Gillson Beach or Skokie Lagoons|
Or book a Custom Trip
Gillson Beach or Skokie Lagoons|
All sea kayak equipment and instruction. |
Transportation or personal clothing and equipment. Cancellation policy applies.
Our guided Chicago kayaking adventures are informal and fun. No experience is necessary. We teach you basics and then get out on the water. Setting out on a beautiful local waterway is a perfect way to kickstart your morning or peacefully unwind in the evening. Come kayak Chicago’s local waterways with us and experience your own neighborhood from a totally fresh perspective.
Gillson Park in Wilmette is our primary paddling location, HOWEVER if conditions on Lake Michigan are too rough for paddling (wind and wave conditions), we will move to our alternate location of the Skokie Lagoons. Please call two hours prior to confirm the location of your program.
Location Hotline: 847-920-4409
We can also provide one time text message notification of the location on the day. Please let us know if you are interested.
Parking right along the Lake is reserved for cars with Wilmette stickers. Parking for others is available on Michigan Avenue just off Sheridan Road at the park entrance, and on the first interior park road (Outer Drive). On nice days, these streets can fill up so ALLOW EXTRA TIME FOR PARKING. You can also park on the west side of Sheridan Road- just be aware of posted signs regarding restrictions.
Upon arrival (arrive 10 minutes prior to start), we will ask everyone to check-in with one of the instructors. Once you have checked in and all your paperwork is accounted for, you will begin your lesson.
If you have personal belonging that you do not want to get wet you should either leave them in your car, seal them in a dry bag, or check with the instructor to see if there is another alternative. We will brief you on where to go and what to take with you. Once you check-in you will move on to the outfit station where we will fit you with a PFD (personal flotation device) and a paddle. From there you will move on to an instructor who will give your group a brief shore lesson on equipment, outfit, safety, techniques and program goals. Finally, you will be fitted in a kayak and move on to the water section of the course.
We will spend most of our time paddling along the lakefront (or around islands at the Skokie Lagoons), admiring the scenery and enjoying the tranquility of sea kayaking. These programs are designed to be recreational, not speed races but a relaxing paddle in a beautiful spot. We typically get participants at all levels of kayaking abilities from total beginners to experienced paddlers just looking for more time on the water.
Our Day Kayaking paddles last for about two hours from the time listed here. Click on a date to register for that program.
- Swimsuit or shorts and T-shirt
- sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, raingear
- Croakies or something else to tie glasses on with
- Shoes- Flip-flop sandals are not useful as they will come off in open water. Water booties are ideal and sport sandals can also work. Shoes with laces are not appropriate.
- Extra warm layers- Remember that cotton will not keep you warm if it is wet (it will actually make you colder), so bring some extra layers that are made out of a synthetic material (such as fleece, Coolmax®, polypropylene, etc.) Come prepared for warm, cold and/or wet weather; we will be paddling rain or shine!
- Dry clothes to change into after
- If you have a wetsuit, paddling jacket or booties, bring them along. We will have wetsuits available for rent for $5 per session. Please contact our office in advance if interested in renting. Please plan to arrive 15 minutes early to provide adequate time to change into the wetsuit.
We will provide all other necessary paddling equipment.
What happens if there is bad weather?
Our kayaking programs run rain or shine. It's a water sport, and a little rain doesn't ruin the fun! If there is lightning or dangerous weather we will reschedule the program. In early Spring and late Fall we require a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F or we will reschedule the program.
Our primary location is Gillson Beach in Wilmette, but if conditions are too dangerous on the lake or the beaches are closed we will relocate to the Skokie Lagoons.
In all cases please call us 2 hours before the program to confirm location or be notified of cancellation.
What money should I take?
None. You will have settled your balance prior to the outing. Don't forget to "tip" your guides!
How much should I tip my guides?
Tipping is strongly encouraged. Within the adventure travel industry "tipping" is a standard practice. The amount of "tip" depends on numerous factors and should start at 10% of your fees.
What do I need to bring?
Check out the equipment list under planning- or feel free to contact us if you have questions. Be sure to dress appropriate for the weather and with adequate footwear.
How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
Our guides carry cell phones and marine radios.
What kind of equipment do you use?
We use rotomolded single and double kayaks.
Is there a weight limit?
In order to join we ask that participants be comfortable in the water and with basic survival swimming skills. The fleet of kayaks has a manufactures maximum weight limit for singles of up to 300lbs and doubles up to 475lbs. We encourage you to reach out to the office and discuss the many options.
How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
Our lead guides are ACA or BCU certified kayak instructors and all our guides are certified in Wilderness First Aid.
How much prior experience is needed?
None. In order to join we ask that participants be comfortable in the water and with basic swimming survival skills.
How do I redeem my Coupon?
Click on your preferred date on the Dates & Times tab. Make sure you check that you have a Coupon code on the first page of the online registration form. You should have your Coupon number, contact info and the names of all participants accessible.
