Best Kayaking in New Hampshire

Kayaker paddling in the evening at a lake in New Hampshire
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If you’re seeking the best kayaking experiences in New Hampshire, you’ve come to the right place. New Hampshire offers a diverse and picturesque landscape for kayakers, from serene lakes and meandering rivers to rugged coastlines. With its crystal-clear waters, abundant wildlife, and a variety of waterways to explore, this northeastern state is a haven for paddlers of all skill levels. Join us as we delve into the top kayaking destinations and experiences that make New Hampshire an undisputed gem for kayaking enthusiasts. Whether you’re a novice looking for a leisurely float or an experienced kayaker seeking whitewater thrills, New Hampshire has something to offer everyone on the water.

Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee, located in the picturesque state of New Hampshire, is the largest and perhaps most enchanting lake in the entire New England region. Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the White Mountains, this glacial lake spans an impressive 72 square miles and offers a wealth of recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Winnipesaukee:

  • Island Exploration: Lake Winnipesaukee boasts over 250 islands, each offering unique opportunities for exploration and picnicking.
  • Scenic Beauty: Surrounded by the majestic White Mountains, kayaking on Lake Winnipesaukee provides unparalleled views of pristine natural beauty.
  • Waterfront Dining: Numerous lakeside restaurants and cafes allow you to take a break from kayaking and indulge in delicious cuisine while enjoying the lake’s serene atmosphere.
  • Fishing Opportunities: Anglers can cast their lines into the lake’s clear waters, hoping to catch a variety of fish species, including trout, salmon, and bass.
  • Boating Events: Throughout the year, Lake Winnipesaukee hosts exciting boating events and regattas, making it a vibrant hub for water sports enthusiasts.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks

Saco River

The Saco River, a winding waterway that meanders through the picturesque landscapes of Maine and New Hampshire, offers an enchanting escape into the heart of New England’s natural beauty. Originating in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this river gracefully flows southward, eventually joining the Atlantic Ocean.

Reasons to Kayak in the Saco River:

  • Lazy River Experience: The Saco River provides a gentle, meandering current, offering a peaceful and leisurely kayaking experience ideal for relaxation.
  • Riverside Camping: Along the riverbanks, you’ll find numerous campgrounds, allowing you to extend your kayaking adventure into a camping trip with friends and family.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that call the Saco River home, including bald eagles, beavers, and deer.
  • Photography Paradise: The Saco River provides countless opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty of the natural world.
  • Tubing and Canoeing: In addition to kayaking, the Saco River is a popular destination for tubing and canoeing, creating a fun and social atmosphere on the water.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump

Squam Lake

Squam Lake, named after the Abenaki Native American word “Asquam,” which translates to “water,” has long been a source of inspiration. This body of water boasts crystal-clear depths, tranquil coves, and a myriad of islands, each possessing its unique charm and natural wonders. Encircled by lush forests and surrounded by the majestic White Mountains, this glacial lake covers approximately 6,791 acres and has earned its reputation as a tranquil oasis for outdoor enthusiasts,

Reasons to Kayak in Squam Lake:

  • Loon Watching: Squam Lake is renowned for its resident loon population, offering excellent opportunities for birdwatching and the chance to observe these iconic waterbirds up close.
  • Peaceful Ambiance: The lake’s limited motorized boat traffic ensures a tranquil and serene kayaking experience, perfect for connecting with nature.
  • Educational Opportunities: Squam Lake is home to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, which offers guided kayak tours with a focus on environmental education.
  • Star Gazing: Experience mesmerizing stargazing from your kayak at night, as Squam Lake’s remote location minimizes light pollution, revealing a canvas of stars.
  • Nature Preservation: Surrounding Squam Lake are several conservation areas, making it an exceptional location for appreciating unspoiled and protected natural environments.

Recommended Gear: Extra Water, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

Piscataquog River

Flowing through the heart of New Hampshire’s largest city, Manchester, the Piscataquog River stands as a serene and scenic waterway amid an urban landscape. Its name, pronounced “pis-CAT-a-kwahg,” is derived from the Abenaki Native American language and means “place where many waters meet.” The river begins its journey in the rolling hills of Goffstown, New Hampshire, and winds its way for approximately 57 miles before merging with the Merrimack River.

