Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dream Paddling Destination: Venice, Italy

Guest blog post by Nataša Vugrinec, ACA Level 3 Sea Kayaking Instructor and ACA Representative for Slovenia. You can reach her at

Venice is one of the most coveted paddling destinations in all of Europe, offering a unique and fresh perspective on the world-renowed city. And every May, there is a big international boat race in the heart of Venice called Vogalonga that has been going on since the 1970s.

In general, the "City of Water" is not a destination for beginners! You should be aware that it is the busiest and most hectic nautical point of the Adriatic sea with countless vessels, from small boats and famous gondolas, to water busses (“vaporettos”) and ferries. An especially demanding area is the main San Marco channel. A paddler in Venice has to be confident in rough sea conditions and be familiar with the nautical traffic rules.

However, Venice’s inner channels are easy and calm for paddling, as you can see from countless tourist images. A good orientation is essential though, as you can easily get lost in a labyrinth of channels – a map and a GPS are obligatory!


Venice (ital.: Venezia) is located in Italy in the most northern point of the Adriatic sea, which is already a first class paddling destination with some nice lagoons and the Croatian coast with thousands of islands further to the south.

Venice is easy accessible by plane (there are even two airports - Venice and Treviso), train, ship, or car.

If you come from overseas, you should probably contact one of the local agencies providing both the equipment and guides such as Venice Kayak agency, but there are many other providers in the region.

If you have limited time, you can do a one-day paddling adventure. But multi-day paddling is strongly recommended, and allows you more opportunities to visit other less crowded points of the Venice Lagoon.

Standard entry points are San Giuliano, Fusina and Punta Sabbioni, which provide parking, campsites, beaches, restaurants and other accommodations. All of them are around 3 nautical miles (NM) away from the old city, which is a perfect distance for warming up.

Due to the fact the Venice is one of the most renowned tourist destinations, there are thousands of accommodation options.


A typical tour to the old city and visiting at least some of the famous points (Canal Grande, Rialto bridge, channels around San Marco square, etc.) would take at least 12 to 15 NM, but if you want to visit other islands of the city (Murano, Lido), you should probably split your trip to 2 or even more days.

The lagoon is extremely shallow – sometimes even too shalow for a kayak – so you should follow official waterways, marked by triple pilots.

Due to shallow water there are strong tidal currents that can make our paddling harder or easier. It’s a wise idea to check a tide forecast in advance and plan your trip accordingly.


There was an on-going campaign to ban paddling in Venice completely. Fortunately, due to public pressure from fellow kayakers, the city government recently found a compromise and issued more tolerant rules valid since April 20th, 2015.

Basically, they limit paddling during the workdays and on Saturday morning. However, all paddlers need to be aware of and obey standard nautical traffic rules, especially in San Marco channel and Canal Grande.

Paddling in Venice can be an extremely rewarding experience, allowing us to see and experience the city from a completely different perspective, away from the beaten tracks! 

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