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Kayaking in Ontario All You Need to Know

Kayaking in Ontario: All You Need to Know

With so many places to paddle in Ontario, it’s sometimes so hard to choose a spot that’ll give you the best kayaking experience! Some places are full of tourists, while some are quieter and don’t have boat traffic.

Don’t know where to go? That’s totally understandable! To help you decide, we listed the best places for a kayak adventure in Ontario. So read on and paddle up!

What’s the best time for kayaking in Ontario?

Summer and fall are the best times to kayak in Ontario. From June to August, the snow has melted off and the climate isn’t too cold.

Meanwhile, the month of September is the best time for quiet kayaking because most places aren’t too crowded.

While summer is great for kayaking, it’s also the peak season. Given that students are off from school, most places will be busy and packed.

So, if you plan to visit Ontario parks for your kayaking adventure, you should book your accommodation and tickets early because most places will be packed with huge crowds.

Therefore, the best season for paddling is during the fall, particularly in September. There are fewer crowds since students have already started school, so you can enjoy a quiet and pleasant time.

It’s also due to the weather—with warm waters but without the summer sun’s sweltering heat and chilly nights without needing to bundle up too much.

What do you need to know before kayaking in Ontario?

When kayaking in Ontario, you need to know safety protocols, such as wearing the correct clothing for the season and a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). You also need to bring supplies recommended by the Canadian Coast Guard.

While kayaking can be a fun and relaxing activity, it won’t always be smooth sailing. Water and weather are unpredictable, and strong winds result in waves and rapids.

Depending on the water levels, some areas where you’re kayaking can be shallow, as it means your kayak is closer to rocks and sandbars. Meanwhile, paddling in open waters without complete equipment can be dangerous, especially for beginners.

For a safer water adventure, here’s the Sea Kayaking Safety Guide from Transports Canada and below are some things you need to know before kayaking:

  • Always wear a Canadian Coast Guard-approved PFD.
  • Wear proper clothing. Dress comfortably for the climate and weather—wear layered clothing and avoid cotton fabric.
  • Choose a bright-coloured PFD and kayak.
  • Go kayaking with a buddy or more.
  • Be realistic about your capabilities and limitations; don’t stray far away if you aren’t trained for it.
  • Plan ahead. Research the areas you’ll visit and look up real-time water level updates, currents, and flood warnings.
  • Tell someone where you’re going. If you have a specific route in mind, write it down and give it to a family member or friend.

Things to Bring When Kayaking in Ontario

You probably don’t need to bring too much stuff if you’re kayaking with a tour guide for an hour or two. But if you plan to head out into open waters, you need to be fully equipped for a safer adventure.

Things to Bring
Essential ItemsAdditional Items
Paddle and a spare paddle
Sound signalling device
Waterproof white light
Waterproof flashlight
Bailing device
50m buoyant heaving line
Insect repellent
First-aid kit
Water bottle
Water treatment device
Snacks (energy bars)
Waterproof bag

Ontario’s Top Kayaking Spots

man riding on kayak on river under bridge during daytime
Photo by Jeff Boadway on Unsplash

With one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, Ontario offers many options for your kayaking adventure. Here are some of the best places for you to paddle!

The largest watershed in Southern Ontario, the Grand River stretches for 300 km and is one of the top places for kayaking. It’s perfect for individuals looking for a relaxing and smooth sailing paddle session with its slow current.

But since this river is long, you’ll still encounter rapids. That’s why hiring a tour guide is best if you’re a beginner and unfamiliar with the area since it’s a long stretch.

While there are plenty of access points, it’s important to locate the ones recommended by the Grand River Conservation Authority to avoid going through private properties, as many people live near the area.

Located southwest of Ontario is the Thames River, which roughly has 400km of waterways. There are many options for short and long kayaking—or even canoeing.

Flow rates will affect paddling in the north, middle, and south of the river. So, it’s important to check the flow chart before going into the water.

Meanwhile, early spring will typically have strong currents, which can be challenging. But there’s plenty of beautiful wildlife and landscapes along the Thames River—you’ll find wild animals during the fall getting ready for the winter season.

The Rideau Canal is a long body of water linking the Ottawa River to Ontario’s St. Lawrence River. There are different water areas for paddling: lakes, rivers, marshes, and narrow channels.

This is a flatwater paddling experience, making it ideal for both beginners and experts. If you plan to paddle the whole 202 km stretch, expect it to take 6 to 10 days, depending on your speed and skill level.

Travelling the canal also means you may encounter lockstations (depending on how long your travel is), which you need a permit to travel through. 

Toronto Islands comprises 15 small islands and is a popular tourist destination, which is just a 13-minute ferry ride from downtown. There are many paddling routes for short and long adventures, ranging from two to over four hours.

Considering this is a tourist spot, there are plenty of kayak rentals. Most will require paddling experience for a one-person kayak, while beginners will need to rent a two-person kayak.

It’s one of the best kayaking places to escape the bustling Toronto city life since it’s so easy to access from downtown. You can even bring your dog with you if they have canoe experience—just bring a doggie lifejacket!

You can access the bay via Killbear Provincial Park. A novice can paddle near the shore safely, but strong winds can surprise you on Georgian Bay, resulting in stronger waves.

If you’re lucky, Georgian Bay can be calm despite it being a large body of water. But again, it’s important not to venture out too much if you’re a beginner since this is open water.