Reasons to Kayak in the Piscataquog River:

  • Whitewater Challenge: For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the river features exciting Class II-III rapids, providing a thrilling kayaking experience.
  • Wildlife in the City: Despite its urban surroundings, the Piscataquog River supports a surprising diversity of urban wildlife, including ducks, herons, and other waterfowl.
  • Local Events: Join community events and kayaking races that are frequently held on the Piscataquog River, allowing you to connect with fellow enthusiasts and locals.
  • Urban Kayaking: Explore the heart of Manchester, New Hampshire, from a unique perspective by kayaking through the city’s urban landscape.
  • Fall Foliage Spectacle: Kayaking on the Piscataquog River during the autumn season offers a front-row seat to a stunning display of vibrant fall foliage.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat

Merrimack River

The Merrimack River is a vital and storied waterway that weaves its way through the rich tapestry of the northeastern United States. Its name, borrowed from the Native American Pennacook language, translates to “place of strong current” or “swift water,” a fitting description of the river’s powerful flow and historical significance. Stretching approximately 117 miles from its source in the rugged mountains of New Hampshire, the Merrimack River traverses the scenic landscapes of both New Hampshire and Massachusetts before it ultimately meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Reasons to Kayak in the Merrimack River:

  • History and Culture: Paddle along a river steeped in historical significance, passing by old mills, factories, and industrial sites that played a vital role in the region’s development.
  • Scenic Riverbanks: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Merrimack River’s lush forests, scenic riverbanks, and occasional wildlife sightings as you kayak.
  • Multiday Adventures: Plan multi-day kayaking trips along different sections of the Merrimack River, exploring various towns and landscapes along the way.
  • Riverfront Dining: Many restaurants offer riverfront seating, allowing you to enjoy a meal with a view of the Merrimack River, combining culinary delights with your kayaking experience.
  • Seasonal Changes: Experience the changing seasons along the Merrimack River, from vibrant foliage in the fall to blooming spring landscapes, creating a dynamic and ever-evolving kayaking environment.

Recommended Gear: Sun Hat, Insect Spray, Cup Holder, Water Bottle, Paddle Holder, Water Shoe, Snorkel

Lake Sunapee

Renowned for its natural beauty and tranquil ambiance, Lake Sunapee beckons kayakers to embark on a journey into its serene waters, surrounded by the lush forests and rolling hills of the region. With a surface area of about 4.5 square miles, Lake Sunapee has long been a cherished destination for both locals and visitors seeking outdoor adventure, relaxation, and a connection with nature. Its name, derived from the Algonquian Native American language, means “wild goose water,” a nod to the waterfowl that once frequented its shores.

Reasons to Kayak in Lake Sunapee:

  • Scenic Beauty: Lake Sunapee is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, offering picturesque views as you paddle. The clear waters and lush shoreline create a beautiful backdrop for your kayaking adventure.
  • Island Exploration: The lake features several islands, such as Loon Island and Great Island, which are perfect for exploration. Paddle to these islands, go ashore, and enjoy picnics, nature walks, or simply relax in the serene surroundings.
  • Wildlife Watching: Lake Sunapee is home to a variety of wildlife, including loons, bald eagles, and ospreys. Kayaking provides an excellent opportunity to observe these creatures in their natural habitat.
  • Fishing Opportunities: The lake is well-known for its fishing, with an abundance of species like trout, bass, and perch. Kayakers can cast their lines and enjoy a peaceful day of angling on the water.
  • Water Sports: In addition to kayaking, Lake Sunapee offers opportunities for other water sports like paddleboarding, water skiing, and tubing. You can make the most of your day on the lake by trying out different activities.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Waterproof Phone Case, Sunscreen, Water Bottle, Snacks

Androscoggin River

The Androscoggin River, a meandering waterway that flows through the picturesque landscapes of New Hampshire and Maine, offers a remarkable opportunity for kayaking enthusiasts to connect with the natural beauty of New England. Originating in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, this river journeys for approximately 178 miles, ultimately merging with the Kennebec River in Maine before making its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Reasons to Kayak in the Androscoggin River:

  • Scenic River Route: The Androscoggin River offers a picturesque journey through the heart of New Hampshire and Maine. As you kayak, you’ll be surrounded by lush forests, rocky riverbanks, and stunning natural landscapes.
  • Wildlife Observation: This river is home to diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and beavers. Kayaking allows you to quietly approach these animals in their natural habitat, making it an ideal spot for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.
  • Fishing Opportunities: The Androscoggin River is known for its fishing, with various fish species like trout, bass, and salmon. Anglers can enjoy casting their lines while floating downstream in their kayaks.
  • Whitewater Adventures: For those seeking excitement, the river offers sections with Class II and Class III rapids, providing an adrenaline rush for experienced kayakers. You can choose the level of difficulty that suits your skills and preferences.
  • Fall Foliage Spectacle: Kayaking on the Androscoggin River during the autumn season offers a breathtaking opportunity to witness the vibrant colors of New England’s fall foliage.

