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22 Absolute Best Places to Paddle Board in the U.S.

two people paddleboarding on a lake

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I never thought stand up paddleboarding (SUP) would appeal to me, but I gave it a try and instantly loved it. In fact, it wasn’t long after that first try that I invested in my first paddle board. Since then, I’ve gone out on a nearby lake countless times and have gone out on the ocean with my board a few times, too. 

22 Best Places to Paddle Board in the USA 

paddle board at labor creek state park
Photo by Crystal Jackson

While I haven’t been to all the following destinations, they are among the most notable for paddleboarding. Whether you’re a beginner paddler or an expert, you might want to take your board to some new destinations. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling these 22 best places to paddle board in the United States. 

1. Bayou St. John (NOLA)

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

For paddling enthusiasts, there’s no better way to see the city of New Orleans than taking a paddle down the Bayou St. John. The good news is that no boats are allowed, so you’ll have a calm trip. You can bring your own paddleboard or rent one from a nearby facility. You can take a short route through residential areas and paddle around Park Island. It’s a calm and easy touring destination perfect for all levels. The only danger is after rainfall when crossing under bridges can be a challenge. 

2. Biscayne Bay (Miami, Florida)

Photo by Tiffany Marin on Unsplash

Biscayne Bay is easily one of the best paddle board locations. Located in Miami, Florida, you can rent boards from the National Park Institute or from Biscayne Bay Paddle Boards and Kayaks. The waters in the bay are calm, and this paddling adventure is good for all ages and levels of experience. You’ll find secluded beaches, mangrove trees, and plenty of wildlife in the area to enjoy as you tour the area. 

3. Caddo Lake (Texas)

Caddo Lake is located near the city of Uncertain, Texas. It offers five unique paddling trails through swamps and bayous. Carter’s Chute Paddling Trail is a 7.6-mile loop through cypress swamps. Cathedral Paddling Trail is a shorter 3.8-mile loop.

Hell’s Half Acre Paddling Trail is an 8.8-mile loop. Old Folks Playground Paddling Trail is 4.9-miles and can take 2–3 hours. Turtle Shell Paddling Trail is a 4.6-mile loop adjacent to the Old Folks Playground trail. With so many trails to choose from, you can easily pick your own adventure. 

4. Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe (California)

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Carnelian Bay is one of the best paddleboard locations out there. It’s located in Lake Tahoe in California. Beginner paddlers can stay close to the beach area while more experienced paddlers can explore the bay area. This is one of the quieter locations to paddle in Lake Tahoe. With a small beach, sheltered waters, and incredible views, this is a bucket list paddle boarding experience. You’ll be in the North Lake Tahoe area, and you don’t have to bring your own board. You can easily find places to rent one in the area. 

5. Dewey Beach (Delaware)

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Dewey Beach, located in Delaware, is a coastal town that ranks as one of the best places to paddle in the United States. It has soft sand beaches and some of the clearest and cleanest coastline water around.

It’s a popular paddling spot, so you can expect some crowds in the busy season, but the long stretch of coastline makes it easy to find a spot of your own to relax or tour the area. It now hosts the annual Dewey Beach PaddlePalooza with two- and four-mile paddle races, beach yoga instruction, and even an event to paddle with your pup.

6. Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe (California/Nevada)

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Emerald Bay isn’t just a popular spot for hiking and photographs. It’s also popular for kayaking and paddle boarding. The drive there is spectacular, but you’ll want to arrive early to secure a parking spot. The one-mile trail is steep, so it’s best to rent paddleboards at the beach rather than trying to carry them down the trail.

You can also choose to launch your own board from Baldwin Beach and paddle the three miles to Emerald Bay, landing in Vikingsholm. The views are spectacular no matter how you arrive there, making this one of the best places to paddle board in the United States. 

7. Lady Bird Lake (Austin, Texas)

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Lady Bird Lake offers 8 access points to paddle with views of the city. There are several established paddling trails, or you can choose to go your own way while touring the lake area. It’s free to paddle, but you can choose to rent a board if you don’t have, or want to bring, your own.

