Summer in Austin is all about finding creative ways to cool off. One way to do this is to take a canoe or kayak out on Lady Bird Lake. Yes, it can be a little dicey with younger kids and no, giving them their own paddle is not required. But, if you try it, it’s a great vantage point to check out turtles and resident waterfowl, feed the ducks and catch a nice breeze (the earlier you go, the cooler it will be).
If you’ve got your own canoe or kayak, you are set, but if you need to rent one, check out the following places:
Zilker Park Boat Rentals – Located just downstream from Barton Springs is the Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which rents canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards (perhaps, better known as SUPs) by the hour or day (if you hope to stay out a few hours and wrap up your trip by noon, you can use this coupon). Rentals are cash only, and you need to leave a photo ID while your boat is out. Some of the benefits of starting from this spot are that you can combine a canoeing outing with some playtime at Zilker Park; you can get the chance to see both sides of the shoreline (and the wildlife) as you paddle out to Lady Bird Lake; you will pass by Lou Neff Point, where there are nearly always ducks to feed and you get a chance to begin your journey in the relatively calm waters before going out into the huge expanse that is Lady Bird Lake, complete with a current and lots of other folks doing the same thing. On busy weekends, you may find the area downstream of Barton Springs can get pretty crowded too. If you head out on a weekend between March and November, you’ll need to bring along a few dollars to pay for parking at Zilker (and keep in mind there is additional parking east of the main playground, if you want to minimize your walking time. Just cross the Zilker Zephyr track and follow the signs down the stairs to the boat rental.)
Congress Avenue Kayaks – Located next to the Four Seasons Hotel on the north side of Lady Bird Lake is the Waller Creek Boathouse, which is a collaboration between the City of Austin and the Austin Rowing Club. One- and two-person kayaks, as well as SUPs (stand up paddling, for those age 16 and older) are available for rental by the hour or half-day. Cash and credit cards are accepted, but you must leave a valid driver license while you are out. Keep in mind that parking can be limited in that part of downtown. Alta’s Cafe, which is located at the boathouse, serves caffeinated beverages and locally sourced food.
Texas Rowing Center – Another option north of the Lake and right next to Austin High is the Texas Rowing Center, which also rents canoes, kayaks and SUPs by the hour and by the day. Parking nearby is free and usually plentiful. Cash and credit cards are accepted.
Rowing Dock – On the south side of the lake, west of Mopac is the Rowing Dock, which also rents canoes, kayaks, SUPs and paddleboats by the hour. You have to leave an ID or a set of keys while you are out and you can pay with either cash or a credit card. Parking is available.
Capital Cruises – On the south side of Lady Bird Lake, at the boat dock at the Hyatt, you can rent canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and even swan pedal boats by the hour. Free parking can be a little tricky if you don’t snag a spot at Auditorium Shores — here’s a map of your options.
EpicSUP – Of course, this company rents stand-up paddleboards, but they also rent single and double kayaks from the company’s dock in the South Shore District, on Austin’s new Boardwalk. Cash, Visa and MasterCard are accepted, and you can also pay for your rental in advance online.