Note there will be a transfer fee assessed for changing your program 10 days or less before the start date. Coupons have a marked expiration date.
Our friendly office staff are always available for help at 847-256-4409.
I just wanted to send this email and tell you that me and my daughter had a wonderful, blessing of an experience with your guides as well. They were fun, and informative and just put us at ease - I can't wait to do this again one day soon. Thank you soooo very much for opening up our horizons to do more adventurous things like this.......it was AWESOME!!
-Jacqueline, Chicago, IL Sepetmeber 2013
I went on the paddle Friday AM and only have the most amazing things to say about your staff. Professional and lots of fun. They were able to relate to kids and adults well and made a simple Friday AM paddle something I will remember for a while.
-Sam, Chicago, IL August 2013
My name is Veronica. I went Kayaking on Saturday, July 20 from 3-5. My trip was fun and safe thanks to the staff. The staff were friendly, helpful, and very accommodating. Thank you for a great trip.
-Veronica, Chicago, IL July 2013
I went on your Crete trip last August, so decided to start paddling this summer. I just want to let you know that Ben, one of the guides, was absolutely wonderful...He was thoughtful, kept teaching us little tidbits and was extremely personable. He was a real plus even for just the simple two hour paddle!
-Carla Goldstein, Chicago, IL
We had a great time, thank's for the adventure, we really enjoyed it!!!
-Kathleen & Brian, Gurnee, IL
Went on the 2 hour sunset kayaking with a bunch of girlfriends recently and had an awesome time. Even though they provided maps as to where the boat launch would be--I still went to the wrong area--boo for me and directions. They provided all the equipment: lifejacket, oar, and kayak. I recommend water shoes just because Im not a huge fan of sand or rocks in between my toes. The fabulous trip leader gave us some instruction/safety and then we were off and paddling--ok maybe not at first :)
The staff was so patient and nice---especially because I felt like the first half of the trip I definitely needed special attention--since we were veering in the opposite direction of the group---geesh who would've thought it would be so difficult to turn or keep going straight--but with the proper instruction and a little special ed tugging from one of the trip leaders---we were on our way to cruising on lake michigan.
Being that this was my first time and I didn't fall out or become traumatized--I definitley will be doing this again.
-Alvania C., Wheaton, IL (taken from Yelp.com)
Loved my [2- hour Chicago Day Kayaking program]. We were supposed to be on Lake Michigan but riptides and high wind forced us to Skokie Lagoons. Nevertheless, we loved it. In fact, it was fun to get off the bike path and see the other side of this peaceful greenland/wetland just outside of Chicago. This was our third time kayaking and second with instructors. First time with this company. My husband and I are not exactly athletes so I feel a little bit better knowing there is some young 20something presumably with First Aid training available to drag my butt out of the water - just in case.
Kayaking is so peaceful and the instruction was just enough to tell us how to do it and get us out on the water as soon as possible. One and a half hours of kayaking is just the right amount of time for me. I will save the weekend trips for the youngsters.
-Heather L., Des Plaines, IL (taken from Yelp.com)
Keith and his staff were awesome - very patient, friendly, approachable and willing to teach. They started with a 15mins talk about basic on kayaking, strokes to use (he demonstrated them and had us practice on dry land first). He also talked about safety and other stuff. They did a good job getting us settled in our kayaks and making us comfortable.
We then split into different groups and the instructor to student ratio was good. Not that this was a class as such, being reasonably new to kayaking, I felt comfortable approaching the staff for tips and questions. They were happy to review my strokes and help me improve.
Although the primary location for this sea-scape kayaking session was on the lake in Gilson Park in Wilmette, we kayaked at the Skokie Lagoons due to high winds and rip currents. We were notified ahead of time and it wasn't an issue. The lagoons were actually pretty cool, much warmer water and the river type formation felt like a course or a track compared to kayaking in a big open space (the lake).
In all, my companion and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon with good weather. We kayaked for about 90mins out of the 120min package. It did seem we wouldnt get enough time in the water, but after about an hour, i was tired and felt like taking a break. So the 90mins was more than enough to enjoy kayaking.
-Raghav C., Chicago, IL (taken from Yelp.com)
Thanks again from a pleasantly pooped kayaking newbie. As requested, here are some of the birds we saw tonight-- lots of fledglings demanding a bedtime snack from parents--
-- great blue heron-- I've never seen so many
-- black-crowned night heron-- long white plumes from the head-- lots of these too
-- green heron-- chestnut colored chest
-- American bittern
-- common tern-- graceful gull-like birds following us for awhile
-- mallards-- in the duckweed of course
-- red-winged blackbirds
-- double-crested cormorants and greedy children in the big dead tree
-- rough-winged swallows and barn swallows and their demanding children skimming the water and roosting all together in a smaller tree
A lovely magical perspective to drift in so close. Looking forward to August!
Linda K., Highland Park, IL. Summer 2012, Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living