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Outdoor enthusiasts love the quiet and serenity of kayaking through calm waters, keeping an eye out for turtles, waterfowl and other wildlife.

This is not quite the experience you get boating in Georgetown. The planes taking off from National Airport, the helicopters crisscrossing the Potomac and the construction noise of the Key Bridge rehabilitation project combine to make the quack of a duck almost inaudible.

But that’s life in a bustling city, right? If you want quiet, go out to the Shenandoah.

Little tops the splendor of being out on the water with a backdrop that includes the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument. (The Watergate too, but that can bring mixed feelings, depending on how you look at it.)

Watersports lovers are lucky to have many opportunities in D.C. to rent a kayak, canoe, rowboat, paddleboard and even pedal/paddle boats.

Most of us have seen the tourists sweating while madly pedaling the swan boats in the Tidal Basin — it’s fun and offers some great views, especially during cherry blossom season, even if it is kind of claustrophobic. But there’s so much more to boating in the area.

Watercraft can be rented at:

  • Key Bridge Boathouse, 3500 Water St. NW — kayaks, canoes and paddleboards; orientation, yoga and fitness classes; day and nighttime boating tours; open daily through October; 202-337-9642.
  • Thompson Boat Center, 2900 Virginia Ave. NW — kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, sculls, bicycles, hydro bikes; sculling classes; open daily through October; 202-333-9543.
  • Fletcher’s Boathouse, 4940 Canal Rd. NW — kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, rowboats, bicycles; orientation classes; fishing; open daily through October; 202-244-0461.
  • Tidal Basin, 1501 Maine Ave SW — pedal boats and swan boats; open daily through Oct. 9; 202-479-2426.
  • National Harbor, 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, Md. — kayaks, paddleboards and pedal boats; orientation classes; open daily through Oct. 1.
  • Ballpark Boathouse, Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE — kayaks and canoes; orientation classes; tours; river cleanup projects; open daily through Sept. 24; 202-337-9642.
  • Washington Sailing Marina, 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, Va. — kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, bicycles; fitness classes; open daily; 703-548-9027.


  • Kayaks, $18/hour single-person $22 double
  • Paddleboards, $22/hour
  • Canoes, $25/hour
  • Sculls, $17/hour single, $27 double
  • Rowboats, $16/hour, $30/day
  • Pedal boats, $30/hour (National Harbor); $16/hour two-person, $20 four-person, $34 swan boat (Tidal Basin)
  • Sailboats, Sunfish Aquafin $17/hour, Flying Scot $25/hour
  • Hydro biking, $25/hour
  • Biking, $11/hour or $35/day

If you want to make a day of it and head out to open waters, try Paddle or Pedal locations in Annapolis, North Beach or Chesapeake Beach. They rent single kayaks for $15/hour; double kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards or pedal boats for $20/hour; and bicycles for $10/hour.

Even farther out, near Baltimore, is Shallow Creek Kayaks, where you can explore the harbor and venture far from shore without the water being much more than 18 inches deep. Shallow Creek Kayaks has many launch locations, and will even deliver kayaks within a certain area.

Summer in D.C. has long meant we must seek whatever shade we can find, like lions on the Serengeti, lest we fall victim to the heat and humidity of our nation’s capital. But this past summer has been a little different, offering more tolerably temperate days than ever. Regardless, most of the area’s boathouses are open throughout the fall season, offering residents and visitors the opportunity to explore the area’s great beauty from a different perspective.

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