The Kayak Bucket List – 13 Things to Do and 25 Places to See in a Kayak

The Kayak Bucket List

A few recent feel-good movies, such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, have brought the world’s attention back to adventure, travel, and outdoor excitement. Everyone needs a good list of goals and life aspirations, but one list always tops ‘em all – the bucket list. If you’ve been ignoring your bucket list, then now’s the time for a little inspiration.

Whether you’re a weekend recreational paddler, whitewater guide, or touring paddler we’re pretty sure you’ll find some inspiration in these tasty kayaking bucket list ideas.

If you think you’ve done all there is to do in a kayak, I bet there is at least one thing you’ve not tried from our list of 13 things to do in a kayak.

And even if you paddled every ocean and major river, you’ll still find somewhere you’ve yet to visit from our list of 25 of heaven-on-earth paddling locations. Cruising down canals, paddling in ponds, conquering cold waters and braving barracuda infested seas – we’ve got it all.

For the kayaker that wishes to get out their comfort zone, this is, The List.

So, before your boat goes into the shed for good, how many of these paddling experiences can you tick off?

13 Things to do in a Kayak!

1. Urban Kayaking

Urban Kayaking is much more easily accomplished in some areas than others. If you get a good spring melt or heavy rainfall, you can have a lot of fun paddling through water-logged fields and urban areas. Just be careful of strong current and high water in areas like culverts, drains, and spillways.

If you’re up for an extreme challenge, then grab your helmet and try drainage ditch paddling.

2. Kayak Camping

Often called touring, camping overnight and using your kayak as a means of travel is an awesome adventure! Whether you only go for one night or spend several weeks in the bush, you’ll have a unique experience in the great outdoors and stories to tell. Find a deserted shore, secluded cove, or little island, and you’ll be treated to your own private show of the stars and night sky.

Avoid silly paddle camping mistakes by reading about my first canoe camping trip. Suffice it to say; you’ll want to pack light and master your camping skills before tackling a long touring trip.

3. Roll a Kayak

If you’re going to do any advanced paddling, such as open water touring or whitewater paddling, you’ll need to master rolling a kayak. Look for American Canoe Association (ACA) certified instructors or courses to get the best training available and learn this important skill before you need it.

Pair this skill with a wet-release, and you’ll know how to escape your kayak in dangerous situations.

Rolling a kayak is important for safety reasons, but it’s also a bit of fun, especially when you’re learning. Put this one on the challenge list!

4. Kayak with Your Pet

Kayaking With Your Dog

Have you ever seen those quirky videos of the biker guy on his motorcycle with a cat riding on his shoulder? Yeah, that could be you.

Take your dog, ferret, or cockatoo on your next paddling adventure, and you’ll have companionship for the entire trip! Way better than taking a buddy who will eat all of your camping food. Set up a GoPro to catch some funky footage of you and your animal compatriot. You never know… it might go viral.

5. Catch a Fish

Fishing from a kayak

Fishing from a kayak is an awesome experience!

No matter where you’re kayaking, be it open water, ocean, river, or inland lake there’s sure to be some sport fishing to be found.

Be sure to check with local authorities about fishing regulations and licenses before you head off. This is also one of the best, and most fun, ways to provide ongoing food for a touring trip (camping). Catching dinner each night can be rewarding and self-sustaining.

6. Catch a Wave

If you’re going to do some open water paddling, this is the part where you can make like Johnny Utah and catch a wave. Just don’t try it when the 50-year storm is happening!

Remember to master the “rolling a kayak” bucket list item before attempting this one. It could help you survive an ill-fated experience.

7. Paddle Some Rapids

Is kayaking dangerous? Let's look at the top hazards to be aware of.

Whitewater kayaking is the ultimate boating challenge! Image: Flickr / Kevin Chodzinski

Do yourself a favor and paddle some whitewater before you kick that proverbial bucket. It’s one of the most thrilling and exciting paddling activities to experience!

