Top 8 places to paddle in Canada

As chosen by Adam van Koeverden: ‘A list dedicated to the best that Canada has to offer’


Adam van Koeverden (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP)

“Some of these are places I’ve been and love. Others are places I’m dying to visit. Kayaking is a lot like cycling; there are so many types of boats for different bodies of water. Ocean, white water, creeks, lakes, rivers and waterfalls all require a specific craft for full enjoyment. Since I enjoy paddling in smooth, windless and flat water conditions, this is a list dedicated to the best that Canada has to offer in flat(ish) water paddling.”

1. Newfoundland: Yup, the whole province. If you’re new to paddling or want a great tour guide, look up my buddy Stan Cook. He runs and operates Stan Cook Sea Kayak Adventures, and he’s famous in St. John’s. He’ll take you out to touch an iceberg, or paddle through the caves called the Devil’s Nostrils.

2. Lac Manicouagan: About 300 km north of Baie Comeau, Que., is one of the world’s oldest impact craters. About 215 million years ago, a five-kilometre-wide asteroid smashed into the ground. It probably bugged a lot of dinosaurs back then, but today, it’s a big ring-shaped lake, about 180 km in circumference. I think it would make one of Canada’s best three- or four-day summertime kayaking trips.

3. Algonquin Provincial Park: This is where I call home. I live in Toronto, but I never feel more at ease than when I’m paddling in the pristine lakes and rivers in Ontario’s backyard. Late summer and early fall present the best conditions; warm days, cool nights, no mosquitoes and endless flat water make Algonquin my favourite paddling destination in the world.

4. Quetico Provincial Park: Containing more than 2,000 wilderness campsites on more than 600 lakes, Quetico is a northern Ontario paddling paradise. Northwest of Lake Superior, the park shares an unprotected border with Minnesota. The fishing, camping and paddling opportunities are numerous enough to need a lifetime to explore.

5. Nunavut: The origin of the kayak (literally, “man-boat”) can be traced back to the Inuit hunters of our great North and Greenland. I’ve always wanted to visit Baffin Island, and life would be complete if I could feed a narwhal some kelp from my cockpit.

The Maclean’s Book of Lists, Volume 2

6. The South Nahanni river: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the South Nahanni stretches for more than 500 km through the Northwest Territories. The mouth is located about 500 km west of Yellowknife, and requires about 13 days to navigate. The majestic Virginia Falls are an indication this isn’t an entirely flat water-paddling adventure. Pack a spray skirt!

7. Haida Gwaii: The archipelago north of Vancouver Island presents some of Canada’s most spectacular scenic waterways. The history and culture of the Haida people are enough of a draw for me, and the paddling could simply be a bonus. I’d definitely like to do some salmon fishing and camp in Naikoon Provincial Park.

8. Back again: One day, maybe with my kids (whom I’ve yet to conceive), I’d really love to paddle west to east across our great country. I’ve heard there are some routes that only require a few hundred kilometres in total of portaging—which is pretty crazy, when you consider the journey is more than 7,000 km long! It would be five months well spent, I think.

The Maclean’s Book of Lists, Vol. 2 is available at www.macleans.ca/bookoflists and in the iBookstore.


Top 8 places to paddle in Canada

  1. Just came back from the Broughtons off VI’s NE corner. ( don’t paddle much myself anymore – mostly sail or small power boat. But we took the Aeries folding kayak this time for friends – 50 years old now and in roughish shape but still going pretty strong – like me)
    This area, wedged between Alert Bay and the mouth of Knights inlet can be rough, but it’s a paradise in the summer months( this summer was incredible) with lots of sheltered waterways and wilderness kayak camping spots; a must if you’re fond of humpback whales and orcas – watch out for the cougars though. There are also Fascinating Aboriginal villages both vanished and current; the area has it all for beginner and old hand.
    Agree about the Charlottes though. South Moresby was one of the great kayak trips of my life – even if it was almost 18 years ago now. Incredible variety of beaches. Has it all except great weather. August/ Sept best.
    Going back to my old stomping grounds on the central coast next year ( hopefully) ; now theres a special area if you like wild. There’s just so much to see and so little time to see it.

  2. …personally I’d add Lake of the Woods to this impressive list. Lake of the Woods is a magnificent body of water in the Northwestern part of Ontario. It dips into Minnesota on the south end and Manitoba to the west. Tens of thousands of islands and inlets make it perfect for exploring by paddle…cheers

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