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5 of the Best Destinations for Kayaking in the Midwest

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2020 Editor’s Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, some kayak rental businesses and parks might be closed temporarily. They might also have situational restrictions and rules in place. Be sure to check in advance to your visit. 

Kayaking can be a quiet, relaxing activity or a thrilling adventurous sport. It’s the perfect way to get out on the water, explore the surroundings, and take in the beauty of nature. Home to the Great Lakes, mountain towns, unspoiled nature, the Midwest is a trending destination for outdoor adventures. Read on to learn more about the top places for kayaking in the Midwest. If you’re making the trip with your sweetheart, be sure to get a free copy of our Romantic Getaway Guide for tips on how to make your stay extra special.  

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The Top 5 Destinations for Kayaking in the Midwest

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck 

1. Galena, Illinois 

Galena, IL, is a trending Midwest destination for outdoor adventures and quiet relaxation. Paddle your way down the Galena River! The entire river stretches for ten miles, so you can choose to kayak the whole thing or opt for a shorter stretch. You will encounter wildlife such as Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, and songbirds along the way. Other features you might run into include romantic footbridges, remnants of the Galena Lock and Dam, and an old railroad bridge.   

Stay Select in Galena, IL  

Jail Hill Inn 

Galena, IL

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Inn at Irish Hollow

Galena, IL

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Goldmoor Inn and Resort

Galena, IL

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2. Spirit Lake, Iowa

West Okoboji Lake in Dickinson County is the second deepest lake in Iowa and part of a chain of lakes known as the Iowa Great Lakes. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing day out on the water! This popular destination draws fishers, swimmers, and boaters. You might even see the old Arnolds Park Amusement Park during your excursion.   

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The Oakwood Inn Okoboji

Spirit Lake, IA

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3. Lake Michigan, Northern Michigan 

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Given that it is the second largest of the five, it is no surprise that it is home to countless kayaking opportunities. These suggestions target travelers visiting the Northern Michigan side of the Lake.   

More adventurous kayakers might enjoy the Beaver Island Kayak Trail! It is a 42-mile paddling trail that circles the entirety of Beaver Island. Some parts of the Island are more family-friendly areas to paddle. The Water Trail is geared toward experienced kayakers who are comfortable paddling in Lake Michigan's unpredictable conditions.   

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is another excellent area to embark on an exciting kayaking excursion! From here, you can explore the lower Platte River that ends at Lake Michigan.   

Stay Select on Lake Michigan

Castle in the Country Bed & Breakfast Inn

Allegan, MI

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Stafford’s Bay View Inn

Petoskey, MI

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Inn at Black Star Farms

Suttons Bay, MI

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4. Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills, OH, is the ultimate destination to reset in nature. Kayaking in the Hocking Hills allows you to take in the breathtaking natural surroundings while also appealing to your sense of adventure. The slow current of Hocking River makes it a smooth ride for those who like a little extra push. If you'd prefer to be out on a lake, consider checking out Lake Hope or Lake Logan. Lake Logan State Park is just 15 minutes away from the Inn at Cedar Falls and has easy-access boat ramps, which make entering the water a breeze!   

Stay Select in the Hocking Hills, OH

Inn & Spa At Cedar Falls

Logan, OH

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Door County, Wisconsin 

Discover Door County, WI, on the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of kayaking opportunities. Visit the incredible sea caves at Cave Point County Park. Bring a packed lunch for a relaxing picnic and take in the views.  

Another popular option would be the famous North Bay Shipwrecks in Bailey’s Harbour. Venture off toward Cana Island and look for the Cherubusco, G.J. Tracy and the A. Bronson down below. Consider renting a clear-bottom kayak for this excursion! 

Other kayaking recommendations in Door County include Mink River Estuary, Clark Lake, Garrett Bay, Nicolet Beach, and Rock Island.  

Stay Select in Door County, WI

Blacksmith Inn on the Shore

Baileys Harbor, WI

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White Gull Inn

Fish Creek, WI

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Hillside Waterfront Hotel

Ephraim, WI

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Additional Midwestern United States Travel Tips

If you’re planning to visit the Midwest, you’re in for quite the treat. This gorgeous region draws travelers with features such as the Great Lakes, extensive farmland, rugged backcountry, and wide-open prairies. Stop in some charming small towns and major cities and stay for the best museums, fairs, festivals, and food.  


Stay Select

Now that you have an idea of where to go kayaking in the Midwest, it’s time to decide where to stay. Across the United States, Select Registry properties set the standard for a high-quality experience. Each one of our quality-assured B&BSinnsboutique hotelslodges, and luxury cabins is as unique as the destination in which they reside. Maybe you’re hoping to stay somewhere remote near exciting outdoor adventures. Perhaps you’re planning to visit a larger city for shopping and dining experiences. Either way, you can count on our properties to offer a comfortable and reliable stay.  

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