Canoeing & Kayaking with Kids in Central Texas

This Spring has reinforced why many of us live in Austin: the gorgeous weather. Yes, we’ve had to endure years of heat and drought to get here, but we’ll take a May where it’s still possible to wear a light jacket on the walk to school.

We all know what’s around the corner, though: the unrelenting, run-from-the-car-to-an-air-conditioned-structure time of year we call summer. Many parents survive our Austin summers by either being submerged in water or with a cool drink in hand (and depending on how the day’s going, I won’t judge if it’s a margarita). Since many of the neighborhood pools don’t open until June 10th, it’s the perfect time to take the family out on a canoe, kayak or another watercraft to enjoy greener shores, wildlife and nature. Since we are moms, we have to remind you to take along water, sunscreen and snacks for your crew. Here are some places to head if this kind of an outing sounds up your alley:

Zilker Park Boat RentalsLocated just downstream from Barton Springs is the Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which rents canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards (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 by cash only, you need to leave a photo ID while your boat is out. Some of the benefits in 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 ages 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 drivers’ 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.

Quarries Lake – Quarries Lake is part of Quarries Park, which is located off of Mopac between Braker and Duval. To rent a canoe, you must purchase a lake permit, although the fee is waived for Hyde Park Baptist Church/Quarries and Christian Life Center members. Rentals are for two hours maximum per day and a 24-hour notice is required for reservations. See other Lake policies here.

PflugFun – If you live north of the city, you can check out PflugFun, which rents kayaks, pedal boats and SUPs during the week during the summer.

Austin Canoe & Kayak – Austin Canoe & Kayak sells as well as rents SUPs, canoes and kayaks for 24 hour periods from its locations in Austin and San Marcos. So, if you have the means to get whatever you rent down to a body of water, you’re set.

State Parks – If you don’t mind a little road trip, you can also visit one of our state parks and enjoy some time on the open water.

Sadly, we learned in writing this article that there is currently no way to rent canoes and kayaks at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park, but hopefully that will change in the future, since it’s a pretty spot.

Where’s your favorite place to rent canoes and kayaks in Central Texas?

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