If you live in Seattle and have yet to thoroughly explore Puget Sound, you’re missing out on one of Washington’s most diverse ecosystems. As an inlet portion of the Pacific Ocean and a southern extension of Canada’s Salish Sea, Puget Sound is home to stunning marine life, including harbor seals, California sea lions, orcas, humpback whales, a variety of porpoises, and so much more. While whale and other wildlife can be seen from land in Seattle, your best bet to encounter wildlife in the Sound is to paddle out and immerse yourself in nature. The Puget Sound covers over 1,000 square miles and opens to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in northern Washington, so there’s plenty of places to paddle. To find out everything you need to know about Kayaking in Washington, continue reading below.
The Best Time of Year to go Kayaking in Washington & in Puget Sound
While kayaking in Washington is possible year-round, it’s generally accepted that “kayaking season” on the Sound falls between late spring and early fall. During this time, air temperatures hover around the mid 50s early in the mornings and up to the 70s and 80s during peak daylight hours. Additionally, the water is relatively calm during the warmer months, as there is less chance of harsh winter winds, rain, or storms. Late spring to early fall is also the best time of year to spot migrating orcas in the Sound. Conditions on the Sound can change for the worse at a moment’s notice, so always consult tide and weather data before paddling out.
Where to Kayak on the Sound & Beyond
If you’re kayaking in Washington, you have plenty of options, from the Puget Sound to Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the other 8,000 some lakes in the state. For Seattle-based paddlers, the Sound offers a balance of wildlife and accessibility.
West Seattle has several coastal access points to launch your kayak into the Sound, including Alki Beach, Constellation Park, and Lincoln Park. Beyond its convenient location, just 15 minutes from downtown Seattle, West Seattle is on Washington’s Whale Trail, meaning you’re more likely to see Orcas and other marine mammals here than other parts of the city’s coast.
While it may not have the same wildlife sighting opportunities as the Puget Sound, kayaking on Lake Union is easy, safe, and convenient. Soak up the sun on a nice day paddling Lake Union and cruise by classic Seattle sites like Gas Works Park or the Sleepless in Seattle Houseboat. Gearhouse Garage’s South Lake Union location is just minutes from the water, making picking up your kayaking gear and getting on the water super easy.
Head south to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park to launch your kayak from the rocky Owen Beach. Kayaking off Tacoma’s Owen Beach gives you views of Mount Rainier and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge while also providing a prime opportunity for wildlife spotting. Thanks to Point Defiance Park and its protected coastline, the Ruston Tacoma area is home to large seal and sea lion populations. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot porpoises, orcas, or whales.
To paddle Lake Washington, head to Magnuson Park, Seward Park, or Mount Baker Park to launch your kayak from the lake’s western shoreline. Explore the lake, paddle to Mercer Island, and enjoy the calm waters and views of the cascades.
Before paddling out, always check the weather and the tides to ensure you’re paddling in a safe environment. When paddling large bodies of water, like the Sound, be wary of larger vessels, shipping, and boating traffic. Always paddle with a buddy and always wear a coast guard certified personal flotation device.
With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, it’s time to start planning those epic paddle trips. Gearhouse has you covered with a large selection of Oru Folding Kayaks and stand up paddle boards, plus life jackets and other paddling necessities. Our gear is designed to fit in your sedan or SUV, without the need for expensive racks or trailers. Join Gearhouse for group outings and adventures kayaking in Washington and beyond.