It’s no secret that Cleveland is a haven for water sports enthusiasts! Not only are we tucked along the shoreline of Lake Erie, but we are also surrounded by smaller lakes, rivers and waterfalls that make exploring an absolute treat. If you’re looking to hit the water on a canoe, in a kayak or even on a stand-up paddle board, there are endless options at your fingertips.
We rounded up 10 of the most beautiful and accessible paddling destinations near Cleveland, as well as several great rental options if you don’t have a vessel of your own. So, pack up your swimsuit and your water shoes, and get ready for a fun day in the sun. Adventure awaits!
Photo courtesy of 41° North
The Rocky River winds through the western suburbs of Cleveland, eventually feeding into Lake Erie. A trip here will allow casual paddlers to explore the Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Reservation, marveling at the pristine water, magnificent shale cliffs and lush greenery. 41° North is the most convenient rental destination if you’re planning to paddle the Rocky River, but you can also easily venture to other nearby paddling destinations. The rental shop offers high-quality sea kayaking instruction for all levels and offers a wide range of affordable ways to get in the water, including hourly rentals, 2.5-hour sunset tours, full-day outings and multi-day adventures.
Accessible enough for beginners but scenic enough to thrill experts, the 27-mile-long Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail is one of the area’s most popular kayaking routes. It’s one of just 10 waterways designated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, comprised of portions of the Vermillion River, the Black River and a stretch of Lake Erie. That means you’ll have the chance to try both river and open water travel along the shore!
One of Ohio’s most beloved natural gems, Cuyahoga Valley National Park boasts lush foliage, abundant hiking trails, and lots of opportunities for water-bound adventure along the 100-mile stretch of the Cuyahoga River. There are three different paddler access points for the river within the park, including the Boston Shore Visitor Center, Red Lock and Station Road Bridge Trailhead. The river offers more of a challenge, so beginners should venture to Cuyahoga Fall’s Burning River Adventures, which offers guided tours along stretches of the river.
Situated within the Hinckley Reservation, this 90-acre lake is a little slice of paradise for boaters and paddle boarders alike. The mirror-like surface of the water makes it easy to traverse, and the lake is also full of fish in case you’d like to bring a rod with you! The hub for rentals in the area is the Hinckley Lake Boathouse — which provides motorized and non-motorized options for your enjoyment.
Photo courtesy of Lake Metroparks
Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park is situated in the heart of Lake County on Lake Erie’s shore, and is an easily accessible option for those wanting to try their hand at open-water kayaking on the lake. The park offers rental options including sit-on-top ocean kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, and you can also register for private lessons or sunset trips!
The Flats is one of Cleveland’s most culturally rich and historic neighborhoods, and it’s also a fantastic spot to enjoy water sports on Lake Erie! This area is home to the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, and offers plenty of opportunities for scenic sunset kayaking. Stop into Great Lakes Watersports for your rentals, which are priced per hour!
Put-In-Bay is an adventurer’s paradise. Not only is it one of Ohio’s most popular summertime getaways, it’s also a fantastic place to go camping. Since it’s an island, there are naturally lots of opportunities for swimming and boating — each more picturesque than the last. Refuge Harbor, Squaw Harbor and Oak Point State Park are all fantastic places to start!
Huntington Beach is considered one of the most idyllic destinations in Ohio, featuring pristine sand beaches, trees and foliage from the Huntington Reservation and stunning views of the vast lake and the distant Cleveland skyline. This spectacular paddling destination is just a half hour from downtown Cleveland, and well worth the trip! Once you’re done with your Lake Erie adventure, enjoy a meal in one of the picnic structures on the beach, from which you can watch the surf and the surrounding wildlife.
Situated on the edge of downtown Cleveland, the 22-acre Wendy Park is an urban oasis and a wonderful place for lovers of nature to escape from the city for a little bit. Launch your kayak into the bay for a leisurely midday paddle, and keep your eye out for birds! The park is home to 260 recorded bird species. There are volleyball courts on the shore in case you and your companions are up for a quick game before or after kayaking.
North Coast Harbor is conveniently located near FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Set off from the dock for a paddling trip against a spectacular backdrop of the Cleveland skyline. Once you’re done, you can relax on the green space next to the harbor and enjoy a picnic. Your best bet for rentals in the area is the Rock & Dock, which offers paddle boat, jet ski, kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Enjoy your kayaking adventure!