Grab a paddle and see Canada from the waterline

  • 151019 miles of coastline
  • 42 protected Canadian Heritage Rivers
  • 1738 kilometre Mackenzie River

What’s more Canadian than a canoe trip or paddling an Inuit kayak? Canada has the world’s longest coastline to explore, with sheltered coves, fjords and landscapes polka-dotted with lakes and ribboned with rivers. Pack a lunch, pick calm or white waters and push off for a day or a week. Ride with the world’s highest tides. Play voyageur in the wake of fur traders on a historical heritage river. Watch whales and icebergs drift past. Paddle in the shadow of skyscrapers or from inn to seaside inn, stopping along the way for a wine tasting, festival or forest hike. Our wilderness was populated with First Nations folks travelling the waterways and explorers and settlers who followed suit: see our on-the-water past in Peterborough, Ontario’s Canadian Canoe Museum. Finish a day on the water with luxury lodgings and a gourmet meal. Or pitch a tent and fry the fish you caught on a campfire. Then roast marshmallows and fall asleep to the bubbling of a stream or the rhythm of the surf.

British Columbia

  • Paddle among Haida Gwaii’s southern islands into the sheltered bay of SGaang Gwaii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to rare Haida mortuary poles.
  • Kayak pristine coastal BC rainforest on the lookout for bears and bald eagles.
  • Spot pods of Orca whales spouting spray into the air from your kayak, then savour a gourmet meal at a luxury lodge on Sonora Island in BC’s Inside Passage.
  • Spend a week canoeing the iconic Bowron Lakes Circuit for 116 kilometres through the Cariboo Mountains following lakes, rivers, and short portages between waterways.

New Brunswick

  • Experience the ebb and flow of the world’s biggest tides in a kayak on the Bay of Fundy [SEC - Touch the Ocean - Seascape Kayak Tours Inc] and spot eagles, seals and porpoises.
  • Monster tides have created bizarre “flower pot” sandstone chimneys tufted with trees in the Bay of Fundy - Hopewell Rocks [SEC - Kayak the Rocks – Baymount Outdoor Adventures Inc]. Walk around them at low tide on the ocean floor; kayak around them at high tide.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Bob amid bergy bits and see the giants of “Iceberg Alley” as well as puffins and migrating whales from the seat of your kayak on the coast of southern Newfoundland.

Northwest Territories

  • Paddle the turquoise waters of the Keele River through breathtaking mountain scenery and easily accessible alpine slopes with panoramic views. [New SEC Spectacular Keele River – Canoe North Adventures]
  • Paddle a stretch of the historic, frontier Mackenzie River, at 1,738 kilometres Canada’s longest, up to a kilometre wide in places. Communities en route make it handy to put-in, take-out and stock up.
  • The epic South Nahanni River a UNESCO World Heritage Site [New UNESCO page Nahanni National Park to come] is a challenge for expert canoeists; the dramatic 90 metre Virginia Falls is en route.

Nova Scotia

  • Mix sea-kayaking, cycling, hiking and yoga with Maritime culture, music and nightlife on a week-long adventure throughout Scottish-flavoured Cape Breton Island.

Nunavut

  • Navigate around floating ice, spotting seabirds, seals and the unicorn tusks of narwhal alongside the ice floe edge of Northern Baffin Island in springtime.
  • Grab a paddle 500 miles above the Arctic Circle on Somerset Island and kayak through ice-chunky waters teeming with beluga whales.

Ontario

  • Retrace historic canoe routes with aboriginal guides on Manitoulin Island [SEC - Experience the Past, Enjoy the Present - Great Spirit Circle Trail] searching for artifacts from the fur trade area and Iroquois battle sites.
  • Canoe classic Algonquin Park among wilderness landscapes that inspired the Group of Seven painters. Then howl with wolves and sleep in a log cabin.
  • Paddle a replica voyageur canoe on a guided tour of the Rideau Canal Waterway—a Canadian Heritage River and UNESCO World Heritage Site – through 45 locks on North America’s oldest continuously operated canal system.

Prince Edward Island

  • Surrounded by water, Prince Edward Island is a natural sea kayaking paradise with beaches for clam digging and stopping in for a fish shack lunch while on an inn to seaside inn paddling adventure.

Quebec

  • Go whale watching at sea level for Minkes and Finbacks in dramatic Saguenay Fjord, North America’s largest, while experiencing the region’s rich Francophone culture and history.

Yukon

  • Paddle millennia-old First Nations trading routes and uncover Gold Rush-era legends as you surround yourself in the boundless wild of the Yukon River from Lake Laberge to Dawson City.
  • The Alsek is an exciting white-water river for canoeists and kayakers that passes through three wilderness parks where you camp beneath soaring peaks and glaciers, spotting northern wildlife along the way.

Weather

  • Mid-summer - July and August - when temperatures across the country are at their highest, is the best time for canoeing and kayaking.
  • Summer temperatures range from daytime highs in the 20°C's and low 30°C's in the south to 15°C degrees in Nunavut and the north of the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
  • In the far North, the ocean is ice-free for only a brief time and mid-summer is the best time for sea-kayaking and canoeing on rivers, lakes and the sea.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
When to go
  • The paddling season in southern Canada is generally from May through September.
  • Paddling is a year-round recreational sport in some regions of Canada like balmy British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island and Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.
  • Spring – May and June – is warm and days are long, but rivers are often at a higher level due to melting mountain snow. This can affect the water speed and the difficulty level of rapids.
  • Spring in Nunavut – June into early July – is the time to kayak along the edge of the frozen sea to see a feeding frenzy of birds and creatures from whales to polar bears.
  • Fall – late August into October depending on the latitude – is cooler and generally bug-free, but nighttime temperatures can be chilly, even in the south. However, autumn colours can be brilliant and the dark nights mean a better chance of seeing Northern Lights.
Need to know
  • Bring warm layers of clothing for paddling, even in summer as temperatures on the water are lower and it is often windier than on land.
  • "Dress for the water" is a safety slogan that means wearing a wetsuit or dry suit if paddling in cold waters in spring and fall and in the far north.
  • A small dry bag is handy for keeping cameras, watches and wallets dry on the water.
  • Be honest about your level of ability, especially on white-water, to be safe.
  • Rain jackets are a good idea.
  • During summer, sunscreen is essential as are good sunglasses; Polaroids allow you to see down into the water. Binoculars are handy for close-up wildlife viewing.
  • If the ocean swell doesn’t agree with you, pack anti-motion pills to make the journey more fun.