Island Hopping on Your Own
4 amazing island sea kayaking trails
Hiking boots need a break? Escape the mainland (and give your upper body a workout) on these watery treks to deserted islands, centuries-old lighthouses, secluded caves and sandy oases.
Maine Island Trail, ME
Link more than 190 islands and mainland pit stops on this 375-mile route tracing the Maine coast from the New Hampshire border to Machias Bay. Established in 1987, the trail was the first of its kind in the U.S. A few of its many highlights: close-up views of harbor seals and nesting seabirds, more than three dozen lighthouses (some dating to the 18th century) and—in summer—an island profusion of wild strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Cascadia Marine Trail, WA
Venture into the San Juan archipelago on this 140-mile chain of 55 campsites dotted along the more than 2,000 miles of coastline on Washington’s Puget Sound. You may find yourself paddling alongside orcas or beneath seabirds in the solitude of the 400-plus San Juan Islands, many of which are uninhabited.
Na Pali Coast, HI
Golden-sand beaches, 3,000-foot cliffs, stunning waterfalls and tropical solitude await along the fabled 17 miles of Kauai’s northern shore. No cars here: The Na Pali Coast is only accessible by foot or boat. Kayakers have an extra edge over hikers here, gaining access to some valleys and reefs only reachable by water, plus offshore panoramas of a Hawaiian coastline largely unchanged by the centuries.
Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, UK
A 310-mile jaunt along the Western coast of Scotland reveals a maze of verdant islands, rocky caves, ancient ruins and seal, whale and dolphin habitat. The first long-distance sea kayak trail in Europe, it begins in the green waters off the Isle of Gigha and leads to the Highland’s Summer Isles.