Fitness Al Fresco: Paddle

Mix surf, cardio, and seldom-explored coastline for an exciting workout.

Watching the Boston skyline go by along the Charles. (Photo by James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth.)

Need a new reason to visit the ocean? Try one of these superb Boston-area paddles. — Hannah Lauterback

1. This coastal town doesn’t have many hotels, meaning fewer summer tourists frequent its placid cove than other nearby harbors. That, and its proximity to Boston, make it a great escape for a peaceful day on the water. Move through a landscape of moored sailboats and sprawling green lawns that front the sea on the half-mile journey to Great or Little Misery, two small islands a couple of miles away. Go ashore (avoid lowest tide, when the beach is steep) and explore the islands on a network of hiking trails.
Launch at Beach Street; Nonresident parking is limited to 20 spaces, so arrive early.

Watch the fishing boats come and go through this famous working harbor
while you steer your craft along the bay’s south edge to Mother Ann; situated near Eastern Point Lighthouse, the rock formation resembles a reclining woman. On calm days, intermediate paddlers can head southwest past Dog Bar Breakwater (mind the boat traffic and cross-channel currents) to spot Hammond Castle, a medieval-style manor that’s perched atop 50-foot coastal cliffs.
Launch at Dunfundgin Landing; park at the high school.

With gentle currents and good protection from waves, this long, narrow harbor offers ideal conditions for first-timers but enough sights to keep experienced boaters coming back. Ease into the water amid moored racing yachts (the town is one end of races to both Europe and Bermuda) and hug the eastern shore en route to Marblehead Light, which resembles an old oil derrick. Advanced paddlers looking for a challenge can try the 14-mile round trip to the Miseries, but strong currents, coastal waves, and open ocean make the journey safest on calm days.
Launch at Riverhead Beach off Ocean Drive.

This pocket-size harbor offers something for all paddlers, no matter their skill level. Beginners can enjoy a fine day in the harbor, while intermediate paddlers can travel the 2.5 miles to Minot’s Ledge Light, which sits on the Atlantic like a hood ornament, then steer south toward a cluster of sandy beaches. Experienced folks with a good working knowledge of the tide tables can shoot the current-prone entrance to Little Harbor, a shallow inlet hedged with marsh grass.
Launch at Parker Avenue; park on the street.

Be sure to hone your paddling skills before heading out to this small working harbor, which offers quick access to the open ocean and some of the biggest waves in the state — surges of up to 12 feet in one place. Head south along the shoreline and ride the waves into Peggotty Beach, a sandy expanse with parking so scarce that most out-of-towners stay away. Or continue 2 miles south to the Spit, a large sandbar at the convergence of two rivers and the ocean’s current.
Launch off Jericho Road.

Weave through marsh grasses punctuated with cattails on this trip on the Herring and North and South rivers in Scituate. Go right (up river) where the Herring meets the North and South. At high tide, the water fills a maze of waterways and creates endless possibilities for day trips. Scan the skies for goshawks, and the banks for osprey nests. Want something a little more adrenaline-producing? Follow the current downstream to the Spit and watch the breakers slam into the sandbar.
Launch from the Driftway off Route 3A.

Boston Harbor Islands Treasure Map

boston harbor islands map
Take a day (or an overnight) to explore the Boston Harbor Islands. You’ll see sights that the tourists on ferry boats never lay eyes on — just don’t forget the sunscreen. — Casey Lyons

Hingham Harbor’s naturally calm waters, lack of boat traffic, and abundance of nearby archipelagoes make it ideal for inexperienced kayakers. Sarah, Ragged, and Langlee islands are just five minutes from shore. Reach Grape Island, complete with ranger services, hiking, and a picnic area, in a half hour. Skirt the southern coast of Peddocks Island and come ashore at the sandy beach opposite Fort Andrews, a circa-1900 brick complex.
Launch on Otis Street in Hingham.

Brave strong currents and commercial traffic, and you’ll be rewarded with a day of solitude at the less-frequented outer islands. From Pemberton Point in Hull, it’s a 40-minute paddle to Little Brewster Island and Boston Light. Head up to Calf Island—often called Chimney Island for the standing remains of an old manse—and land on the western side’s cove. Hike the trail and rest in the shady bowers beneath stands of sumac.
Launch at the end of Main Street in Hull.