Rent a kayak

Top 5 kayak rental spots in the South Sound

By Jackson Hogan on May 19, 2016

If you pay close attention, you might notice a large, yellow orb in the sky, as well as warmer weather and a general feel of excitement in the air. Although the aggressively cloudy nature of the Northwest can make spring feel like a mirage, it's May, therefore time to take advantage of the Puget Sound and its unique waterways - namely on a kayak. And for those that may not have purchased a plastic vessel when they went on sale last Christmas, there are plenty of rental spots in the South Sound region. The following are five of our favorites, in no particular order.

Tugboat Annie's.  Located on the west shore of Budd Inlet, just a few minutes from downtown Olympia, Annie's offers gorgeous views of the South Puget Sound. And, instead of a kayak rental shop that also sells a few snacks and drinks, Annie's is a restaurant that happens to rent kayaks. The restaurant is a classic waterfront fish-and-chips and hearty breakfast joint with beautiful views of the Sound and busy port, and a jump off for kayaking along log booms and high-end housing.  Blair Nixon, the owner of Annie's, believes it's the multidimensionality of his perch over the water that entices adventurers.

"People try to make an activity out of (coming here), because there's limited things to do in Olympia. When people come to town, they want something to do, and getting out on the water is a great, simple experience, and then come up and have some lunch," Nixon said. "People will be like, ‘hey, let's grab some breakfast or lunch, and then do an hour of kayaking.'"

2100 West Bay Dr. NW, Olympia, open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 a.m. on Sat. and Sun.) all week. $10

Foss Harbor Marina. While many kayak rental shops are located in more outdoorsy areas, Foss Harbor is downtown, smack dab in the middle of Tacoma's busy port. Kayaking here is an interesting blend of giant factories and pillars rising out of the swamp.

Allen Gregory, who has worked as the maintenance supervisor at the marina for 11 years, summed up what makes Foss Harbor so special.

"It's kind of neat; you don't get this dichotomy of industry and nature anywhere else," he said. "The tide flats is the largest deep-water port in North America, and it's pretty cool to see it up-close-and-personal when you're on the water."

Of course, if you'd rather have a more traditional kayaking experience, you can paddle towards Browns Point on the other side of Commencement Bay, or down to the Ruston Way waterfront where you can also sneak a peek at the towering Stadium High School on the hillside. With so many different options, Foss Harbor Marina is a Tacoma-centric kayaking destination that should not be missed.

821 Dock St., Tacoma. $20

Owen Beach Kayak. This is likely the most well-known of the kayak rental shacks in the South Sound. If you want proof, try getting a kayak on a sunny Saturday afternoon. There will be a line. Still, there's a reason why it's popular - Point Defiance is a beautiful park to paddle around with its stunning landscapes, bald eagles, views of the Olympics and Cascades, and easy beach access.  If you're a novice kayaker, you'll want to watch the strong currents in the Sound. If you stay relatively close to the Point Defiance beaches, you'll be fine. Heads up: the prices jump on Saturday and Sunday, so maybe try to escape during the workweek to save a little cash.

5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, noon to 7 p.m., $16 for one hour Mon.-Fri.; $22 on weekends

Lee's SUV and Kayak Rentals. On a nice day, you can see Mt. Rainier in all its glory, and in the harbor itself, the kayaking is calm and peaceful, perfect for newer kayakers. This quaint town on the other side of the Narrows Bridge provides the area's best lazy float, but when you land back on shore, you can explore the unique small-town charms of downtown Gig Harbor, and try some microbrews at 7 Seas Brewing, or lounge on the deck at the Tides Tavern.

8829 N. Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., $20

Vashon Watersports. Yes, you have to first take a big boat captained by someone else to reach Vashon Island, then drive 15 more miles north, but it is worth the ferry fare and gas for this unique kayak experience. Vashon Watersports not only prides themselves on "eco-friendly aquatic tourism," they also are in a distinctive site, right on the inlet between Vashon and Maury Islands. You can paddle around the bay, or try to make it to Tacoma and back if you're really adventurous. Afterwards, make the most of your trip and explore the island's quirky culture on dry land.

Jensen Point, SW Bayview Dr., Vashon, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat. and Sun.; 2-7 p.m. Mon., Wed., Fri.; closed Tues. and Thurs., $20/hour for a single kayak, $30 for double or triple