If you’re a beginner, you will have to rent your equipment from outside the park, as no rentals are available at Killbear. What’s good about this place is you can camp (there are many campsites available near the shoreline) and enjoy the breathtaking views.

French River leads to Lake Nipissing west to Georgian Bay, making it a great kayaking spot as there are stunning views. The flat water experience allows you to explore for hours on the bays and shorelines.

But if you’re unfamiliar with the area, we suggest asking the locals or hiring a tour guide. You may experience strong rapids that aren’t beginner-friendly if you don’t have a lot of experience.

The Pukaskwa National Park offers many routes that will take you to many islands, beaches, and waterfalls. It’s a kayaker’s dream, complete with crystal-clear waters and stunning mountains!

One of the most breathtaking areas you can paddle through is Lake Superior Highlands, which stretches from Pukaskwa River to Michipicoten Bay. Try to avoid paddling from June to July to avoid foggy weather, which can be challenging to navigate.

Also, the water of Lake Superior can get cold, especially if you’re far from the shore. Even during summer, it sometimes stays below 18°C.

Humber River is ideal for sightseeing. If you move south, the river will take you to Lake Ontario. While it can be inviting, the lake is deeper than the river, and you may want to turn around and paddle back to the Humber if you don’t have enough experience.

Although the river is pretty calm, it has some shallow areas where your kayak might get stuck. But during your adventure, you’ll see breathtaking spots as the Humber has plenty of wildlife, from beautiful swans to adorable beavers to enchanting deer. 

It can get busy at the Humber, especially during peak seasons. You’ll see boats and canoes, so don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of traffic.

Not everyone has complete equipment for kayaking, especially beginners and tourists. At the same time, not everyone knows the ins and outs of Ontario’s bodies of water (which are a lot!).

Hence, there’s a need for rentals and tour guides who will provide assistance for a safe kayaking adventure. Here are some kayaking tour companies in Ontario you may want to check out that offer equipment rentals, guided tours, and lessons.

Grand River Rafting Company


Location: Meet-up points

Contact Details: (519) 442-2519

Opening Hours: Mid-May to mid-October

Services Offered:

  • Kayak trip – $59.99/person
  • Tandem kayak – $99/2 persons
  • Canoe trip – $109/2 persons
  • Kayak rentals – $19/hr (starting rate, location dependent)

Open around the middle of May to the middle of October, Grand River Rafting Company offers solo and tandem kayak packages. It has four meet-up points, depending on your activity and package.

It also offers day trip packages in Glen Morris, Paris, Five Oaks, and Big Creek. If you’re visiting Ontario, there are lodging and campsite places near the Grand River Rafting Company. 

kayak on a river
Photo from


Address: 1671 Chaffeys Lock Rd, Elgin, ON K0G 1E0, Canada

Contact Details: 

Opening Hours: June to October (season dependent), Wednesday – Sunday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Services Offered: 

  • Kayak rental
    • $35 – half-day (3 hours)
    • $50 – full day (8 hours)
    • $200 – per week (5 days)
  • Tandem kayak rental
    • $50 – half-day (3 hours)
    • $70 – full day (8 hours)
    • $300 – per week (5 days)
  • Paddle tours
    • $75/person – half-day guided, 2 person minimum
    • $150/person – 1 day guided, 2 person minimum
    • $280/person – 2 day guided, 2 person minimum
    • $425/person – 2 day luxury, 2 person minimum

Rideau Tours offers rentals and guided tours to the Rideau Canal. It’s open from June to October, with no exact dates, as it depends on the weather and seasons.

From January to March, winter freezes the canal and welcomes the skating season. There won’t be kayakers paddling the waters during this time, as they will have to switch to wearing ice skates.


Address: 10 Government Dock Rd, Wawa, ON P0S 1K0, Canada

Contact Details:

Services Offered:

  • Sea kayak half-day basics (minimum 2 adults)
    • $115 – adults
    • $59 – youth under 16
  • Sea kayak day tour (minimum 2 adults)
    • $175 – adults
    • $75 – youth under 16

This kayak tour company offers day trips for adults and youths, available for half-day to weekend getaways. There are also kayaking lessons from certified instructors for beginners.

You’ll mostly get to explore Michipicoten Bay or Michipicoten River, but you can also paddle at Lake Superior if the weather permits. Also, Rock Island Lodge guests get discounted rates.


Address: Down the “Discovery Walks” Road, 9 Old Mill Rd, Etobicoke, ON M8X 0A5, Canada

Contact Details: 

Opening Hours: Starts around May

Services Offered:

  • Kayak rental
    • $35+tax/boat (weekday)
    • $40+tax/boat (weekend & holiday)
  • Tandem kayak rental
    • $70+tax/boat (weekday)
    • $80+tax/boat (weekend & holiday)
  • Kayak lesson and guided tour
    • $50+tax/boat (weekday)
    • $60+tax/boat (weekend & holiday)
  • Glow-in-the-dark voyageur tour
    • $55+tax/person, 11-person canoe

Toronto Adventures is one of the kayaking companies in Ontario that offers lessons, guided tours, and equipment rentals. It has been offering Humber River kayak tours since 1999.

Many packages allow children as young as eight, and your dog can tag along on a canoe. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you can purchase new and used equipment here.

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