We always recommend getting training from a professional before paddling rapids and taking all adequate safety precautions. Please don’t just hop in the river and point your boat at some angry looking rocks without first being properly trained.

8. Have a Canoe Picnic

Okay, this one’s a bit of a cheater, but we’re going to throw it at you anyways. Grab a canoe, invite your significant other, and pick a gorgeous destination for lunch on the water.

Bring along a blanket and a tasty meal and find a nice place along the bank - under a shady tree, or along the beach - to stop and have your picnic. If you’re feeling more adventurous, then perhaps attempt your picnic from within the canoe as you float!

9. Snow Kayaking

Most of us have seen them by now – the videos of Dude Bro McGee (fictitious name) kayaking down a snow-covered hill and into the water. Whether you bomb down steep slopes in the backcountry or tackle your local sledding hill, it’s nice to know that winter doesn’t necessarily mean the end of paddling season.

10. Tandem Kayak with Your Son or Daughter

Introducing children to outdoor adventure and the world of adventure sports is as rewarding as it is valuable for the children. In a world where kids are more likely to be staring at video screens than spending time outdoors, it might be one of the most valuable bonding experiences for both parent and child.

Even if your son or daughter is a grown adult, it’s still fun to spend an afternoon kayaking together while chatting and catching up.

11. Teach Someone How to Kayak

Take it to the max and become a certified kayaking guide or instructor. In the USA, you can get trained and certified through the ACA among others.

Want to check this off your list without getting certified? Just take your friend, neighbor, or cousin out kayaking for the first time. It’s a very rewarding experience and a great way of connecting with people. Also, works well for dates…

12. Rig a Kayak for Fishing

If you already own a kayak and the old boat is tried and true, you may not want to buy a whole new setup for fishing. If you’d rather just buy it, however, angler-specific kayaks are available.

But if you’re a hands-on type of fella, crack open a can of your favorite cold beverage and head out to the garage with some fiberglass, duct tape, bondo, and all the other tools and implements of kayak modification. YouTube is littered with videos of DIY kayak modification that demonstrate how to transform beaten-up old yaks into efficient fishing boats with minimal outlay.

13. Build a Kayak

If you’ve got a knack for crafting things by hand, fiberglass work, or woodworking then why not convert a corner of the garage into your new kayak building station? Some of the most beautiful pieces of functional art can be found in the kayaking world where crafters have made stunning wooden boats.

It can be daunting to get started building a kayak, but start small and work your way up. Find ways to use your budding skills to craft some gifts for friends. Practice and hone your skills for the ultimate kayak build!

25 Places to See in a Kayak!

1. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Kayaking Glacier Bay Alaska

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Blistering cold? Definitely. Polar bears? Hopefully. Loads of fun? Absolutely!

This 3.28 million acre protected national park has numerous fjords and bays that fans of sea kayaking will love. The pristine environment is an ideal retreat for cold-lovers and adventure seekers.

If you’re lucky, you might spot a humpback whale and some puffins.

2. Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Kayak Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand

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The park named after the man who discovered the country is a wonderful paddling experience not to be missed.

The delicately maintained park supplies abundant adventures on sea and land. The waters are green; the wildlife is diverse, and the sights are spectacular, particularly at night, under the Southern Cross.

3. Baja, California

kayak baja california

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Offering a relaxing paddle off the sunny West Coast of the United States, Baja is one of the best spots on earth for warm water sea-kayaking.

The weather is lush, but the beach-life is the real appeal. Sip some margaritas after a day out on the water to refresh – after please, not before. You could be lucky to spot some gray whales in migration – best done in January.

4. Fiji

Kayak Fiji

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With over 300 islands to choose from, kayaking in Fiji is like travelling around a mystical, dream-like land. Only a hundred of the islands are inhabited, but kayak tours will allow you to visit most of the vacant islands.

The water is blue and beautiful, and white sandy beaches and fresh coconut milk await you on the shore. Oh, and if you’re a kayak angler, there’s also the chance to catch some magnificent fish from your vessel.

5. Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Kayak Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica

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You've got hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline, white sandy beaches, and vibrant vegetation. Manuel Antonio National Park is a wonderfully preserved bundle of fun.

You can paddle on the coast, or explore the canopy of tropical trees. For the lucky few, you might also get to see endangered turtles come up on the beach to lay their eggs.

6. Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada

Kayak Johnstone Strait, Canada

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I have just one word for you – ORCAS! There are not many things that can beat kayaking with these majestic and highly intelligent animals. Besides being the best place to spot orcas in their natural habitats, Johnstone Strait is also home to dolphins, seals, and bears.

But wait, there’s more.

This prime spot in Canada is not only perfect for wildlife-lovers, but also has a wonderful array of islands, inlets, and estuaries to tour.

7. Phuket, Thailand

Is kayaking dangerous? Let's look at the top hazards to be aware of.

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Thai food is fantastic, but dare I say; their kayaking spots are even better (don't eat me). Definitely book in for the Karst Island kayaking tour where you’ll explore fabulous limestone caves. There’s also plenty of opportunities to go fishing on your kayak if that takes your fancy.

When you’re done, book in for a Thai massage to loosen those paddling muscles and replenish with a big bowl of pad thai.

8. Acadia National Park, Maine, U.S.

Kayak Acadia National Park

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History buffs will get a kick out of this one. Acadia National Park is home to the first ever water trail in America.

There is a lot to see, but getting to meet paddlers from different parts of the world is probably the best part of the trip.

9. Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Kayak Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

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This is another one for the history books. The Napali Coast was once used as a trade route, so look out for ancient ruins and buried treasure if you decide to get your snorkel on.

The coastal cliffs are a magnificent sight, and you’ll enjoy exploring the sea caves.

10. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Kayak Okavango Delta, Botswana

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This UNESCO world heritage site is also the largest inland delta in the world. This pinch of bliss in the southern part of Africa is a dream expedition for wildlife enthusiasts.

The country is rich in rare animals you’d only ever get to see in a zoo. Paddle alongside hippos, spot lions lazing on the planes, and gaze upon the magnificent endangered black and white rhinos near the shore.

11. Sardinia

Kayak Sardinia's White Coast

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The Sardinian coast boasts beautiful blue waters, stunning rock formations, and historic buildings.

Oh yeah, and it’s also a favorite spot for yacht owners too. I don't know about you, but paddling beside the rich and famous and celeb spotting is a guilty pleasure I’d get a thrill out of.

12. Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Kayak Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

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The blue waters of the Mediterranean welcome you to this kayaking jewel in Eastern Europe.

The islands off Dalmatia are rarely frequented, so you can enjoy a peaceful paddle by limestone rock formations and relax on solemn beaches after a long day's row.

13. Torres Del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia

Kayak Torres Del Paine National Park

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With a gorgeous blend of ice formations, coastal glaciers, and waterfalls, Torres del Paine National Park is hard to beat when it comes to breathtaking scenery.

It’s also a rare spot too, so you get to enjoy both saltwater and freshwater paddling all to yourself! Greedy much?

14. Fox Island, Alaska

Kayak Fox Island, Alaska

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The Kenai Fjords National Park is a sight for sore eyes.

The location offers beautiful natural sights, from glorious mountains to an eclectic collection of aquatic animals.

Porpoises, sea lions, whales and otters will charm you in the waters beneath, and bald eagles will amaze from above.

15. Lake Malawi, Malawi

Kayak Lake Malawi

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Our second tour of Africa is another fascinating one.

The third largest lake in Africa offers freshwater kayaking within a space that hardly feels confined.

Deserted islands and preserved beaches will give you the opportunity to spot exotic wildlife. When you’re done paddling, you can go on a mini-safari.

16. Northern Queensland, Australia

Kayak Northern Queensland, Australia

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Paddle through one of the oldest rainforests on earth, if you want something truly unique. That is what awaits at Daintree National Park.

