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Fun Themed Kayaking Scavenger Hunts

If you love the family-friendly aspect of kayaking but need a little additional incentive to get the kids off the couch, consider this fun twist on recreational kayaking: a scavenger hunt. Create a themed hunt that will send paddlers on a grand adventure searching for items, clues, and hidden objects along a designated route. 

A kayaking scavenger hunt is a fabulous activity for families, teams, scouting trips, parties, and more. You can make it as involved or spontaneous as you want. 

Types of Kayaking Scavenger Hunts

Retrieve Object

Create a hunt that requires paddlers to retrieve objects and bring them back to get credit. This is the most labor-intensive type of hunt as it requires setting the objects in place before the event and retrieving anything left over at the end. However, it is great for smaller ponds, Easter Egg hunts, or riddles.

Photograph Objects

This is a simple, easy way to entertain a group and can be practically developed on the run. As long as people have a camera, you can tell them something to photograph and send them all off. The first to return with a picture gets a point, then do it again. Depending on time and interest, you can set a winning point total of as little or as much as you want. This allows for a lot of customization and innovation.

Check off list

If you have a little more time to prepare, take pictures or make a list of things that paddlers are most likely to see (depending on the time, season, etc). Hand each team or each paddler a list and send them off. They can either check off the list as they find them or you can require a picture as proof that they saw the item.

Solve Riddles

To add a bit more brain power to the adventure, you could create riddles that teams have to solve. Once they have their clue, they can paddle to take a picture of the solution and return. Again, this option requires more preparation but it can be worth it for the puzzle-solvers of the bunch.

Materials for Kayaking Scavenger Hunts

Kayaks / PFDs for everyone

If you don’t have kayaks for everyone, you need the ability to reset the course if people need to take turns, or choose the photo / check off list option and let people go in stages with a time limit.

Scavenger Hunt list

Laminated lists (to keep your list dry) or digital lists are a good idea, if possible.

Camera protection

A dry bag for your phone / camera is important, especially if the game gets fast and competitive. 


If the event is a competition, make sure to have a fun prize at the end for the winner or participants.

Theme Ideas for Kayaking Scavenger Hunts

Build your kayaking scavenger hunt around a theme like seasons, holidays, or even your local area. You can customize your list any way you like, especially if you know the area well and can direct your paddlers through fun puzzles or unique flora and fauna. 



A spring paddle might have adventurers looking for first blooms, early flowers, birds’ building nests, tadpoles, or other objects or activities of a world waking up from winter.


Make a summer kayaking scavenger hunt that focuses on all things sun, sand, and sweat. 


As the weather cools, the world looks different too. Choose items on your kayak scavenger hunt that will say “autumn” - crimson leaves, changing trees, scavenging squirrels.


Some holidays in your area might not be kayak weather friendly so adapt to your needs.

St Patrick’s Day

Plant a course of green clover, clever leprechauns, pots of gold, or rainbows. 


Easter is a great time for an Easter Egg hunt. Fill some plastic eggs and see how fast your paddlers can gobble them up.

Memorial Day

Kick start summer with a paddle scavenger hunt. The first to find all the items on the list can get first-in-the-grill-line privileges. 

Fourth of July

Spark a great summer bash with an Independence Day hunt. Look for hidden flags or retrieve items for a spectacular prize. 


If your area is still warm enough for paddling in late Oct, then a spooky Halloween kayaking scavenger hunt might be just what you need. Hide pumpkins or ghosts. Or get really creative and design a haunted hunt. The sky is the limit!


Birthday party

Make the hunt all about the birthday guest of honor. Solve clues about the birthday boy. Or let the birthday girl send paddlers out on her retrieval quests.

Scout trip

Use a kayaking scavenger hunt for teaching skills for a Boy or Girl Scout troop outing. They can answer questions about kayaking safety, rescue techniques, and paddling skills before getting their clue sheet. Or have them recite an oath, a pledge, or rules before they get their list or when they bring back an item. 

Family Outing

Make your next family float more fun and teach observation skills by creating a list of things you might see on your next paddle. Tailor your list to the age of your participants or change it up as they get better at spotting your objects. 

Clean Up event

Another great time to use a kayaking scavenger hunt is when you are actually scavenging! Give everyone a trash bag and have all the paddlers pick up trash along a designated route. The winner could be the one with the most filled bags or the most unusual item found.

There is so much fun to be had on the water! Make your next paddle really engaging with a kayaking scavenger hunt. Happy Paddling!

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