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Paddling the Pristine Waters of the Cape and Islands

If your idea of the perfect day on Cape Cod or the Islands includes calm and quiet, consider kayaking. Paddling around in a kayak is also the perfect way to see wildlife in their natural habitats.

Cape Cod’s many diverse bodies of water provide excellent settings for kayakers of all skill levels and offer more than 60 different kayaking routes. Out on the Islands, the harbors, coves, and ponds are popular with kayakers, as are the South Shore beaches, which offer surf kayaking.

Cape Cod

Kayaking throughout Cape Cod
Kayaking throughout Cape Cod

On the Upper Cape, try a relaxing paddle along the Mashpee River in Mashpee; in Wild Harbor or West Falmouth Harbor in Falmouth; or Scorton Creek in Sandwich. Waquoit Bay, a national research reserve, also offers the chance to explore undeveloped Washburn Island. On Buzzard’s Bay, take in the calm waters of Pocasset Harbor near Barrett’s Island or Vineyard Sound for more experienced kayakers. Coonamesset Pond is a good choice for fresh water paddling.

In the Mid Cape area, the Herring River, which runs through the 200+ acres of Harwich conservation lands, is a favorite among paddlers of all ages and skill levels. Travel upriver to the marsh to see egrets, great blue herons, and ospreys. Other Mid Cape destinations include Bass River, the longest river on Cape Cod; Swan River; Swan Pond; and Nantucket Sound. For solitude, try Barnstable Harbor and the Great Marsh of West Barnstable, taking time to step onto Sandy Neck Beach.

The Lower Cape features Nauset Marsh, one of the most productive salt marsh habitats in the world and a spectacular spot for kayaking. It is ideal for birdwatching and otter-spotting. You may also find sunbathing seals on Nauset’s barrier beaches. The waters are calm enough for beginners, but the beauty brings back even the most experienced kayakers time and again. Check the tides before paddling out, however. Low tide results in vast areas of mud flats that could leave you stranded. Other Lower Cape choices are Pleasant Bay; Chatham’s Oyster River; and Cliff Pond, Flax Pond, and Little Cliff Pond in Brewster’s Nickerson State Park.

Up on the Outer Cape, Long Point and Pamet Harbor in Truro; Blackfish Creek, Wellfleet Harbor, and Great Island in Wellfleet; and Provincetown Harbor are all popular out and back kayaking spots. These areas are especially choice for sunset paddling.

Sea kayakers will find that Cape Cod’s shoreline provides many inlets, coves, and harbors. Cape Cod Bay, Pleasant Bay, and Nantucket Sound offer open water for adventure kayaking and the opportunity to fish or view sea life such as the seals that make Monomoy Island their summer home.

There are many kayak outfitters and tour guides on Cape Cod from Falmouth to Provincetown. If you have never kayaked, most are happy to offer some instruction, but novices are encouraged to join a tour. Tours range from two hours to a full day.

South Shore and Southeastern MA

Kayaking possibilities abound on the South Shore and Southeastern Massachusetts, including Buzzards Bay and the protected harbors of Marion and Westport. Paddle inner Plymouth Harbor and you can get a great view of the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.

Nantucket

Kayaking the waters of Nantucket offers experienced or novice kayakers many different opportunities. Nantucket Harbor offers easy paddling, with side trips into marshes with abundant bird life and along the coast to some of Nantucket’s pristine beaches. Explore the many coves and even fish from the kayak and catch keeper bass or other fish.

Ocean kayaking is available across the Island. You will find good surfing waves on the South Shore for much of the year.

Kayaks are available for rent at the harbor or they can be delivered to the beach for surf kayaking.

Martha’s Vineyard

Gliding along beneath the spectacular Aquinnah Cliffs, paddling in Edgartown Harbor in front of the historic lighthouse, or nighttime paddles in the phosphorescence of Menemsha Pond are just a few of the ways kayakers can enjoy themselves on Martha’s Vineyard.

Make a day of it by paddling to Cape Pogue on Chappaquiddick Island or around the Elizabeth Islands, or enjoy an afternoon venturing into the estuaries and quahog beds of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Sengekontacket Pond.

Martha’s Vineyard has half a dozen or so ponds where you can enjoy a short, enjoyable paddle, or, like Nantucket, experience great kayak surfing in the waves of the ocean-facing southern shore.

Rentals are available and can be delivered.

About Susan Hutchins

About Susan Hutchins: I joined the WeNeedaVacation team in 2012 and write website and blog content as well as promote WeNeedaVacation.com through social media. Having grown up spending summers on Nantucket, I have a strong connection to Cape Cod and the Islands. I now live in New Hampshire with my husband, two children, and golden retriever, and we are frequent visitors to the Cape. I love running local road races, the Brewster in Bloom 5K being a favorite. My family enjoys biking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, hiking in Nickerson State Park, and relaxing on the beautiful beaches (usually a dog friendly one!).