You can also bring your paddle pup with you to enjoy a day out on the water. Lady Bird Lake is one of the top destinations for paddleboarding in the United States, and it’s perfect for beginners. 

8. Lake Montauk (Montauk, New York)

Photo by Clay LeConey on Unsplash

Outside named the Hamptons one of the best places to SUP in the country, citing a relaxing environment as well as Sunset, Stargazing, and Full Moon Paddles offered by Paddle Diva in partnership with Bellofatto. Head to the East End of Montauk to access Lake Montauk via Industrial Road. Just keep in mind that you’ll need a town permit for parking. 

9. Lake Powell’s Board Antelope Canyon (Arizona)

Lake Powell is a top SUP destination, and one of the more unique tours you can take is to Board Antelope Canyon. It’s only a 2–mile trip down the canyon by paddle board, but then you have the option to hike the 3-mile canyon, which is a 6-mile roundtrip to return to your board.

The launch point is outside of Page, Arizona, at the end of Antelope Point Road. If you want to visit the protected Navajo Nation land section of the canyon, you must purchase a tour with a guide months in advance. The park entry fee is $25 to visit Lake Powell, and you’ll want to check the weather and prepare for it accordingly.

10. Mission Bay (San Diego, California)

Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Mission Bay is a man-made saltwater bay and spans 20 miles of coastline. Try out Quivira Basin to see sea lions, seals, and other wildlife. If paddling with a pup, try Fiesta Island, which features a Dog Beach. Bonita Cove can be found adjacent to Belmont Park. The cove is sheltered, and the waters are calm — great for beginning paddlers and SUP-enthusiasts who want a relaxing day on the water. 

11. French Broad River (Asheville, North Carolina)

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The French Broad River in Asheville has the advantage of being slow-moving and offers 12 miles of paddling between Bent Creek Park and through both the Biltmore Estate and the downtown River Arts District. This area is perfect for beginning paddlers, but it’s scenic views can attract paddlers of all experience levels for a relaxing day of sightseeing in Asheville. You can rent a paddle board or bring your own for a day out on the water. 

12. Knik Glacier Pools (Alaska)

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Knik Glacier Pools is not a paddleboarding destination for beginners. This is definitely a more advanced undertaking. Alaska Helicopter Tours offers paddle boarding adventures from June to September. It can take 3–4 hours, and the tour includes a dry suit with a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), a paddle board with leash and safety ropes, and a picnic lunch.

Important: You have to be 18 or older to participate, and you have to be able to carry a 25-pound paddleboard on your pack. There’s also a 2-person minimum for the tour. You’ll be paddleboarding on an actual glacier — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

13. Lake Mead (Nevada)

Photo by Christian Lendl on Unsplash

Lake Mead near the Hoover Dam is one of the best paddling locations in the United States. Canoe/Kayak Beach is located in the Hemenway Harbor area and has parking. You can launch anywhere that a boat can with the exception of designated beaches for swimming.

The marina on Lake Mead rents out paddleboards if you don’t want to bring your own. Life jackets are also available. The views are spectacular, as you’ll be surrounded by mountains on all sides. 

14. Lake Union (Seattle, Washington)

View of Lake Union – Photo by Sira Mas

Lake Union in Seattle, Washington, is another popular and must-see paddling destination. You can launch at the Lake Washington Rowing Club or rent a board in Moss Bay. You can paddle by Gas Works Park, watch seaplanes take off and land, and enjoy the skyline views of the city. Seattle is known for its rain, so be sure to check (and prepare for) the weather before heading out on the water. 

15. Merritt Island (Florida)

Florida’s Space Coast is certainly a unique and notable paddleboarding destination. Visit Merritt Island, Florida, to tour the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is part of the Canaveral (JFK) Space Center. You can launch from and tour Mosquito Lagoon or check out the bioluminescence in the Upper Indian River Lagoon. You can look out for manatees and other wildlife inside the refuge. Haulover Canal is the most popular paddling launch point. 

