Even while DC is most famous for its museums, memorials, and monuments, there are plenty of green areas and canals to explore as well. The best way to accomplish that is by kayaking in Washington, DC. Here are the best places from the river to view the town. Thankfully, there are several spots to go kayaking throughout the city that provide you with a distinctive view of the Capital City’s renowned structures and landmarks.
We’ll discuss some of our best-suggested kayak rental businesses in Washington, DC, in addition to the greatest paddling locations in and around the city in this guide. If you’d like a guided experience, we’ve also included our top 9 places kayaking in Washington DC.
18 Best Places For Kayaking In Washington DC
1. Anacostia River, DC
While paddling down the Anacostia River, take in the famous Washington Navy Yard. Admire the lively and entertaining neighborhoods as you paddle down the Anacostia. At Nationals Stadium or Yards Park, you could hear supporters of the Washington Nationals or a loud concert. Additionally visible from the lake are Fort McNair as well as the Capitol.
Paddle up the Anacostia River & take in Kingman Island’s birdlife for an authentic nature experience. Use a kayak dock to tie up and explore the 446-acre park on foot, or travel upriver to view the National Arboretum from the water.
To do this voyage for yourself, start either the Anacostia Park boat launch or the Ballpark Boathouse, both of which offer kayak rentals.
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2. Potomac to Rock Creek
Kayaking at Rock Creek Park from the Potomac is a great option if you want a little of a calmer, greener setting in Washington, DC. Located in the West End area, this park is one of the biggest in the city, including more than 1,700 acres of lush woodlands and paths to temporarily get away from the busy city streets.
Rock Creek’s waters closest to the Potomac can be paddled across, in addition to the many walking and bike routes that are present throughout the park. To avoid getting into the creek itself, remain in the areas where it is wide and simple to navigate. Only skilled paddlers must try to navigate those waters since they are so hazardous.
Thompson Boat Center is the closest place to rent a kayak near Rock Creek. It may be found where the Potomac and Rock Creek converge at the extreme end of Georgetown’s waterfront. For a single kayak, they charge $18 per hour, and for a double kayak, they charge $25 per hour.
3. The Wharf
Previously home to a marina & DC’s famed Fish Market, This Wharf is now a thriving waterfront neighborhood with premium eateries, opulent condominiums, and a well-liked music venue, The Anthem.
Due to its proximity to the Navy Yard or the eastern part of Washington, DC, The Wharf is also a great place to go kayaking. Here, you may go kayaking along the marina area that runs along East Potomac Park’s banks. During the spring cherry blossom season, this area is quite beautiful. From the river at The Wharf or by kayaking all way down to Navy Yard, you could view the new International Spy Museum.
The boathouse named The Wharf is located on the pier close to the Hyatt House Hotel. Kayak rentals start at $18 for a single kayak & $25 for a two-person kayak per hour.
4. Washington Sailing Marina
The Washington Sailing Marina, which is less congested and is situated south of the Pentagon, is a great place to start your kayaking journey. Despite being physically located in Alexandria, Virginia, the Washington Sailing Marina is included because it is visible from Washington, DC.
It’s an excellent place to spend a few hours kayaking between DC and Virginia because it has access to the Potomac River or the 4 Mile Run mouth.
The kayak may be used to travel from the Washington Sailing Marina together all way up to the southern edge of East Potomac Park, a breathtaking urban green space in Washington, DC. Alternately, remain in the Potomac’s immediate vicinity and see the aircraft at Reagan National Airport as they land and take off.
The boathouse at the Washington Sailing Marina is a place where you may rent boats, stand-up paddleboards, and other watercraft. Additionally, you may learn to sail here, and Island Time Bar & Grill serves meals along the river.
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In DC, Georgetown, one of the city’s most storied and recognizable areas, is the best location for kayaking. Georgetown is a lovely place to spend the day, with its attractive row homes, historic factories, and tree-lined avenues.
Georgetown’s thriving waterfront, which provides several possibilities to go boating, is the nicest aspect of the city, nevertheless. We definitely advise going on a kayak trip of the Potomac River even though there are many boat excursions and dinner cruises available.
The Kennedy Center, Georgetown University, and the adjoining Virginia town of Roslyn are all visible from the water if you opt to kayak in Georgetown.
This Key Bridge Boathouse, on the river beneath the bridge, is where kayaks may be rented in Georgetown. For a single kayak, the hourly charge is $18; for a double kayak, the rate is $25.
6. Navy Yard (Anacostia River)
The Anacostia River’s banks are home to Navy Yard, one of Washington, DC’s hippest and most developing districts. The ideal location to rent a kayak & discover the eastern side of the city is this riverfront region close to Nationals Park.
The historic Navy Yard, the Nationals’ ballpark, and Anacostia Park’s lush surroundings may all be seen from the Anacostia River. You might kayak to Hains Point, which is East Potomac Park’s furthest southern point, as an option.
