Most people think of Houston as a giant sprawl of highways, oil refineries, and suburban areas, but there’s a lot more to the city than that! There are actually several outdoor activities you can try in the greater Houston metropolitan area, including kayaking! Kayaking in Houston is a great way to get outdoors and explore some of the hidden lakes, waterways, and green spaces that the city has to offer.

We compiled this list of Houston kayaking spots to give you a starting point for planning your next kayaking adventure in Space City!

Top Places to Go Kayaking in Houston

Kayaking in Houston (Buffalo Bayou) with the city skyline in the background.
Photo Credit: Patrick Feller (Flickr CC)

1. Buffalo Bayou

For a quintessential urban paddling experience, you can’t miss Buffalo Bayou. This central waterway runs through the main areas of the city, and is one of the most picturesque and accessible places to go kayaking in Houston. The bayou runs from Katy, a western Houston suburb, all the way to Galveston Bay. Another fun history fact: the last battle in the Texas Revolutionary War happened where Buffalo Bayou meets the San Jacinto River.

On Buffalo Bayou, you can paddle by views of the downtown Houston skyline, under industrial bridges, and through the city’s most vivid green spaces. You can pass by the city’s iconic Buffalo Bayou Park and soak in the views for miles. To get started, you can rent a kayak from Bayou City Adventures at the new Lost Lake Visitor Center. They provide hourly and daily rentals, as well as guided kayaking excursions, tours, and lessons.

  • Address: 3422 Allen Pkwy, Houston, TX 77019

Note: Bayou City Adventures is only open for rentals on Saturday and Sunday, from 10-5.

Photo Credit: Trey Perry (Flickr CC)

2. Lake Conroe

  • Cost: Free to kayak, rentals start at $22 per hour
  • Rentals Available? Yes, at 1097 Watersports

Lake Conroe is Houston’s most popular lakeside getaway, and it’s a perfect short trip to go kayaking for a few hours. We’ll admit it – Lake Conroe isn’t quite within Houston city limits, but it’s a very easy day trip that’s popular among Houston locals!

The lake is 21,000 acres, and is full of people in pontoon boats, jet skis, paddle boards, and more. Boasting plenty of docks and green spaces along its shores, Lake Conroe is a lovely place to escape the downtown area, go kayaking, and soak up the summer sun.

In the Lake Conroe area, there are a few places to rent a kayak if you don’t have your own. Kayak rentals at 1097 Watersports start at $22 per hour, and they have double kayaks available. North Lake Conroe Paddling Co. also rents kayaks by the hour.

Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat (two of the most important kayaking gear essentials), since there isn’t much shade in the area. Additionally, be careful paddling on especially crowded days, as there are often people speeding around on motor boats and jetskis.

  • 1097 Watersports – Address: 12947 Lake Conroe Hills Dr Suite B, Willis, TX 77318
Photo Credit: evan00024 (Flickr CC)

3. The Woodlands

Situated in the northern suburbs of Houston, the Woodlands is home to a large lake system surrounding by various waterways and tributaries, perfect for kayaking in Houston! Much like its name suggests, the Woodlands is full of neighborhoods, parks, and green, wooded areas. Because it’s not too far from Houston, it’s a great way to leave the city without going too remote, and it’s a very easily accessible Houston kayaking spot.

Another reason why the Woodlands is a great place for kayaking is that there are two places to rent kayaks in the area at very reasonable prices. Lakes Edge Boathouse and Riva Row Boathouse are both run by the Woodlands park system and provide rentals for intrepid paddlers. Rentals start at just $15 for an hour, plus $5 for each additional hour – some of the cheapest Houston kayak rentals available!

  • Lakes Edge Boathouse – Address: 1970 Hughes Landing Blvd, The Woodlands, TX 77380
  • Riva Row Boathouse – Address: 2101 Riva Row, The Woodlands, TX 77380
Photo Credit: Jeff (Flickr CC)

4. Spring Creek

Spring Creek is a peaceful, wooded creek area that is popular with locals allows for paddlers and kayakers when the water levels are high enough. Along Spring Creek, you can find several parks, forests, and even some wildlife. You can launch your kayak at Pundt Park, a beautiful green area located along Spring Creek. It flows into the San Jacinto River, which ultimately flows into nearby Lake Houston.

If you need to rent a kayak, you can get one nearby at SouthWest Paddlesports. They offer daily rental rates and can provide car transport racks as well.

  • Southwest Paddlesports – Address: 26322 I-45, Spring, TX 77386
  • Pundt Park – Address: 4129 Spring Creek Dr, Spring, TX 77373

5. Clear Lake/Kemah Boardwalk

  • Cost: Free to kayak, rentals start at $25 per hour
  • Rentals Available? Yes, at Kayak Shack

Kemah is on the far eastern side of Houston, and is most famous for its buzzing boardwalk that has tons of rides, shops, and restaurants. Located on the bay, it’s a waterfront entertainment zone that’s great for a day trip or a weekend getaway (without actually leaving the city!).

