Never been kayaking or canoeing before? Or are you an avid paddler wanting to try new routes? Well, you're in luck! Ontario's Southwest is home to many different canoeing and kayaking waterways that range from beginner and family routes to more adventurous routes for experienced paddlers. Some that go under a canopy of trees, others that are more akin to white river rafting, and some that allow for a calm scenic day to soak in nature. Here are some of my favourite spots to paddle:

Norfolk County

Ever imagine canoeing or kayaking down a scenic river covered with a canopy of trees with some patches of open blue sky? Turn that dream into a reality by paddling down Big Creek! Often known as ‘Canada’s Amazon’, Big Creek is great for novices, and even the more experienced, for its relatively calm currents with many twists and turns. If you’re would like a guided tour, Long Point Eco-Adventures offers fun guided tours for the whole family, and for novices.

Kayaking in Haldimand during sunset

Haldimand County

The Grand River is pretty grand – from stretches that feature white-water currents for experienced paddlers, to sections that are more tranquil and suitable for novices, the Grand River has many things to offer. From kayaking to canoeing, the Grand River is a paddler’s dream. While the Grand River can be explored by yourself, or if you’re in search for a guided tour, Grand Experience offers various guided tours through the Grand River for the whole family to enjoy. 

Canoeing at Point Pelee

Windsor-Essex Pelee Island

Windsor has many great kayaking and canoeing opportunities, the first being the Detroit River, which goes through one of the largest urban areas in North America. With three different sections, the Detroit River is a great choice for the more advanced kayakers and canoers. The first section is the upper and most urban section from Lake St. Clair down to the Ambassador Bridge; the midsection of industrial Detroit; and the lower section is full of small islands and waterfowls and various other birds. Another great kayaking and paddling opportunity in Windsor is around Point Pelee and Pelee Island. While paddling around Pelee is more tranquil, it can get rough at certain parts of the season and through certain stretches, so be sure to do your research of the waterways while planning. If you’re looking to rent a canoe, Friends of Point Pelee offer affordable rental options!

Middlesex County & London

The Thames River spans over 300 kilometres, with many different difficulty levels, from rough rapids for experienced paddlers, to calmer waters enjoyable for the entire family. Recently Kevin Callan (also known as The Happy Camper), canoed across the entire Thames over an 8-day period, and documented it over on his YouTube channel. If canoeing or kayaking down the Thames River has piqued your curiosity, the Thames River Paddling Routes Project is a great resource for planning that trip. Don’t forget to also read our article on paddling the Thames River.

While the Thames River is quite long, a notable section is the Fanshawe Conservation Area. This beautiful section is usually very active with many canoers and kayakers paddling to the area. One of the reasons is because the affordable canoe and kayak rentals.

Canoe upside down along the shore

Oxford County

The Pittock Conservation Area in Woodstock is an excellent place to go kayaking or canoeing – especially since their new addition of ‘paddle in’ campsites. Kevin Callan recently journeyed through the waterways and made a YouTube video document it. Pittock is also known for their trails, and various other great amenities like an off-leash dog park and a pavilion. If you forget your kayak or canoe at home, there are a limited amount of rental options available!

Empty canoe sitting along the edge of a river

Elgin

Springwater Conservation Area is a hidden gem, mainly because the large pond is nestled away in a 600 acre forest in the heart of Carolinian Canada. A great family destination as you can camp, go hiking, bird watching, and kayak/canoe all in one day! If you want to travel light, you can keep your kayak, canoe, or SUP at home and rent one from Sport in Port in Port Stanley, just a short 20 min drive away.

Family canoeing down a river

Chatham-Kent

The Wallaceburg Water Trails feature many different routes, with all kinds of paddling conditions. The best part of the Wallaceburg Water Trails is its ideal location for waterfowls, and during the fall migration, over 150,000 birds make their way through the area – which looks stunning from a canoe or kayak.

Rondeau Park is a calm and shallow water perfect for canoeing or kayaking for the whole family. It’s great for a scenic paddle looking at the birds that flock to that region such as the olden-crowned kinglet, Bald Eagles, and many more.

People canoeing and kayaking in Sarnia

Sarnia-Lambton

Pinery Provincial Park is a great destination for hiking and camping, but it’s also home to the Old Ausable Channel, a calm and tranquil waterway perfect for canoeing and kayaking, and many more options. Pinery is a great place for the family, and the best part is you can pack light since there are many different camping styles available, as well as equipment rentals.