When we first started Coastal Kayak in the mid-90s, recreational kayaking was in its infancy. Kayak manufacturers were just realizing that the more comfortable and stable the kayak was, the more people would be willing to try it. Back then, 95% of our customers had never been in a kayak before.
These days, not only have most people tried kayaking, many people love it so much that they’ve bought their own kayaks. Things have definitely changed for the better!
Of course, once you buy your own kayak and/or paddleboard, you understandably want to get it in the water. One question we get more and more often these days is, “Can I launch from your site?” or “Can we launch our own equipment if we are also renting?”
The answer is – sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes yes with a launch fee. (You can call in advance or ask us prior to unloading.) Because we run out of parking, during the busy season we need to save our parking spots for paying customers (we have to make a living!). Luckily, being surrounded by so much water means that there are plenty of other places you can launch. The following locations are close to the beach. And the routes can be as short or as long as you’d like to make them!
Assawoman Recreation Area (ARA):
Launching at ARA puts you in the top of Little Assawoman Bay in the Miller Creek estuary. Meandering through the many salt marsh cuts and creeks of the Assawoman Wildlife Area (AWA), straight west from the launch, is a wonderful way to spend an hour or two. But if you’d like to cover more ground, paddle west along the northern shoreline of Miller Creek for a little more than a mile. Cross to the southern side of the creek at Sassafras Landing (you’ll know Sassafras Landing by its small beach with rip-rap along the western edge) and return along that shoreline. Three-quarters of a mile east of Sassafras, Strawberry Landing makes a good rest spot. It has a crabbing pier and a faded, red picnic pavilion built by the CCC in the 1930s.
The ARA launch is located on Route 1, a quarter mile south of South Bethany. The parking fee for out-of-state vehicles is $10, $5 for in-state (Delaware). It has a fee machine so make sure to bring a credit card.
The Assawoman Canal:
The canal is a four-mile long, arrow-straight, dredged waterway connecting Indian River Bay to Little Assawoman Bay. What it lacks in natural scenery, it makes up for in protection from the wind and sun. Lined with gum trees and loblolly pines, the canal provides one of the few shaded paddling destinations at the beach. Although you don’t have to worry about the wind, always note the direction of the tide to avoid surprises (the current is stronger at the north end). And if you don’t mind dark, tight spaces, take the historic Loop Canal as a side trip, paddling under Route One to end up a block away from the Bethany Beach post office where, in the early 1900s, the shallow-draft motorboat, Allie May, dropped off weary travelers eager to begin their own family beach vacations.
To paddle on the Assawoman Canal you have three launch options. The southernmost is off of Kent Avenue just east of the Jefferson Bridge. With very limited parking you’ll want to arrive here early. The next launch is new and is on Town Road off of Route 26, west of the bridge. Both of these are state park owned. The northernmost launch is out of Harbor View Marina on Eliot Drive in Ocean View. Check in the office for current launch fees.
Launching at Savage’s Ditch Road will put you in the southern portion of the Rehoboth Bay. Here the waterways weave and cut through the salt marshes making endless route possibilities. Because this area is so close to the inlet, the water is never stagnant which brings in a wide variety of wildlife. You’ll see terrapin, horseshoe crabs, cow nose rays, and many species of shorebirds. To the south, Burton’s Island makes a good destination. You can get out and walk along the beach to look for snails, hermit crabs, jackknife clams, and shells. To the north is a raucous Laughing Gull nesting area and flocks of Brown Pelicans. In either direction the rich salt marsh eco-system is on full display if you take the time to look.
The risky-sounding Savage’s Ditch Road launch site is off of Route 1, four miles south of Dewey Beach. It is an unstaffed state park area with a $10 fee for out-of-state vehicles, $5 for in-state. Low tide is a mudfest so check the tide charts before heading out. To figure the tides for Savage’s Ditch Road add two hours to the tide table from the Indian River Inlet. Once you get the low tide time, give it a wide berth—two hours on either side is usually sufficient.
Isle of Wight (in Ocean City, MD not England):
Note: In a south wind this area is terrible for paddling as it is wide open. Plan accordingly.
Launching at Isle of Wight will put you in the middle of the bay—which bay depends which direction you paddle. To the east and north is Assawoman Bay and to the south and west is Isle of Wight Bay. Circumnavigating Isle of Wight is possible, but it requires a few hours, a trek though tick-infested phragmites, scrambles up and down a road bank, and dragging your kayak across St. Martin’s Neck Road. If that won’t fit in your schedule or isn’t your idea of a relaxing trip, your best bet is to go west once you launch, pass under Route 90, and head to the southern shore of St. Martin’s Neck. You can paddle right up to the Lighthouse Sound Golf Course and heckle the golfers as they tee off on Hole 12. If you’d prefer more solitude, keep heading west. The many tidal creeks offer opportunities to escape to a quiet world where you’ll see herons, eagles, and hubcap-sized snapping turtles.
Isle of Wight is the spot of land that divides the Route 90 bridge in two. The area to the north of Route 90 is a Maryland Wildlife Management Area. The area south of Route 90 is a free public park with a crabbing pier and a non-motorized launching area.
Assateague Island National Seashore:
Assateague is about forty-five minutes from Bethany Beach. But having over 30 miles of undeveloped marshes to explore is worth the drive! The best launch is Old Ferry Landing (the rental concession is at Bayside Drive). From Old Ferry Landing you can paddle south through some nice salt marsh cuts. Egging Island is just offshore and can easily be circumnavigated. If you’d like a longer paddle with a destination, the Tingles Island backcountry campsite is only two miles from Old Ferry Landing and makes a nice down and back trip.
Assateague Island National Seashore is at the end of Route 611. The entry fee is $25 per vehicle and is good for a week.
Trap Pond is also about 45 minutes from the beach. But it, too, is worth the drive. In the back of the pond, the cypress trees tower over the water trail, filtering the sunlight and creating a peaceful tunnel.
Trap Pond State Park is near Laurel, DE off of Rt. 24. The parking fee for out-of-state vehicles is $8, $4 for in-state (Delaware). The best place to launch at the park is from the boat ramp.
These are just a few of many possibilities. If you’ve explored these and are looking for more, stop by and ask us!
by: Jenifer Adams-Mitchell