One of the best ways to experience the wild and rugged beauty of the coast of the WILDSEA Atlantic Ocean Heritage Route is from the freedom and comfort of a sea kayak. In many coastal areas, sea kayaking can enable you to get to remote places that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. It’s also one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel. Just the sound of your paddle dipping in the water, the sea lapping against the edge of your kayak, and the sounds of seabirds overhead as you make your way across crystal clear waters. Several operators run sea kayaking tours along the WAOH Route, either guided by professional local guides who can provide local insight into the marine environment or else provide the details for self-guided tours for how to reach the best of the local sights.
Photo: Sea Kayaking in Donegal (c) Creevy Experiences
Sea Kayaking in County Donegal, Ireland
One of the best places to go kayaking in Ireland is in County Donegal. It is the most northerly part of the WAOH! Route and has the country’s longest coastline which the Atlantic Ocean has carved into a dramatic scenery of headlands, inlets, beaches, bays, cliffs, islands, sea arches and coves. There are kayaking companies all over Donegal with tours and outings for all abilities and ages. For the best options, check out the northerly headlands of Fanad and Inishowen, or around the area known as the Rosses, where the beaches and islets along the rocky shores at Kincasslagh and around Cruit Island are ripe for exploration.
Donegal Bay is another popular spot, with magnificent views back to the coast and towards County Sligo. Creevy Experience runs several guided kayaking tours, such as a 90-minute tour from The Mall Quay in Ballyshannon – the 'Oldest town in Ireland' - towards the Erne Estuary around Inis Saimer Island. Legend has it that this island is the first place in Ireland where man set foot around 2700 BC. You’ll get to see cargo boats, salmon fishing, a distillery, and enjoy a great view of the Assaroe Falls while learning skills in river and sea kayaking. It also runs a special evening kayak from Creevy Pier towards Rossnowlagh beach where you’ll kayak past the historical Kilbarron Castle and hear the legends and stories about the 16th and 17th Century as the sun sets.
Photo: Sea Kayaking in Cornwall (c) Koru Kayaking
Sea Kayaking in Cornwall, UK
Along the WAOH Route in the United Kingdom, there are some great places to go sea kayaking in Cornwall where you can explore sea caves and rocky shorelines and to get up-close to marine life. Bosahan Cove and Frenchman’s Creek, which was immortalised in Daphne du Maurier's famous book, are perfect for kayaking trips. The former backs onto the ancient woodland of the Bosahan Estate and, because it's not easy to access on foot, is often deserted. The Creek is further up the Helford river and provides a scenic spot for walking and picnicking. The sea on the north coast of Cornwall tends to be rougher but, on a calm day, paddling in and out of the arch at Cligga Head is exhilarating. The south of the county is more sheltered with calm coves, pretty fishing harbours such as Fowey, and estuaries like the Camel.
The region includes the Isles of Scilly - an archipelago off the Cornish southwest coast. The islands are covered in heathland, and fringed by sandy beaches that are easily accessibly by kayak. There are five inhabited islands (and 140 uninhabited islands): St Mary’s (the gateway to the islands), Tresco, St Martin’s, St Agnes, and Bryher. Tresco Abbey Garden is home to subtropical plants, the Valhalla Museum (with shipwrecked figureheads) and the tower of 17th-century Cromwell’s Castle. The Isles of Scilly are reputably the warmest part of Great Britain where the warm ocean current means sea temperatures can reach almost 19 degrees Celsius.
Photo: St James Way by Sea Kayak (c) Spainkayak
Sea Kayaking in Galicia, Spain
For those who like kayaking using their own wit, there are some wonderful self-guided kayaking tours in Galicia in northern Spain. The coastline is shaped by its majestic rías (estuaries), impressive cliffs, sandy beaches, islands and fishing harbours. With a National Park, six Natural Parks, six Biosphere Reserves, eight Natural Monuments and two Protected Landscapes, Galicia is a paradise for sea kayakers. One of the highlights of the coastline is the Ría de Arousa, which has the only maritime via crucis (way of the cross) in the world. The route commemorates the arrival of St James the Apostle's body in Galicia and its transport ‘by stone boat’ to Padron in the year 44 AD. Nowadays, St James Way ("Camino de Santiago") can be kayaked over several days with stopovers at secluded beaches or visits to bateas, offering an extraordinary experience and sense of adventure.
Galicia's islands also offer quiet kayaking spots with crystalline waters and sandy beaches. Piragüilla Ocio and Aventura offers a self-guided tour around Arenoso Island in the heart of Ria de Arousa - an incredible islet with beautiful sandy beaches and crystalline waters. A local expert will take you to a magical place to start the trip and will give you self-guiding materials and an APP (with geolocation technology) to guide you along the route and provide you with background information on the area. The trip includes wetsuits, signal buoy, mask and snorkel, fins, and round trip transfers from/to the meeting and departure point of the trip, and you will also be able to use its facilities to change and shower after the trip.
If you’d like to learn more about the marine environment, Maremasma runs a 2-hour sea kayaking tour in in Foz coastline in Lugo guided by a marine biologist who will introduce you to the ecosystems of this natural coastal area. You will explore bays, coves and caves and there’s an opportunity to snorkel too during the trip – great for families.
Photo: Sea Kayaking in Sesimbra (c) Vertente Natural
Sea Kayaking around Lisbon in Sesimbra and Cascais
Further south along the WAOH Route, the sheltered south-facing coastlines of Sesimbra and Cascais in Portugal are perfect kayaking territory for beginners and advanced paddlers. Half or full-day itineraries are available with many including a beach picnic lunch. There's also an overnight option with a combined kayaking/hiking trip. Paddling on the crystal waters offers an unrivalled perspective on the geology. If conditions are calm enough, some Cascais tours include a closer look at the infamous Boca do Inferno caves, the site where occultist Aleister Crowley, faked his own death. Along the Arrabida Natural Park coastline, just south of Lisbon, kayakers may spot dolphins as well as enjoying the clifftop scenery of lighthouses, churches, forts, fishing villages and the vineyards that swathe the Setubal countryside. Vertente Natural runs a 3-hour kayaking adventure in Arrabida Natural Park, just south of Lisbon. Guided by local tour guides, you’ll be taken to discover the marine cliffs and some of the secret corners of this beautiful and dramatic stretch of Portuguese coastline. Kayaking in the Reserva Natural do Estuário do Sado and along the river offers very different scenery — cane and rice paddies with herons and storks flying overhead.
Photo: Sea Kayaking in the Algarve (c) Sea Kayaking Sagres
Sea Kayaking the in the Algarve
As the very southern end of the WAOH Route, there are some lovely peaceful places to go sea kayaking among the beaches and sea caves in the Algarve that are often hard to reach on foot. One of the most spectacular caves is Benagil cave, entered through arches from the sea and lit by a vast circular opening in its roof. The sea washes onto a small beach within the cave and on calmer days it's possible to swim or snorkel inside but it's best visited early in the day before the boat trips arrive. There are numerous kayak operators available out of Portimão. Most take you out on a larger boat before launching kayaks in the best paddling and snorkelling spots. Passengers can enjoy views of ancient ruins, white-washed fishing villages and gnarly geology and some operators combine kayaking with beach barbecues, fishing or wildlife watching.
Ingrina caves at the Vicentine coast are just as stunning, and great sea kayaking tours are offered to visit them departing from Sagres.
If you want to embrace freedom, click here for a full range of sea kayaking and other coastal & marine adventures offered along the WAOH! Route.