16. Northwest Harbor (East Hampton, New York)

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Northwest Creek will give you paddling access as a launch point to Northwest Harbor, one of the best paddling locations in the United States. It’s located in East Hampton, New York. Suffolk County’s Northwest Harbor Park doesn’t require a parking permit, and dogs are allowed to come with you. This is one of the lesser-known but incredibly beautiful places to paddleboard in the Hamptons. The secluded access point and somewhat hidden location make it a perfect spot to launch and enjoy a relaxing day on the water. 

17. Outer Banks (North Carolina)

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It’s hard to choose a single destination in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. They’re all beautiful. The most popular launching points are Whalehead Club, Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve, Bodie Island, Pea Island, and Frisco Woods Campground. The most scenic destination is likely Kitty Hawk Wood, especially on windy days. You’ll want to check the weather before making your paddling plans, but touring the Outer Banks deserves a place on every paddler’s bucket list. 

18. Stock Island in the Florida Keys (Florida)

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If you’re looking for clear water and mangrove forests, you’ll want to head to Stock Island in the Florida Keys. You can rent a board from Lazy Dog and even take an eco-tour of the area. This is one of the warmer weather locations on the list, and it’s perfect for all ages and skill sets. Plus, it’s ideally located in the lower Florida Keys with access to many different islands and tour possibilities. 

19. Shem Creek (Charleston, South Carolina)

If you want to skip the beach and try for views of Ravenel Bridge and the downtown Charleston skyline, look no further than Shem Creek. The water is calm, and it’s a good place to paddle for all levels of experience. You’ll paddle toward Charleston Harbor for the best views. 

20. Sullivan’s Island (South Carolina)

Located near Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is an ideal paddleboarding destination. It’s the most pristine beach even if it is the smallest, and you’re likely to find less crowds at this launch point. You can enjoy paddling on the sea with a view of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, locally known as Charleston Light. 

21. Two Ocean Lake (Wyoming)

If visiting Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming isn’t on your bucket list, I’ll wait while you add it…
Two Ocean Lake sits on the Continental Divide in Grand Teton National Park with lakes created during the Ice Age. It’s three miles long, and you might spy bears, deer, elk, and coyotes along the shoreline. There’s also parking with restrooms and a short walk to the water for added convenience. You’ll get the views of the park at Two Ocean Lake without the crowds. 

22. Waikiki (Oahu, Hawaii)

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Kaimana Beach is located near Waikiki near the better-known Waikiki Beach but has the advantage of an easy launch into the ocean and gentler waves. You’ll have views of Diamond Head as well as the city skyline as you tour the beautiful waters around this island. It’s a good place for paddlers of all abilities to have a Hawaiian adventure.

What is the Best Place to Go Paddleboarding in the U.S.?

Lake Tahoe is arguably the best place to go paddleboarding in the United States. It spans California and Nevada, and you’ll be treated to spectacular views of nature no matter where you choose to paddle. While you can paddle there any season, summer is the best time for mornings on the water, and fall is ideal for cooler weather but warmer water.

Important: You are required to have a Personal Flotation Device and a paddle board leash. You’ll want to check the weather before your trip as it can change quickly in the Lake Tahoe area. 

Tips for Planning Your Trip

These are among the 22 best paddleboarding destinations in the United States, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when planning your trip. You’ll want to decide if you’re going to bring a paddleboard or if you plan to rent one at your destination. If renting a board, check the hours of operation and see if you need to reserve it in advance. If you’re bringing your own board, check the parking situation, parking fees, and how far you’ll have to carry your board to launch it. 

You’ll want to make sure you have water for hydration and something to keep your keys and supplies dry while you’re out on the water. You’ll need your PFD, a leash, and both a PFD and a leash if you’re bringing a dog out on the water with you. Be sure to pack sunscreen no matter what time of year you’ll be out on the water, and don’t forget to check both the weather and the water temperatures while planning the trip and before you head out. 

Last but not least, if you cannot afford to visit these destinations or simply don’t have the time available, don’t overlook the paddling destinations in your state. Small lakes, slow rivers, inlets, and bays can all be great places to launch your board. While they may not all have the incredible views of these destinations, you can still enjoy the natural environment near you while planning your next amazing paddle board adventure. 

Recommended read: Your Guide to Hard Labor Creek State Park, By a Local

Featured Image: Matt Zhou on Unsplash

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