One thing that locals don’t know is that Kemah is also a fabulous place to go kayaking in Houston. With several bay areas to explore, it’s a paddler’s paradise, and there’s enough to see and do there to fill an entire day.

In Kemah, you can rent a kayak from nearby Kayak Shack, which offers rentals starting at $25 an hour. They also offer guided tours of the area – two of the most fun ones are their Friday night fireworks tour and their sunset tour.

  • Address: 622 Marina Bay Dr, Kemah, TX 77565
Sunset over the Kemah Boardwalk. Photo Credit: Jon Burns (Flickr CC)

6. Seabrook/Taylor Lake

Not far from Kemah lies Seabrook, which is also close to NASA, the bay, and a charming residential area called Taylor Lake. For a fun and peaceful Houston kayaking experience, you can hit the water near Taylor Lake and paddle as long as your heart desires. Nearby, you’ll catch views of beautiful homes, the bay areas, and some groomed green spaces. It’s fun to pair a kayaking in Houston adventure with a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

You can rent a kayak near Taylor Lake at Pinky’s Kayak Rentals and explore the lake or the nearby bay area. Rentals start at $25 per hour and cost less the more hours you rent for. Pinky’s also has several interesting guided tours to nearby attractions like Big Island and Horsepen Bayou.

  • Address: 4106 E NASA Pkwy #1, El Lago, TX 77586

Note: Pinky’s Kayak Rentals are closed due to the COVID pandemic. For updates on when they will reopen, check their website here.

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller (Flickr CC)

Map of Houston Kayaking Spots

Places to Go Kayaking Near Houston

7. Galveston Island

  • Distance from Houston: 51 miles (~1 hour, 15 minutes)
  • Cost: Free to kayak, rentals start at $45 for the day
  • Rentals Available? Yes, at Galveston Kayak Outfitter

Galveston is an island located off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s a common spot for Houstonians to spend a day or a weekend when they want to be closer to the water. You may know Galveston as a place that’s historically been ravaged by hurricanes or deeply affected by oil spills (both true to an extent), but the area has since been cleaned up drastically and it’s a lovely change of scene from the giant highways and buildings of Houston.

With all of the waterways in the area, Galveston is also a perfect spot to go kayaking near Houston. The most obvious is at the beach, where there is tons of open water to paddle on. When there’s a lot of wind, it can be a pretty tough workout to paddle on the open water, so make sure you check the weather before you head out. Additionally, there are tons of places to kayak in Galveston through its many inlets and channels, which typically have calmer water and are more beginner-friendly.

To rent a kayak, you have several choices. Galveston Kayak Outfitter offers daily rentals at very reasonable prices.

Kayaking in Galveston consists of canals and gulf waters. Photo Credit: Neal Schneider (Flickr CC)

8. Martin Dies Jr. State Park

  • Distance from Houston: 123 miles (~2 hours)
  • Cost: Free to kayak, rentals at an additional cost
  • Rentals Available? Yes, at the Park Headquarters

If it’s true nature you’re seeking, there are few better places to go kayaking near Houston than in Martin Dies Jr. State Park. Located near the border of Louisiana, the park encompasses the merging of two rivers, meaning that it’s home to lots of diverse terrain and wildlife. Here, you can find hiking trails, campsites, and a large lake that’s perfect for paddling and wildlife watching.

At just around 2 hours from Houston, a trip to Martin Dies Jr. State Park is a reasonable day trip or a fabulous overnight getaway from the city. You can camp directly on the property, and rent kayaks and canoes from the park’s headquarters.

  • Address: 634 Park Road 48 South, Jasper, TX 75951
Kayaking on the San Marcos River is one of the best Texas adventures! Photo Credit: Patrick Lewis (Flickr CC)

9. San Marcos River

  • Distance from Houston: 146 miles (~2.5 hours)
  • Cost: Varies, priced by kayak type and route
  • Rentals Available? Yes, book at Texas Canoe & Kayak

We couldn’t write an article about kayaking near Houston without a section on the San Marcos River. This beloved Texas hideaway is the perfect Houston kayaking adventure spot, complete with lots of shady areas, a few small rapids, and plenty of beautiful nature. Located between Houston and Austin, it’s a fantastic excursion into nature that’s easy to access and explore.

You’ll find clean water and plenty of fellow paddlers along the San Marcos River, especially in the summer, when Texans come ready to hit the cool waters. Typically, kayaking trips on the San Marcos river are one-way, as the river flows fairly quickly and it’s difficult to paddle upstream.

Because you’ll be paddling downriver, you’ll need to rent a kayak and book a shuttle. Luckily, Texas Canoe & Kayak has you covered – all of their kayak rental rates come with a pre-booked shuttle. Rather than hourly rates, they have specific routes that you can rent your kayak for, and the shuttle will bring you to the starting point and pick you up at the end point. You can see the different routes they offer as well as prices on their website, and they strongly recommend (i.e., require) reserving in advance.

  • Address: 307 Lockhart St, Martindale, TX 78655

Note: Texas Canoe and Kayak is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

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