Best places to go kayaking and canoeing near Chicago

Man Kayaking near Chicago

There’s something peaceful about being by the water. After a busy day of work, let the stress melt away with a sunset paddle. With its iconic skyline and bustling city streets, Chicago might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of kayaking while surrounded by nature. Yet, suburban Cook County offers a variety of lakes and rivers for kayaking and canoeing that can transform an ordinary day into a paddling adventure.

Warm weather is on the horizon and now is the time to plan your first paddle of the season. Even if you’ve never been kayaking before, or don’t have a boat, many of these lakes are great for beginner paddlers and many offer daily rentals. Grab your life jacket and read on for some of the best places to kayak and canoe near Chicago.

Spots to canoe and kayak north of Chicago


Skokie Lagoons

If you’re looking for a more peaceful happy hour ritual, check out Skokie Lagoons near Winnetka, on the North Shore. Wind your way through seven interconnected lagoons while watching for birds and other wildlife – Skokie Lagoons is a kayaker’s paradise. With the rental season kicking off in early April, paddlers of all levels will be able to rent kayaks or canoes near Chicago for a fun day on the water. With an accessible fishing pier and boat launch, Skokie Lagoons is also a popular spot for fishing.

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Glencoe Beach

Glencoe Beach, located on the North Shore of Chicago, presents paddlers with a unique opportunity to experience Lake Michigan’s beauty. With the gentle waves and crystal clear waters, paddlers can enjoy a serene float along the shoreline, taking in the stunning views of the open water and sandy beach. Glencoe’s lush parks with the skyline of Chicago in the distance make for an unforgettable experience and a reminder that paddling adventures are close by. Boat rentals open in late May through Labor Day. If you want to be a beach bum this summer, snag a season pass and get a discount on rentals.

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Kayaking and canoeing northwest of Chicago


Busse Woods

As one of the largest preserves in the Chicagoland area, Busse Woods is one of the best places to get on the water. Located in Elk Grove Village, this lake is one of the largest in the area so there is plenty of room to explore. The water is calm, making it an excellent place for new and experienced paddlers alike. Enjoy the scenery of ancient upland forests and keep an eye out for a variety of bird species that hang out on the little islands throughout the lake. Plan your paddle accordingly and catch a stunning sunset view from the water. If you don’t have a boat, you can rent row boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats from the Busse Lake Boating Center from early April to October.

Lake Arlington

Lake Arlington is a 50-acre lake in the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights and a true boater’s paradise. It’s a great place for those looking to enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding in a calm and protected setting. Motorized boats are not allowed, ensuring a peaceful experience. No boat? No problem. Rentals are available for kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, paddle boats, and sailboats from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you want to learn more about sailing check out their sailing lessons and youth sailing camps for kiddos. The lake features a 1.8-mile paved path that circles the water, perfect for walking, jogging, and biking.

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Kayaking and canoeing in the southern suburbs of Chicago


Lake Katherine

Located in Palos Heights south of Chicago, Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens offers a serene paddling experience on its beautiful 20-acre lake. Enjoy a tranquil paddle by kayak or canoe but don’t miss the lush gardens and diverse wildlife at the nature center and botanic gardens. With rentals available from late May through early October, this picturesque setting is perfect for an after-work adventure or make a day of it over the weekend with the whole family.

Tampier Lake

If you’re looking for a place to paddle and fish, Tampier Lake is a great option. There’s plenty of shoreline available for fishing and a boat launch if you prefer casting on the open water. If you’re a beginner looking for a place to rent all the gear you need, make sure to visit the Tampier Lake Boating Center near Orland Park. Kayak, canoe, and fishing boat rentals are available from April through late October as well as fishing tackle and licenses. Call ahead to ensure availability. Make sure to ask for a paddle card and after four paid visits, you’ll get the fifth rental free!

Whether seeking the calm of a secluded lagoon or the thrill of an urban river, kayaking and canoeing near Chicago promise memorable experiences for every water enthusiast. Discover more exciting activities on the water.