Sea kayaking with kids

Safe, fun and easy to learn the basics: sea kayaking with kids is a fantastic way to get them some physical exercise close to nature.
You might think that sea kayaking with kids would be a stressful experience, but actually it tends to be entirely the opposite. Choose to share a double kayak with your child – or take a back seat and mellow out on the water, watching as your children revel in the joys of paddling while learning a great new skill. When you go with a professional guide, you hand over the parental reins and allow them to do what they do best.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Sea kayaking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What are family sea kayaking vacations like?

Our family kayaking trips – vacations that have been designed expressly with parents and kids in mind – ensure that you’re out on the water for just the right amount of time. They take place in calm conditions and take into account that you may need a bit more time to get clothing and equipment ready in the mornings.

Family kayaking vacations are usually 4-8 days long so that you can make it a short break or fold it into a longer trip. They paddle through some of the world’s most dramatic coastal destinations – Vancouver Island in Canada, Pembrokeshire National Park in Wales, the Scottish Highlands. In warm seas such as Croatia or Greece, the kayaking can easily be combined with swimming or snorkelling.

When kayaking with family, there is usually a minimum age depending on the vacation. Some will accept children as young as six, offering a very easy-going introduction to sea kayaking, with the very young sharing a kayak with a parent.

Other trips may be a bit more challenging and perhaps teach some specific skills. They are aimed at kids aged 12 and up, who will typically be stronger and able to swim further, and perhaps have a bit of experience already.
Sit-on-top kayaks are better-suited for complete beginners. They’re also ideal for quickly leaping overboard for a swim!
Our family sea kayaking vacation partners will be happy to tell you exactly what to expect from their trips as well as what types of kayaks you can use. Single or double (tandem) kayaks are the most common, though three-person kayaks do exist and may be available in some places.

You can also choose from sit-in or sit-on-top kayaks, each of which has its own advantages. A sit-in kayak is better for colder water, as it gives more protection against the elements, especially when fitted with a spray skirt. Meanwhile, sit-on-top kayaks are better-suited for complete beginners. Wider and more stable, they’re also ideal for quickly leaping overboard for a swim!

You’ll always be equipped with buoyancy aids; the professional instructors and guides that our partners use will always check they fit correctly. Sunscreen (ideally reef-friendly sunscreen) and sun hats will be your responsibility, however. In places like Wales, where the coast can be rocky, kayakers are routinely asked to wear the provided helmets instead.

Best places for sea kayaking with kids

Family sea kayaking in Croatia

The Elaphiti Islands just north-west of Dubrovnik are an idyllic place to learn how to sea kayak, and perfect for escaping the city’s summertime crowds. Water babies as young as six are welcome on our Croatia family kayaking vacations. They’re based on the sandy island of Lopud, which has just one village and no cars.

You’ll spend your days kayaking between islands, swimming in secluded bays, picnicking on beaches and perhaps doing a little cycling too. And because you’re just a 45-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, you can easily fit in some city sightseeing when the cruise ship day-trippers aren’t around.

Family sea kayaking in Wales

The ruggedly beautiful Pembrokeshire coast makes a memorable setting for our family sea kayaking vacations in Wales. Staying at an award-winning activity center, you’ll head out each day to the nearby harbour with calm waters ideal for beginners.

Routes here can hug the coastline as you weave between fishing boats, cast your echoes into dark sea caves, and look out for seals and birdlife. You’ll share meals with other families in the evenings, so kids always have playmates and parents always have someone to clink glasses with.

Family sea kayaking in Canada

Picture yourselves paddling gently along off Vancouver Island, when your guide pauses and points into the distance, and you see a fin, a waterspout, or perhaps a familiar black-and-white beak breaking the surface.

Vancouver Island is the best place in the world to see orcas (killer whales) and kayaking gets you safely up close and personal with these characterful animals. You might also encounter humpback whales, black bears, eagles, sea lions and dolphins on a family sea kayaking tour in Canada.

To better accommodate families wild about wildlife, our partners let you choose between either expedition-style itineraries, where you camp in a different place every night, or base camp-style trips, where you paddle off from the same beach every day with no need to break down and reassemble tents each day.

Advice for sea kayaking with kids

Sophie Hurst, owner of our Welsh sea kayaking partner Preseli Venture, says: “Although it is great if the parents help the kids get all the kit and equipment ready to go in the water, once they are out there, it is really helpful if they – how do I put it politely? – back off a bit. Leave the instructing to us, because it is easier for the instructor to do their job then. The same thing goes for the husbands who try to teach their wives!”

Jon Kellie, a kayaking instructor and guide at Preseli Venture, adds: “There is a lot of faff that goes with kayaking because there is a lot of kit. You have to load the trailer, and get the boats to the water, do the capsize drill and so on. So if people are late at the beginning of the day, you do run out of time a bit. My main tips for families are: be on time, be ready and don’t faff.”

Vanja Kelemen, from our partner Huck Finn Adventure Travel in Croatia, recommends that newbies stay for a week: “Our trips are a week long, which gives complete beginners enough time to get used to their kayak and develop kayaking skills. We use single and double kayaks so kids can make sure their parents know what they are doing and keep them from capsizing.”

Catherine Mack, travel writer, mum and sea kayaking regular, has a packing tip: “Rubber and Neoprene boots are a nightmare to get on and off for sea kayaking. Bring a bottle of olive or almond oil and rub a little on the feet before putting the boots on – guaranteed tantrum-free bootie moment. Other parents will nab it, so bring plenty.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Aaron Burden] [Sit on top kayaks: 931885] [Devon: Rory Collins] [Canada: Ed Dunens]