Best Places for Boating in DC: Paddleboarding, Electric Boats, Kayaking, and More

Rent an easy-to-drive electric boat for a scenic and cool family outing. Photo courtesy of SeaDC at
Rent an easy-to-drive electric boat for a scenic and cool family outing. Photo courtesy of SeaDC at
6/7/24 - By Jamie Radoescu

Boating is a fun way for families to get out on the water and beat the heat during a DC summer. Whether it's kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, electric boats, or other types of vessels, there are various companies in DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland from which families can rent boats.

We've compiled a list of 12 great places to go canoeing, paddleboarding, electric boating, or kayaking near DC, whether for an hour or a whole day. Most places offer personal flotation devices (PFDs), so all you have to do is bring a sense of adventure and fun.

Check out our Ultimate DC Kids Summer Vacation Guide for more ways to stay cool this summer, from sprinkler parks and splash pads to free public swimming pools.


No license needed to drive this boat - kids driving a motor boat.
No license needed to drive this boat! Photo by Lavert Philips courtesy of GoBoat

Boating in DC: Paddleboarding, Electric Boats, Kayaking, and More

1. GoBoat

With GoBoat, you can explore DC's Washington Channel from your own private, electrically powered picnic boat. Each 18-foot boat fits up to eight people—including children and babies—and you don't need a license to drive one. These easy-to-steer vessels feature a picnic table in the center and a very quiet engine, making for a fun and peaceful ride. GoBoat has a second location at National Harbor. Reserve online or call for bookings less than two hours from departure.

2. Ballpark Boathouse

What do baseball and kayaking have in common? Not much, to be honest. But if you visit the Ballpark Boathouse in southeast DC, you'll be paddling directly by Nationals Park, where you might hear the game as you travel along. You can even pretend the cheer of the crowd is for your paddling skills! Ballpark Boathouse is open Fridays and weekends during the summer. Make a reservation online.

3. Key Bridge Boathouse

Paddle the "Nation's River," the Potomac, and see DC's monuments at a slower pace. You'll float past the Georgetown waterfront, Roosevelt Island, and under the Key Bridge, where the only traffic you'll encounter might be another boater or a family of ducks. The boathouse offers kayak, paddleboard, and canoe rentals for one-, two-, or four-hour intervals. Reservations are highly recommended.

4. Thompson Boat Center

Thompson Boat Center offers another opportunity to paddle along the Potomac River. Single and double kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent. The boat center is open until 6pm, with the last boat due in by 7pm. Reservations are available online.

5. SeaDC

Rent an easy-to-drive electric boat and cruise the Potomac and Anacostia rivers with up to 10 people. Boats are equipped with Bluetooth speakers that can connect to most phones so you can play music. Book a daytime (10am-3pm) or evening (3-8pm) cruise online. 

6. Sea Suite Cruises

Families of up to four people can rent a vintage electric boat from Sea Suite Cruises and cruise the Washington Channel for 90 minutes. No captain's license or boating experience is required. Visit the website to book a boat rental online. 

Boating in Northern Virginia: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddleboarding

7. Belle Haven Marina — Alexandria

You can bring your own kayak, canoe, or paddleboard to Belle Haven Marina and use its launch ramp for a nominal charge, or you can reserve equipment (it's best to call ahead to make a reservation, although walk-ups are permitted). While you can rent a paddleboard by the hour, make sure to set aside at least two hours if you choose to kayak, canoe, or sail. The boating area extends from the Wilson Bridge to Fort Washington (about 12 miles), which allows boaters and paddlers to spread out while viewing the wildlife in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

8. Mason Neck State Park — Lorton

Rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or rowboat for one or four hours at Mason Neck State Park, located a mere 20 miles from downtown DC. As you paddle along Belmont Bay or Kane's Creek, keep an eye out for a bald eagle flying overhead or a beaver swimming alongside you. Mason Neck State Park is home to more than 200 types of birds and waterfowl, white-tailed deer, foxes, and other mammals. 

9. Penguin Paddling — Occoquan

Located in the historic town of Occoquan, this is one of the few places we found that offers all-day rentals of kayaks and paddleboards and does not accept reservations. The calm waters of the Occoquan River are the perfect place for beginners to learn. There is also a public kayak launch that's free to use if you have your own equipment.

RELATED: Great Lakes and Swimming Holes for DC Families

Little Seneca Lake Black Hill Boat Rentals is perfect for beginners.
Little Seneca Lake Black Hill Boat Rentals is perfect for beginners. Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Park District

Boating in Maryland: Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddleboarding

10. Atlantic Kayak Company — Indian Head

Located about 32 miles from DC, this company offers only what its name states: kayaks. As you paddle along on the Mattawoman Creek, you can keep an eye out  for colorful songbirds and some 20 species of waterfowl that use the marshes as their feeding and nesting grounds before heading south for the colder months. Atlantic Kayak Company also offers guided tours to the Mallows Bay Ship Graveyard, where you can paddle by historic shipwrecks dating as far back as the Revolutionary War. Reservations are suggested.

11. Little Seneca Lake/Black Hill Boat Rentals — Boyds

If you are a beginner to kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding, this place about 28 miles from DC might be the perfect place to learn. The lake is a reservoir that covers about one-third of the acreage of Black Hill Regional Park, which means you'll have plenty of room to learn and have fun. Black Hill Boat Rentals offers full-day rentals, but make sure you're back by 6pm so you don't incur a late fee. You can also rent a pedal boat.

12. Lake Needwood/Lake Needwood Boats — Rockville

This facility, open Memorial Day through Labor Day, is part of Rock Creek Regional Park. You can bring your own kayak, canoe, or rowboat to launch (after purchasing a daily permit) or rent one for an hour or all day. Pedal boats are also available in 30-minute increments. There is plenty of wildlife to look for from the 75-acre Lake Needwood—150 species of birds, at least 15 mammal species, and several species of reptiles and amphibians.

Photos courtesy of the boathouses

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