips here but the trip is a total of nine days. You should be an intermediate paddler to go on this trip.
The Coulonge offers most of the same scenery as the other two rivers and the same skill level is required. My advice? Try all three and see which is your favorite!
The best kayaking in Canada: in conclusion
These are some of the best places for kayaking and canoeing in Canada, I hope this will help you plan your Canada kayak trip! There are so many incredible options across all of the provinces that it can be hard to choose which adventure will be next.
Whether you are heading out on a multi-day trip or just want a single-day excursion, each of these places will not disappoint. Make sure you find the right place for your skill level and go with an outfitter if you aren’t comfortable going self-guided.
Check out my Canada page for more Canada travel inspiration!