The first time my husband and I went kayaking together, we took a romantic tour of the bay in the Outer Banks. That went down as my favorite kayak adventure — until a recent Sunday, when we set out from Little Talbot Island with a third person — our 4-year-old — sitting between us.
I had thought it would be a long time before our little guy could go out on the water with us, but it turns out that local kayaking outfits often allow kids to ride along.
We decided to rent a kayak from Kayak Amelia, which supplies a child-size PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and even a small, removable seat for young children to sit in the middle of a tandem kayak. Older children can ride tandem with adults, and the business also has individual kids’ kayaks designed for kids ages 12 and up.
Families choose either to go on a tour, meeting their guide at a designated location, or rent their own kayak from Kayak Amelia’s shop off Heckscher Drive on Little Talbot Island. They offer a family-friendly guided tour that includes a kayak ride as well as a stop at a beach, where participants hunt for shark teeth, shells and crabs. That sounded great, but we chose to rent on our own simply because we wanted to go on a specific day — my husband’s birthday — when there weren’t any tours on the schedule.
When you rent one of their kayaks or canoes, Kayak Amelia supplies PFDs and a map of the water “trails” that snake through the marsh. It’s simple to read and understand. They also talk to you about safety and explain the day’s tides to you.
My little guy was a bit apprehensive when he first climbed into the kayak.
“I want to go back!” he insisted as we made our way into Simpson Creek. “When can we go home, guys?”
We told him to give it a chance, and within minutes he was too busy laughing and pointing out the sights to be nervous.
We paddled to the south — the easiest route to take — and soon we had breathtaking views in every direction. We saw gorgeous birds, friendly fishermen and lots of jumping fish. Other kayakers have reported seeing manatees and dolphins on their excursions, but if they had been anywhere near us, I suspect a talkative little passenger aboard our kayak scared them off.
Our map included sandy beaches where we could “park” and stretch our legs, so we decided to stop and do a little exploring. It didn’t take my little guy long to find a crab scurrying through the sand. It was so neat to have the small beach to ourselves, in a spot that can’t easily be reached except by water.
My son often asked to view the map, puzzling over it and pretending to be a pirate on the hunt for treasure. He also took a turn with a paddle at one point, but moments after it touched the water, he realized he was “in over his head” and asked Daddy to take it back.
By the time we returned to the shop, my son was having a ball. He waved and yelled a hearty “Hello!” to every other boater and kayaker we passed. He dipped his hat in the water and plopped it on his head, just like Daddy. And he asked to come back and do it again soon. We definitely plan to grant that request.
Kayak Amelia relies on parents to use their own judgement whether their children are ready to go out on the water. Here’s what they say on their website:
We have taken children with us on trips. Younger ones (5-12) usually do well in double kayaks. For those that want to try paddling on their own (12 and up) we have kid sized kayaks. It depends on the child and their endurance. Another problem with children is attention span. What’s absolutely fascinating to us can bore a three year old to tears. Sudden shifts in weight or position can make a kayak unstable. If your little one decides he wants to leave…..NOW!!…you will both go swimming.
A few more tips for families:
- There is a large, single restroom in the Kayak Amelia shop, and it has a diaper changing table if you need it.
- Make sure you bring bug spray and suntan lotion, as both will save you a lot of trouble.
- If you have valuables you would like to bring along, there is a compartment to place them in in the back of the kayak. You can also rent a waterproof box for $2.
- For bigger kids, Kayak Amelia also offers a popular kayaking camp in the summer.
If you want to know more about Kayak Amelia:
Where: 13030 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL