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I just bought an inflatable kayak today and I am really excited. I live in San Francisco and I am reaching out to you the REI community to see if you know some good kayaking place in the Bay Area. I love marin life and this is the reason why I got a kayak.
@Annie1 Russian River...I have done parts of this in a canoe and parts in an inflatable Kayak...there were a number of portages on the kayak trip I did and a few very minor shallow "rapids".
Tomales bay from Hearts Desire beach. It's quite calm, warm, shallow and protected around the beach but Tomales bay can be very windy particularly in the afternoon so make sure you know what you are doing. I have not kayaked there. In the winter you can see bioluminescence in Tomales bay. I believe bluewaterskayaking have kayak tours to see it though generally they rent boats.
Lake Sonoma has boat in camp sites. I think one arm of it is restricted from ski boats but I'm not sure. https://www.paddlingcalifornia.com/Lake_Sonoma.html
Lake Berryessa has various arms that are not really accessible to motor boats. https://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/berryessa/docs/paddling.pdf
Haven't been there in a long time but kayaking around the marinas and houseboats in Sausalito might be of interest. It's the bay so be careful.
When there is baseball McCovey cove is popular ...
Hello @Annie1 Welcome to REI Conversations and congrats on getting your new kayak. Super exciting! There are so many places to explore in the SF Bay, and I encourage you to “know before you go” to ensure that the paddling launch and area you choose is currently open. Also, it’s always a best practice to paddle with others (with safe social distancing 😀) and to know the tide, wind, and currents for the area you are headed. Conditions can change rapidly in the Bay. Lastly, dress for the water temp versus the air temp (water is COLD!).
First, shout out to @OldGuyot those are some great suggestions!
Here are some resources I utilize to help me figure out where to go and what is open.
Paddling options I personally like that are close to San Franciscso (I live in the East Bay):
Sausalito: Turney Street Boat Ramp—when this is open, you can launch here and turn “left” or “north” and explore the boat house marinas, paddle past seals, and explore Richardson’s Bay. Be mindful of tides, winds, and currents in this area which can change quickly. Also be sure to NOT paddle in the middle of the boat channel, which can get very busy over the weekends.
Berkeley: Berkeley Marina—There is a small craft boat launch at the UC Aquatic Center at Berkeley Marina area. From here you can paddle around the marina area, explore the old Berkeley pier, and also head over to Emeryville if the winds are not too strong (recommend paddling early or late to avoid winds here).
Oakland Estuary: Estuary Park/ Jack London Aquatic Center: When this are reopens, it’s a pretty easy launch site that gives you water access to Jack London Square, Coast Guard Island, MLK Shoreline, and Alameda. From this launch site, you could paddle all the way around Alameda Island (but I suggest trying smaller sections before doing the whole tour!). Also be aware that the immediate area outside this launch site is a shipping canal, make sure to stay close to the shoreline for safety here.
San Francisco: Mission Creek. A good spot for an inflatable because it is often sheltered from the wind and has less currents than other portions of the SF Bay.
I hope this helps! Have so much fun out there, and post a photo here and let us know where you went!
@Annie1 If you want to come down to Monterey Bay, you can kayak in harkens slough and Moss Landing and see tons of wildlife including sea otters and sea lions as well as many birds.