Things to Do

5 Ways to Get Out and Kayak Around Washington

Cruise relaxingly past Annapolis and the National Mall, or brave the rapids of Mather Gorge.

Get Swamped

As you glide under a canopy of trees on Atlantic Kayak’s Marsh Loop Eco Tour, you may see both great blue and green herons, turtles, beaver lodges, and occasionally a river otter. The three-hour, $60 guided kayak tour begins out of Fort Washington, in half-mile-wide Piscataway Bay, facing the Potomac River and Mount Vernon to the west. Heading east, you paddle through grassy marshes with cattails and water lilies before entering the slender, quiet, swamp-like channels of Piscataway Creek. The shallow waters are tide-dependent, and tours run only on selected dates and by request. 301-292-6455; 19 miles. 

M (Moderate Difficulty)  Great for Groups  Good for Romance Kid-Friendly $$ ($35-$76 per person) 

Reflect on the Monuments

Enjoy the grandeur of Washington’s monuments reflecting off the water at sunset on a Twilight Kayak Adventure at Key Bridge Boathouse. The 90-minute guided tour ($45 a person) leaves the docks in Georgetown and circumnavigates Theodore Roosevelt Island as dusk falls and stars come out. The marina also offers kayak and standup paddleboard (SUP) rentals and instruction as well as SUP yoga classes. 202-337-9642; 3 miles.

M (Moderate Difficulty)  Great for Groups  Good for Romance Kid-Friendly $$ ($35-$76 per person) 

Paddle Among Bald Eagles

Some of the best kayaking in the Mid-Atlantic—not to mention the largest nesting population of bald eagles north of Florida—can be found at Maryland’s Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. Three marked water trails allow paddlers to explore this pristine 28,000-acre preserve while looking out for eagles, peregrine falcons, and ospreys. Blackwater Paddle and Pedal Adventures in Cambridge rents kayaks and provides guided tours. Two-hour tours $70 a person, three-hour tours $90; 410-901-9255; 97 miles.

M (Moderate Difficulty)  Great for Groups $$ ($35-$76 per person

Flip for Kayaking

The rapids below Great Falls, in the Potomac River’s Mather Gorge, make for one of the premier whitewater kayaking spots in the world—Olympic kayakers train here. Before tackling whitewater in a kayak, you need to learn how to right one of these nimble boats when it flips upside down. And it’s gonna flip. Fortunately, there are excellent kayaking schools in the region, such as Potomac Paddlesports (intro class $145; 301-881-2628; and Valley Mill Kayak School (intro class $105; 301-840-7388; 14 to 24 miles.

(Strenuous Difficulty) $$$ ($76 and up per person) 

Admire Annapolis From the Water

Annapolis is a lovely city no matter how you look at it, but Maryland’s capital looks best from the water. Kayak Annapolis offers two-hour, guided history tours along Spa Creek past multimillion-dollar houses (nice place, Barry Levinson!), the State House, the Naval Academy, and the town dock. Guide/owner Pete Vonderheide dispenses lots of humor along with history lessons on this laid-back paddle ($65;; 443-949-0773). 33 miles.

(Moderate Difficulty)  Good for Romance / $$ ($35-$76 per person) 

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