The Seacoast is the perfect place to live if you kayak. There is an abundance of rivers, lakes, and estuaries available for flatwater paddling. During the pandemic, the public has flocked to the outdoors as a safe and healthy extracurricular destination, and I can’t think of a better socially distant activity than a six foot kayak between you and another person! If you are new to paddling, or just are looking for a new area to explore on water, here are five Seacoast kayaking spots for beginners.
Baxter Lake – Rochester, NH
This small town lake is a great beginning kayak location. The round lake allows paddlers to stay on flat, calm water without worry of getting seriously lost or caught in chop. The public state boat launch is located at the end of Four Rod Road in Rochester. The free parking lot is sizable but still fills up – especially on summer weekends. The state has a map online.
Lampry River – Newmarket, NH
The Lampry is a 50 mile long river that snakes through multiple Seacoast towns including Raymond, Epping, Lee, Durham, and Newmarket. I prefer to put my kayak in at the Piscassic Park Boat Launch at the end of Piscassic St in Newmarket. This is a popular kayak destination for its calm waters, excellent fishing, and beautiful wooded shoreline. Parking is free but limited.
Swains Lake – Barrington, NH
Swains is a picturesque small lake in Barrington with a serene undeveloped shoreline. A popular fishing spot, the free ramp and parking fills quickly on nice weekends. Although not quite as easy to navigate as Baxter, this lake has a little more interest with two distinct sides of the lake and a string of small islands separating them (see map). It’s the perfect place for an easy paddle with a good chance of spotting unique waterfowl. To get there, take Route 9 to Young Road. The boat launch is 1.3 miles down on the left.
Cocheco River – Rochester, NH
The Cocheco runs through Farmington, Rochester, and Dover, and is another calm water experience for beginning kayakers. Thanks to the efforts of the Rochester NH Riverwalk Committee, there has been exciting kayaking infrastructure put into making the Cocheco River a “river walk” for residents. A new, innovative kayak launch was installed to help kayakers easily slide in and out of the water without the awkward risk of flipping. Check out the video on the Rochester NH Riverwalk facebook! This launch site is located in Rochester at the end of Hillsdale Street, off Chestnut Hill Rd. Parking is free but limited.
Willand Pond – Dover, NH
Willand Pond is a small urban pond that shares shoreline with Dover and Somersworth. The small size makes it easily navigable and a perfect place to introduce a beginner to flatwater paddling. Free public parking and boat launch is located off Route 108 in Dover across the street from the Strafford Farms Restaurant. Although it is small, I often spot bald eagles, herons, and other wildlife. More information and map are available at Seacoastnh.com.
What to know before you go
Although kayaking is a pretty easy sport to get into, there are some safety tips you should know before you go. Make sure you research simple safety guidelines as well as packing the essential safety gear. Although kayaking is easy to learn, there are always risks when being on the water.
Lastly, one of the unfortunate realities of the public spending more time outdoors, is an increase in pollution and littering. Always carry in/carry out and even consider packing out other trash or litter you find. I always bring a bag to remove unwanted trash I find. It’s one way we can all help keep our community and wild spaces clean and enjoy these Seacoast kayaking spots for beginners.
Not into getting on the water? How about getting near it? Here are three Seacoast nature walks where you can dip your toes in the water!