If you get tired of having your mind blown, row over to Cape Tribulation, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef. Dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and stingrays are some of the marine animals you’ll be cruising along beside.

17. Norway’s Fjords

Kayak Norway’s Fjords

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Only boats allowed, please! That’s the type of reception you get on some of Norway’s Fjords.

Travelling between the thousands of islands and peninsulas gives a different sense of achievement when you know it can only be done by sea.

Some of the passages are only accessible by boat so that you can imagine the purity of the water and the surrounding lands. All natural terrain.

18. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Kayak Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

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This is another secretive spot, where much of the area (which covers 1 million acres) can only be accessed by boat.

No noisy ships, no screaming passengers, and no biological or mechanical waste polluting the waters.

Get deep into the jungle and witness a remarkable piece of nature.

19. Everglades National Park, Florida

Kayak Everglades National Park, Florida

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It's got everything you need – beautiful scenery, tasking paths, great wildlife, and swamplands.

What? You don’t want to kayak through a swamp? I guess you also don’t want to meander your way through Ten Thousand Islands and paddle next to dolphins?

Thought that would change your mind. This unique adventure is something you’ve just got to try.

20. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Kayak Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

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You can take a day trip or a night trip to the place referred to as “the swamp” (no guesses why it’s called that).

You’ll love the wildlife too – white-tailed deer, ospreys, woodpeckers, black bears, and alligators.

Don't worry; your guide won't let you get too close unless you're as stubborn as I am.

21. Belize Barrier Reef

Kayak Belize Barrier Reef

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The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef in the world, and it does not disappoint.

The blue water is clear and inviting, with the temptation for many kayakers to jump in the water. If you do, you’ll be greeted by a vivid display of tropical and the ferocious looking barracudas.

It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the islands are very well managed.

22. The Amazon, South America

Kayak The Amazon, South America

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With nearly 7,000 kilometers of water to explore, you're bound to find something to get you excited!

The Amazon River runs through four countries – Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador. The rainforest is unbeaten in the world when it comes to biodiversity.

Paddle, fish, take in the sights and meet dozens of indigenous tribes. This is an epic journey of a lifetime.

23. Mekong River, Southeast Asia

Kayak Mekong River, Southeast Asia

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This is another cross country mix, taking you from Vietnam to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and then China.

So pick a spot and dive right in. Along with your way, you'll see ancient temples, homey villages, dense forests, mountains and exotic wildlife.

24. Vava’u Islands, Tonga

Kayak Vava’u Islands, Tonga

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The warm South Pacific waters of this Polynesian island are rich in treasure. You have an excellent selection of aquatic wildlife and plenty of marine caves to explore.

The white sandy beaches and coral reefs will tempt you to stay longer than planned. You can also snorkel when you’re done, or explore one of the many uninhabited islands.

25. Kerala, India

Kayak Kerala, India

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Kerala is famous for its healing waters. I don’t know what’s involved exactly, but it’s certainly intriguing enough to make me want to paddle there!

Expect a tranquil ride on backwaters, and when you’re finished, you can discover the second thing Kerala is famous for – spas. Healing waters, healing massages. Count me in.


What is a life lived if it is not lived fully? Choose to live a life of excitement and adventure.

No more excuses. There is always something you can do to LIVE LIFE TO THE MAX and achieve your most audacious goals.

Even when winter sets in, there are plenty of ways to keep working on your bucket list, such as building a new boat or modifying an existing one. When summer rolls around, it’s time to grab life by the horns and score off all the things you want to do and places you simply must visit.

But while we encourage you to go out and experience it all, some of our bucket list ideas present increased difficulty and danger. We always recommend our readers seek training, skill development, and emergency preparedness from certified instructors. Keep yourself safe by knowing and understanding proper risk management.

Hopefully, our list has sparked a few new ideas for boating adventures. We may have left a few unique experiences and locations out, but this is where you come in.

Leave a comment and tell us some of the craziest things you’ve done in a kayak and share the best places you’ve paddled or plan to paddle.

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