Kayaking in Door County, Tips for First-Time Kayakers + Video!

I checked off a bucket list item during our recent visit to Door County! I’m still trying to figure out how I’ve lived on the coast, sandwiched between beaches and rivers my entire life and have never kayaked, but somehow I’d made it 31 years. Thankfully I was able to convince Jimmy to join me for a kayak tour during our Wisconsin getaway and it was totally worth the wait.

Exiting one of the caves during the Cave Point Kayak Tour.

Door County Kayak Tours sent us on a Cave Point Kayak Tour on beautiful Lake Michigan and it certainly disappoint. I wanted to share a little about the tour that we took, Kayak options in Door County (a must do if you’re planning a visit), along with what you can expect if it’s you’re first time kayaking. I really had no idea and was surprised with some aspects of my experience. It was a lot easier than I expected it to be, and something I can’t wait to do again! [I even wore a GoPro on my head like a goober and created a little video of our experience, which you can see below.]

ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE:
Door County is a cluster of little towns on a Wisconsin peninsula, surrounded by Lake Michigan and Green Bay. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the weather is pretty perfect in the summer (I’m talking highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s/60s), so it only makes sense to get out on the water while visiting. I teamed up with Door County Kayak Tours while there to experience one of their tours firsthand and share all about it with you. Jimmy’s sister Amanda joined us, which made it even more fun! Once we arrived at the meeting spot, we checked in for our tour, fitted our life jackets, and had a quick lesson on how to use the paddles correctly and what to do, then we all hopped in the pink and blue van for a 5-minute shuttle ride to the dock.

Heads-up: This tour was tandem kayaking, which we didn’t know ahead of time. I was so relieved! It calmed my nerves for it being my first time. Poor Amanda was the 13th and didn’t have a partner, so they converted her kayak into a single and on her own she went. (She did great, btw. The tour guide only offered to tow her once 😆.)

Amanda looking like a pro!

Once we were all loaded into our boats we set off along the shore toward the first cave. As a part of the Cave Point tour, you get to explore two caves that you likely would never see from land. It was really cool seeing how the water and lighting changes, and hearing the splashing waves and echoes from inside. These particular caves aren’t huge or scary, so don’t be afraid of them closing in on you. You can see a quick peek into the smaller of the two caves in my video below, but you’ll have to take the tour for yourself to see the rest! They had a photographer snapping photos of everyone going in and out of the cave, which I thought was a nice touch. After exploring the caves we all gathered together on the water as the tour guide told us some of the history, and then we made our way back. The time on the water was probably about 1.5 hours, and our entire experience was about two hours from start to finish. Watch my short video to see more and hear Jimmy’s goofy self narrating.

TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR?
Since this was my very first time kayaking I can’t really compare going out on a tour versus on your own, but I can say that a tour is an excellent way to properly learn how to kayak, explore the waters without getting lost or confused, and have others around in case something happens. You are on someone else’s schedule and track, but it does take the pressure off of having to figure everything out for yourself. I think it was a great way to experience the sport for the first time, and would highly recommend it.

TOUR OPTIONS:
Different tour groups offer different options depending on where you’ll be cruising, so do some research on the location and options, and find the company and specific tour that sounds most appealing to you. Door County Kayak Tours offers tours of Cave Point (what we did), Death’s Door Bluff, Eagle Bluff and sunset, and they offer paddle board yoga as well (next on my list!).

WHAT TO WEAR:
I honesty had no idea what to wear. Obviously it’s a water sport, so something that could get wet, but I didn’t know if I should just wear a swimsuit, what kind of shoes, would a hat blow off … not a clue. So here’s what I would say:
– Guys, wear swim trunks, a t-shirt and flip flops or water shoes. Your hat won’t blow off, so you’re safe there.
– Ladies, wear a swimsuit and some kind of coverup that you don’t mind getting wet. I wore an athletic skirt with built-in shorts and a rash guard over my swimsuit, a straw sun hat and flip flops.
You may not get soaked but you will get wet, so make sure whatever you’re wearing is water safe and will hold up (unlike the sandals I wore).
Once you have your life jacket on and you’re in the kayak it’s a bit heard to adjust your wardrobe, so if you don’t want funky tan lines and prefer to take your shirt off or just wear your swimsuit, be sure remove unwanted clothing before you start.

My top and skirt are from Katherine Way. They have UPF 50+ sun protection built in, and wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking. Perfect for outdoor and water activities.

THINGS TO KNOW:
– You will get wet. Just know it going in!
– It’s not super easy to tip. I was so afraid we were going to tip, but it was more difficult than I expected to tip a kayak. We went over some fairly choppy waves and didn’t even come close.
– The person in the front controls the speed, and the person in the back controls the searing. The front kayaker helps, but the rear person controls most of that force. Be sure to communicate when you want to turn or stop.
– You don’t get out of the boat during the tour.
– It’s not scary or hard! Your arms may get a little tired, but I’d say it’s pretty easy for all skill levels. If it’s your first time be sure to make sure the tour you select is recommended for beginners.

HOW TO PREPARE:
– Wear sunscreen and take extra with you. You’ll be in the sun for a few hours straight and water attracts the sun – you don’t want to fry!
– Take bottled water. Again, you’re out in the hot sun and there aren’t any concession stands on the water. Pack a bottle or two in case you get thirsty and to prevent dehydration.
– Pack your belongings in a water-safe bag, like a backpack or Ziplock bag.
– Eat before going. You don’t want to get hungry or run out of energy!
– Water will get into the bottom of your boat, so be careful about what you take with you.
– You can take your phone, but put it in a waterproof case or bag to be safe. I would suggest putting it in airplane mode and using it only to take photos. It’s a great time to disconnect from the world and just enjoy your time on the water!
– Wear sunglasses – that sun is bright! If it makes you feel better you can wear Croakies around them, but they shouldn’t go flying off. I just wouldn’t suggest wearing your most expensive pair just in case. (Tip: Take them off when you go into a cave so you can see better!)
– Take a camera. It’s so cool seeing everything from that perspective and you’ll likely want to document some of it. Just make sure it’s waterproof or fully protected!
– Book your tour in advance. Our tour was capped at 12 people and was booked when we tried to add a few more people. Be sure to book in advance to secure your desired time slot!

That’s it! Other than that I’d say give it a shot and enjoy yourself. I can’t wait to do it again! Have you kayaked before? If so, I want to know about your experience! Leave a comment below telling me where you did and and what you thought. I need to add new locations to my bucket list!

A huge thank you to Door County Kayak Tours for having us. We had a blast! I highly recommend checking them out if you visit Door County. I can’t wait to try the sunset tour next!

Learn more about Door County Kayak Tours HERE.

Share your thoughts!