For all things related to kayaking and paddling in Navy Yard, go over to Ballpark Boathouse. A single kayak rental costs $18 per hour, while a double kayak rental costs $25 per hour.
7. National Harbor
National Harbor in Washington, D.C., is what comes to mind when you picture a typical boardwalk with a Ferris wheel and lots of visitors, eateries, and stores. Yes, you heard correctly. The National Harbor is a center for entertainment, with a ton of restaurants and bars, a sizable Ferris wheel, and a sizable MGM casino/resort.
The National Harbor, like the Washington Sailing Marina, isn’t officially in Washington, DC, but we’ve put it here since it’s convenient and easily accessible through public transit from the city center. It provides a unique paddling location in DC because it is a bit away from the city core. You may see the National Harbor or its surroundings from a different angle by going kayaking here.
You may paddle around the Potomac River Waterfront Park’s shores or enjoy fantastic vistas of Old Town Alexandria across the Potomac River.
Kayak rentals are reasonably priced at the National Harbor Boathouse. The rates are the same for a single kayak ($18/hour) and a double kayak ($25/hour), as it is operated by the same firm as the others featured in this post.
8. Dyke Marsh
Dyke Marsh is one of the best places to go kayaking close to Washington, DC, and is only a short drive from the city. Actually a nature refuge, Dyke Marsh is home to numerous bird, plant, and other animal species. These freshwater tidal marshes used to cover a significant portion of the region where Washington, DC currently exists, but Dyke Marsh is the only protected area that still exists.
There are many ways to experience Dyke Marsh, but kayaking is the best. The marshes are perfect for paddling through while keeping an eye out for herons, egrets, & loons.
Kayaks are available for hire at Belle Haven Facility, a boating marina. Paddling is an option from there to reach Dyke Marsh and the region around it.
9. Great Falls Park
Typically, when people think of Washington, DC, they don’t picture whitewater rapids. Nevertheless, Great Falls has both of them! The Potomac River divides Great Falls Park, a federally protected region outside of Washington, DC, between Virginia and Maryland. This Great Falls cascade, a collection of waterfalls that cover the width of the river, is the major draw, and it is distinguished by a ton of hiking paths and viewpoint places.
Great Falls is not a place for beginners to kayak since it features class 6 rapids, which are not for the weak of the heart. But for experienced kayakers who are prepared for the challenge and have the necessary skills, the Great Falls rapids provide a singular and exhilarating experience.
Note: Although there is no place to rent kayaks in Great Falls, Potomac Paddle Sports offers guided tours and lessons with equipment.
Q1. Is it possible to kayak in Washington, DC?
There are several locations in Washington, D.C., where one may go paddling or conduct other outdoor sports. The majority of kayaking possibilities are located along the Potomac River and its associated canals, and from this vantage point, you may get a distinctive view of the capital city.
Q2. Is a kayaking license required in DC?
Jet skis, sailboats, motorboats, paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes. Any vessel used in DC for more than 50 consecutive days must obtain DC registration, according to the “District of Columbia Titling Act of 1983.”
Q3. How much does kayaking cost in Washington, DC?
At Diamond Teague Park on the Capitol Riverfront, you may rent kayaks and canoes for as little as $16 per hour at Ballpark Boathouse. Additionally, there are classes and evening tours of the Capitol Riverfront.
Q4. Where can you launch a boat in Washington, DC?
Instead, you may rent kayaks at the Thompson Boating Center on Virginia Avenue & launch them into the Potomac River. You may paddle through certain sections of Class III rapids if you enjoy whitewater at Rock Creek Park, where you can also launch your kayak.
Q5. Is it possible to paddle from Harpers Ferry to DC?
A little distance downstream from Harpers Ferry on the Potomac River are kayaking and canoeing excursions that provide the ideal retreat and are only a one-hour drive from the beltways of Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Q6. Can you kayak if you’ve never done it before?
No, you should self-teach kayaking since it seems extremely natural once you’re out on the water. However, completing a few navigation workshops & paddling skills classes can help you have a lot more successful and pleasurable experience kayaking on the sea.
Q7. Is it necessary to register the kayak in Washington?
With the exception of canoes, kayaks, or other boats not driven by a motor or sail, all vessels navigating, operating, employing, and mooring in Washington require a registration card, Washington title, and registration decals.
Summing up the Best Places to Kaya Near Washington DC
Getting off of the busy city streets and onto the water might let you discover Washington, DC from a new angle. There is no other way to enjoy a retreat in the middle of the city, but you’re sure to receive a fresh perspective on the place. No matter if you prefer natural scenery or old-world architecture, there are some great views to be experienced from various locations along the Potomac River.
Also, keep in mind the fantastic paddling areas that are within a quick trip from the city. When you go out, don’t forget your PFD, and before you start paddling, make sure you are aware of the local rules.
Meet Bian, a passionate watersports enthusiast and founder of kayakwave.com
Brian has written guides extensively about kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, sharing surfing tips, techniques, and personal experiences with readers. Brian has also contributed to many publications and websites, sharing his expertise and love of the water with others.