Recommended Gear: Kayak Wheels, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

Great Bay

Great Bay, situated along the stunning New Hampshire Seacoast, is a unique and captivating kayaking destination that offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, ecological diversity, and maritime history. This expansive estuary, where freshwater rivers converge with saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean, has earned its name as both a refuge for wildlife and a sanctuary for kayakers seeking a serene aquatic adventure.

Reasons to Kayak in Great Bay:

  • Estuarine Ecosystem: Kayaking in Great Bay allows you to explore the unique estuarine ecosystem where freshwater from rivers meets saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. This dynamic environment teems with diverse marine and bird species, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Tidal Adventure: Experience the changing tides as you kayak on Great Bay. The rising and falling water levels create a dynamic and ever-evolving paddling experience, making each journey on the bay a unique adventure.
  • Island Hopping: The bay is dotted with several small islands, such as Adams Point Island and Goat Island, which are perfect for exploration, picnics, or simply enjoying the solitude of nature.
  • Birdwatching Paradise: Great Bay is a haven for birdwatchers, with numerous species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors. Kayaking quietly through the bay’s waterways allows for up-close birdwatching encounters.
  • Environmental Education: Several organizations offer guided kayaking tours on Great Bay with a focus on environmental education. Learn about the bay’s ecology, conservation efforts, and the importance of preserving this unique ecosystem.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Paddle Holder, Dry Bag, Water Shoes, Bilge Pump, Sun Hat

Ossipee Lake

Ossipee Lake, situated in the heart of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, is a tranquil and captivating destination that beckons kayaking enthusiasts to explore its pristine waters and picturesque surroundings. With a surface area spanning over 3,200 acres, this glacial lake is not only one of the state’s largest but also one of its most cherished natural treasures.

Reasons to Kayak in Ossipee Lake:

  • Island Adventures: Ossipee Lake features several islands, such as Pine Island and Broad Bay Island, which are perfect for exploration. Paddle to these islands, go ashore, and enjoy picnics, nature walks, or simply relax.
  • Sandy Beaches: The lake boasts beautiful sandy beaches along its shores. Kayakers can take a rest, go for a swim, or soak up the sun.
  • Fishing Trips: Ossipee Lake offers excellent fishing opportunities, with a variety of fish species, including bass and trout. Kayakers can cast their lines and enjoy a day of angling.
  • Spectacular Sunsets: Witness breathtaking sunsets over Ossipee Lake from your kayak. As the sun sets behind the surrounding hills, the lake’s surface is bathed in warm hues, creating a serene and picturesque scene.
  • Family Friendly Fun: Ossipee Lake is known for its family-friendly atmosphere. Bring the whole family for a day of kayaking, swimming, and water-based adventures suitable for all ages.

Recommended Gear: PFD, Binoculars, Waterproof Phone Case, First Aid Kit, Insect Repellent, Navigation Map, Bilge Pump

Contoocook River

The Contoocook River, meandering through the charming landscapes of New Hampshire, offers an idyllic and captivating setting for kayaking adventures. Originating in the heart of the state, this river journeys for approximately 71 miles, flowing through picturesque small towns, rolling countryside, and rich forests before joining the Merrimack River.

Reasons to Kayak in the Contoocook River:

  • Charming New England Towns: Kayaking on the Contoocook River allows you to visit and paddle through charming New England towns like Contoocook and Penacook. You can stop to explore these historic communities, grab a bite to eat, or simply enjoy the quaint architecture and local culture along the riverbanks.
  • Foliage Tours: During the fall, the Contoocook River offers some of the region’s most stunning foliage displays. Kayaking through the colorful landscape provides a unique and immersive way to enjoy the autumn scenery.
  • Riverfront Art: Some sections of the river feature public art installations and sculptures along the banks, adding an artistic dimension to your kayaking journey.
  • Festivals and Events: The Contoocook River hosts various community events, river festivals, and races throughout the year, providing opportunities to connect with local culture and enjoy a festive atmosphere.
  • Nature and Wildlife: Paddle through tranquil stretches of the river and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Contoocook’s lush surroundings. Wildlife sightings, such as turtles and waterfowl, are common along the way.

Recommended Gear: Spray Skirt, Waterproof Headlamp, Towel, Emergency Flares, Dry Change of Clothes, Kayak Repair Kit, Snacks

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