Rafting in Ocean Pines

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Ayers Creek softly ripples by the idyllic location where Steven and Suzy Taylor run their kayak and canoe center. Despite being situated near Ocean City, the watery spot is quiet except for the occasional stirring of a duck, heron, or standup paddleboard. Steven has been a neighbor to the animals in this stretch of coastal Maryland since childhood, and the couple now operates their business from their own bankside property. Both Suzy and Steven spent decades mastering the waters on their own before they began giving tours of the salt marshes and wetlands. Steven, an environmental consultant, often narrates on these tours, reliving his boyhood awe for visitors as groups encounter deer and fly-by cameos by bald eagles. Committed to preservation, the Taylors sprinkle guided adventures with educational factoids about the area's diverse ecology as paddlers conquer the headwaters.

8628 Grey Fox Ln
Berlin,
MD
US

While waiting for a group of tour participants aboard his kayak on Cape Island Creek, Bob Lubberman made a new acquaintance when a 4-foot great blue heron landed on the nose of his boat. It's not an entirely new experience for the owner of Miss Chris Kayak Rentals and Tours, as opportunities to commune with nature came often as he crabbed and fished as a child from his grandmother's dock. Now he's able to connect visitors to this ecosystem as they independently paddle rented sit-on-top kayaks or as they participate in guided kayak or boat tours.

Paddlers on kayak tours often catch close-ups of ospreys, terns, and other birds, and see diamondback terrapin turtles sunning themselves on the shore or trying to hold their own ice-cream cones. Day and sunset tours let guests explore the wildlife-rich salt marshes, and night tours led during high tide let them paddle over grassy terrain to otherwise inaccessible areas. Guests explore similar territory on tours aboard the Osprey as they watch migrating shore birds or look out on the harbor's historic buildings. Kayak tour guides include an associate naturalist and a Cape May Bird Observatory field associate, and land-based staffers maintain a touch tank on the Miss Chris mooring dock, which they temporarily fill with conches, eels, and other sea life pulled up using open-sided conservation traps.

1218 Wilson Dr
Cape May,
NJ
US

Chesapeake Bay is home to legendary beautiful waters, diverse flora and fauna, and Paddlefest, an annual paddle-sports event organized by the team at Ultimate Watersports. Held on the Gunpowder River, which flows into the bay, the festival shows off the industry's latest toys, allowing attendees to try out brand-new kayaks and paddleboards on the sparkling fresh water. For the rest of the season, Ultimate Watersports brings its know-how to the shores with kayak tours, paddleboard lessons, and sailing trips that have remained a bay fixture for more than 26 years. Waterfront enthusiasts seek out the company's reliably well-maintained and up-to-date watercraft to do everything from gain a windsurfing certification to practice heckling standup paddleboard comics. Additionally, seasonal kids' camps help youngsters to stay active while gaining an appreciation for watersports and the splendor of the outdoors.

7200 Graces Quarters Rd
Middle River,
MD
US

Assateague Island sits along the eastern coast near the spot where Maryland and Virginia begin to touch. The National Park Service safeguards the 37-mile island's varied ecosystem, in which wild horses brought there by 17th-century colonists still trot freely near the salt marsh. In 2009, a trio of college pals made it their mission to introduce nature enthusiasts to this dynamic wilderness. After Tom Simon, Neil Nimrichter, and Dale Barber left The Ohio State University with degrees in Environmental Science and Adventure Recreation, the friends were drawn to Assateague's complexity and coastal beauty as a spot to begin their careers. Today, their company, SuperFun Eco Tours, leads customers on various kayaking explorations of the island's wonders, quenching theirs and their customers’ thirst for adventure by exploring the areas of the island accessible only by boat or human catapult.

107 West Street
Berlin,
MD
US

When Pete and Kate Vonderheide moved from Hawaii to Annapolis to live closer to their family, they thought they'd have to give up a career of ocean kayaking to resume responsible office jobs. Soon they recognized the historic city harbor's lack of kayak tours and knew they couldn't stay inside forever. Their shared passion for history spurred them to research and interview the locals until they'd compiled enough historic material to start leading tours. Today, their tours can teach something new even to locals.

The Vonderheides continue to assemble a team of outdoor guides certified in CPR and first aid who all bear a well-researched knowledge of area wildlife and history. These experts lead two-hour scenic tours through the historic harbor. Starting each excursion with a brief paddling lesson, they put first-timers at ease with basic instruction and an amiable demeanor, unlike guides who rely only on their convincing Captain Ahab impressions. Excursions begin at the Spa Creek headwaters in Truxtun Park and lead participants into open-harbor waters to drift in full view of the state capitol building, the US Naval Academy, and historic Eastport. Trips peak at the City Dock, where participants receive a break to take photos and rest. On the return trip, guides field open-ended questions about city history such as presidential visits, the crabbing and oystering trade, and whether George Washington had to swim using floaties.

Truxtun Park
Annapolis,
MD
US