7 of the Best Places to Go Kayaking in Maine

Maine hosts the trifecta of kayaking. From the high mountain lakes down the rough riding rivers to the ocean, there’s plenty of kayaking in Maine for all skill levels. 

Kayaking in Maine is a beautiful experience. Maine’s natural assets offer stunning landscapes, bountiful fishing, and adrenaline pumping rapids.

Go kayaking in Maine and discover…

  • Giant monoliths rising out of Moosehead Lake
  • Moose in their natural surroundings
  • The best Salmon and Trout fishing in the northeast
  • And the longest continuous rapids in the eastern US

When Is It Safe to Kayak in Maine?

Kayaking in Maine is a great way to see the state’s backcountry beauty and wildlife. But you need to understand when it’s safe to go kayaking in Maine. And, more importantly—

How to Safely Kayak in Maine

Kayaking in Maine is safe from Spring to Autumn if you take these safety precautions:

1. Wear Proper Clothing for the Weather

Even in Summer, the evening temperatures can dip into the 50s. Wear synthetic or wool clothes that dry out faster. And pack an extra set of dry warm clothes in a dry bag in case you flip. 

If you’re kayaking in Autumn, protect your hands and feet from getting wet. Wear waterproof gloves and shoes. 

2. Bring Safety Gear

Everyone knows that you need to wear a life vest while kayaking, but there are a few other items you should bring.

  • Flashlight
  • Safety whistle
  • Emergency blanket, 
  • Extra food and water

These are all small items that are easy to stow in a dry bag while kayaking. They won’t slow you down. And they could save your life. 

3. Know When Sunset Is

You don’t want to get caught on the water after sunset unprepared. Temperatures plunge. Seas get rougher as the tides change. And it’s hard to see—or be seen.

So stay safe and check the sunset times before you venture out.

4. Do not Exceed Your Skill Level

Running the rapids on the Penobscot can be an epic adventure. But let’s make sure the retelling of your adventure doesn’t include having to be rescued. 

If you’re not comfortable controlling your kayak in windy or turbulent conditions, then stay in a protected harbor. The wind won’t affect your journey as much in a safe haven like Boothbay. 

If you’ve never run rapids before, don’t take on the longest continuous rapids in the eastern US in a kayak. 

Best Lakes in Maine for Kayaking

Kayaking on a lake in Maine has many advantages:

  • Calmer water is excellent for beginners to hone their technical skills.
  • Kayaking allows you to observe the wildlife – like mooses – without disturbing them.
  • The salmon and trout fishing in Maine is fabulous.  

Kayaking the lakes of Maine is for those who’re seeking a more relaxing excursion. If you’re looking for something more physically engaging, you want to give ocean kayaking a try.

Kayaking in Moosehead Lake Near Rockwood, Maine

Kayaking on Moosehead Lake is a short journey from Rockwood. Its vast yet calm water gives the casual kayaker the chance to enjoy Maine’s landscapes. 

Kayak around Mt. Kineo – a monolith within Lake Moosehead. And keep your eyes peeled! It’s called Moosehead Lake for a reason. This area hosts the largest population of Moose in Maine

Kayaking in Katahdin Lake Near North Penobscot, Maine

Deep in Baxter State Park, Katahdin Lake lies amid pristine pines. From its shores, you can behold the grandeur of Mount Katahdin. The Appalachian trail begins here at the highest peak in Maine.

Lake Katahdin’s idyllic landscape and abundant wildlife make it worth a visit. Its calm waters are great for casual kayakers and fishermen. And don’t forget the fishing! 

But being in the backwoods also means it takes more work to get to Lake Katahdin, so come prepared to hike as well. 

Best Ocean Kayaking in Maine

Ocean kayaking in Maine allows you to get up close to where the cliffs meet the sea. The benefits of ocean kayaking in Maine are different from kayaking on a lake.

  • You get the chance to see ocean life including seals, porpoises, and – if you’re lucky – even whales.
  • Kayak to nearby lighthouses – Maine has plenty of them.
  • Test your technical skills in more turbulent waters
  • Get moderate exercise

How to Kayak in the Ocean

Kayaking in the ocean isn’t different from kayaking on flatwater in practice. But you do have to be more aware of your surroundings and more in control of your kayak. 

The type of kayak used for ocean kayaking is different. You’ll want a longer kayak with a ruder that will help you navigate through wind and currents.

