With 1,100 kilometres of shoreline, there's plenty of ocean kayaking to be enjoyed off Prince Edward Island's coast. For days when one wants to escape the strain of a current, prevailing breeze or rhythmic lapping of waves, paddlers should take to sheltered waters. Luckily, a wealth of protective waterways and lagoons on PEI's northern shore offer just that. The two paddle itineraries covered below are perfect for beginners, a family outing with the kids, or those unfamiliar with these waters. Of course we wouldn't blame you if you simply wanted to enjoy the serenity of calm waters, after all, this is the gentle province.
Oultons Island Paddle
Route: Northport - Oultons Island - Cascumpec Bay (Conway Narrows optional)
About: Launching from shore, begin your paddle by heading directly to Oultons Island. The distance from shore to the island is a comfortable 400 metres. The island is largely forested and is skirted by 4 kilometres of sandy beach.
Oultons Island has quite a bit of heritage, being first inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people. By 1880 it had come under private ownership, with one of the island's long term residents being a Mr. Robert Trenholm Oulton. Oulton, an avid fox hunter began breeding silver foxes for their lucrative fur. He found great success and was a major pioneer of the pelt industry in Prince Edward Island. (Look closely and you'll see two silver foxes on the provincial shield, added in 2002.) Presently, the island sits under the protection of a nature conservatory. As a large rookery for blue heron, those paddling nearby will likely see the giant bird fishing in the shallows off shore. If you don't see one, you will most definitely hear the racket they create in the dense evergreens.
Paddling around Oultons Island, kayakers enter eerily still water. It's created by the long barrier beach that protects not only the waters around Northport Pier, but Cascumpec Bay to the south. If you paddle north towards the tip of the barrier beach, the sandy shores are sheltered enough to pull up and view the lighthouse. Now privately owned, the lighthouse used to belong to the Northport Range Lights. The eastern edge of the barrier beach faces the Gulf of St Lawrence, and offers a great vantage point of the boats travelling to and from Alberton Harbour.
This paddle itinerary takes about an hour to complete, but the invitation to explore the miles of sandy shoreline is hard to resist. If the sun is out, pack a picnic. After a bite, backtrack into Cascumpec Bay and explore the Conway Narrows. One can paddle up the shallow Narrows for hours if they choose, with the waters free of motorized boats. Pure bliss.
Extend your trip: For a much longer paddle, kayakers should head south towards the islands near the mouth of the Kildare River. The river itself is so shallow at this point, that often times it can only be accessed by canoes and kayaks.
Launch point: Those with their own equipment should skip launching at the busy Northport Harbour. Instead, continue south until the paved roadway of Highway 152 ends, and the dirt road of Northport Shore Road begins.
Parking: There is no proper parking area, but visitors will likely find a number of other cars parked to the side. The sandy beach just off the road offers smooth, shallow waters perfect for launching car-top boats.
Rental equipment: Stop by Glacier Bay Sports in Northport Pier, or tour with the folks at Freewheeling Adventures (based in Charlottetown). They also run a massive excursion down the coast from Northport, paddling south towards Cavendish.
North Lake Paddle
About: North Lake is a long seaside lake, near Prince Edward Island's easternmost point. While this body of water is considered a lake, it connects to the Gulf of St Lawrence by way of a narrow channel. The waters off the coast of North Lake are famous throughout Prince Edward Island for their abundance of bluefin tuna. These mammoth fish attract sport anglers from around the globe. As it's a hotspot for fishing charters, kayakers will find more tranquil waters while exploring the inland lake area.
Route: After launching, kayakers are faced with a choice: wind through the fishing boats in the channel and head out to sea, or make for the calmer waters of the lake. Both routes hold their own delights.
The North Lake route presents the shortest venture, with only a finite number of places to go. The entire shoreline of the lake can be skirted in about two hours, with visitors getting glimpses of quaint cottages sitting among the flat plains. The lake and its hinterland are one of the best spots in the area for bird watching, with visitors spotting warblers, swallows (including the threatened barn swallow), and gold-crowned kinglets.
Heading out through the North Lake Harbour and into the Gulf of St Lawrence provides greater opportunity for aquatic exploration, limited only by your interests. Either side of the channel's exit presents kilometres of coastline. Those opting for this route should have some ocean kayaking experience.
©Tourism PEI / John Sylvester
Launch point: Many of the best kayak launches on North Lake are privately claimed by the lakeside cottages, leaving visitors limited to the marina that lines the narrow channel. There are two launches on either side of the channel, both by the lakeside mouth.
Parking: Parking at the marina lot, or Points East Beach lot.
Rental equipment: You'll have to drive your kayak and rented equipment from another city. Click here for rental shops.
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