With its geography on a peninsula, San Francisco is primed for paddling enthusiasts. While the bay itself can be notoriously challenging, calmer waterways provide an array of experiences for all levels. The abundance of state parks and protected lands also means it’s easy to turn a day trip into an overnight excursion.
Play tourist-on-the-water by putting in at Aquatic Park, a launching point to see San Francisco landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. It’s not for beginners, however, with strong currents and heavy boat traffic; keep an eye out for seals (and swimmers) too.
Calmer waters can be found at Islais Creek, on the southeast coast of the city. Put in at a small dock off Third Avenue and travel north to AT&T Park or south to the site of the former Candlestick Park. One recommended route is a 7-mile round-trip from the put-in to Mission Creek, passing massive cargo ships, piers, and dry docks into a serene, protected waterway lined with houseboats.On San Francisco Giants home games, pack a cooler and head for McCovey Cove, just outside AT&T stadium, where a flotilla of fans waits in kayaks for a chance to snag home run balls.
About 55 miles north is Point Reyes National Seashore, where novice and intermediate paddlers can tool around the calm estuary, while more experienced ones can test their skills exploring Drakes Bay from Chimney Rock to Limantour Beach.
Groups: Bay Area Sea Kayakers Getaway Adventures
Retailers: SF Kayak and Adventures San Francisco Kayak