While kayaking in the ocean offers a change in view, the Maine coast is not a good place for beginners to venture out.

If you’re new to ocean kayaking, stay in a safe harbor to get the feel of it. When you’re comfortable controlling your craft, then you can venture out.

Ocean kayaking requires you to be aware of the weather, tide changes, and any strong currents in the area. 

Maine’s rocky coasts and tidal shifts create strong currents. If you’re not familiar with how to read the water, you could get pulled out to sea.

Where Can I Sea Kayak in Maine?

Maine is an amazing state filled with coastal towns, lighthouses, and natural landscapes. In fact, if you’re up for it, you could travel all along Maine’s coastline just by kayaking from one town to the next.

Ocean Kayaking Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Boothbay Harbor offers easy day excursions close to a quaint coastal town. There are natural islands of evergreen pines to explore. Or you can check out one of the lighthouses in the area.

Burnt Island lighthouse is about a mile out from the harbor. It’s the perfect place to stop, stretch your legs, and enjoy the living history opportunity they have here

Ocean Kayaking in Acadia National Park, Maine

The highlight of any visit to Maine, Acadia National Park is nothing short of majestic. Towering mountains taper dramatically down to a short beach and the rocky surf. 

Kayak around Mt. Desert Island. Then beach your kayak and explore the island itself. Wild blueberry bushes grow along the hiking trails. These trails are perfect for stretching your legs after being in a kayak.

Best Whitewater Kayaking in Maine

Actually, we’re talking about the best whitewater kayaking in the eastern US. Maine’s high mountain lakes and three dam-controlled rivers create beautiful whitewater conditions.

Are you ready for a challenge? Because I’ve got three for you!

What Class Rapids Are in Maine?

The Penobscot, Kennebec, and Dead Rivers offer class I to class V rapids

A word to the wise: White water kayaking is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It requires preparation, skill, and stamina. If you don’t know the difference between a J-stroke and a C-stroke, then you should not attempt these rapids. 

But don’t worry. Even if you can’t complete an Eskimo roll, you can still enjoy the thrill of the falls and run the rapids on one of the guided rafting tours in the area.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Whitewater Kayak in Maine?

There’s no law requiring you to be a certain age to go whitewater kayaking. But if you’re working with a local guide or company, they may have age restrictions. Check with your guide to be sure your trip is age appropriate for your group. 

Again, these rapids are not for beginners or small children. But there are some rafting tours that are more family friendly. The Agallash, for example, only has class I-III rapids. They’re exciting enough to get you to paddle harder. But forgiving enough not to dump you into hard rocks.

Whitewater Kayaking on the Kennebec

You’re prepared for whitewater kayaking in Maine when you’ve…

  • Gotten the technical training, 
  • Have developed your skills, 
  • Prepared yourself with proper emergency protocols
  • Have whitewater kayaked the lesser rapids… 

…then you’re ready to test yourself. And the Kennebec is a great place to start!

Whitewater kayaking the Kennebec takes you through several rapids with a few breaks. The difficulty ranges from class I-IV with most of the rapids being I-II.

Whitewater Kayaking on the Penobscot

Okay so you tackled the Kennebec, and it felt like a walk in the park. Now you’re ready for the Penobscot.

The Penobscot River offers a descent with many obstacles that require technical skill. These rapids range between class IV and class V and the run is about 12 miles long. And it begins with a beautiful paddle around Mt Katahdin, so if you fail, at least the trip was still worth it. 

Whitewater Kayaking on the Dead River

So the Kennebec was a cake-walk for you. The Penobscot got your blood pumping. Now you’re ready for your next adrenaline rush: the Dead River.

The Dead River is the longest continuous rapid in the Eastern United States. It’s 16 miles long and boasts class III-IV rapids. I hope you enjoyed those in-between-rapids breaks on the Penobscot because you’re not getting any here. It’s one continuous run of rapids.

Best Kayaking in Maine

The best kayaking in Maine is what you make of it. If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip with the kids, maybe do a little fish fry, then head to one of Maine’s Lakes. 

If you want to see the vast contrast of Maine’s mountains with the Atlantic ocean head to the coast. 

And if you’re looking for a challenge, I dare you to dip your paddle in the Dead River rapids. 

Kayaking in Maine is an experience of a lifetime, so get out there. And be active on the water!

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