Canoeing is such a nice activity - and one that you can share with the whole family. You can share in the excitement of exploring the great outdoors together and make some wonderful memories that your kids to take with them into their older years.
And your kids will pick up important teamwork skills that may otherwise miss if they don’t play team sports. That makes it a good family bonding experience too, real quality time, and time well spent.
If you’re thinking about getting your own family canoe, you’ve come to the right place. First, we’d like to show you our reviews of the Top 5 best canoes for families that we’ve handpicked for you.
Following that, we’ve also put together a handy little buying guide to help you choose the canoe that’s right for you, and we’ve highlighted what features you should look out for in your canoe. We then follow that up with a little bit of guidance on going out paddling as a family.
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Best Family Canoe - Reviews
- Length: 15 foot 6 inches
- Width: 42 inches
- Weight: 104 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 800 pounds
This Mackinsaw SS from Sun Dolphin is a great canoe for a family trip, and can also be used for fishing in if desired.
We love that it features a square back since this gives you the option of adding a special motor, which will take all the effort out of paddling to give tired arms a break.
It’s a durable vessel made of polyethylene, and at 15 foot 6 inches, it fits 3 seats in total. Each seat has it’s own cup holder, and a small storage area besides. The center seat also features a small sealed storage compartment and a handy built-in cooler under the seat.
The craft features a flat bottomed hull which is perfect for calm water family trips. And it’s high weight capacity means that you can carry along plenty of gear with you, so you could take a picnic with you or such.
- Length: 13 foot
- Width: 39 inches
- Weight: 96 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 600 pounds
This family canoe from Lifetime has a really durable build seeing as it’s constructed from UV-protected high-density polyethylene.
It features 3 molded-in seats altogether, with the bow and stern seats featuring adjustable quick-release seatbacks. There are ditty trays at the rear for storage and water bottle holders.
There’s a special motor mount bracket in place, should you decide to add a motor for easier movement across the water.
The wide flat-bottom hull makes for great stability on the water, and there’s a tracking skeg in place to better aid straight paddling. And for better speed and tracking there’s a sharp bow.
It also has conveniently centralized rod holders, so it’s a great choice of canoe for taking the family for a day out fishing.
It’s easy to transport it to and from the water, much thanks to its luggage-style handles.
- Length: 16 foot
- Width: 37 inches
- Weight: 89 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 850 pounds
This recreational canoe from Saranac, at 16 feet long can also accommodate a small family. Although there a just three seats, there’s enough weight capacity to two adults and two small children in the canoe, and plenty of gear too.
Each of the three seats also has built-in cup holders which is just what you need to keep everyone sufficiently hydrated on a day out on the water. The seats at the bow and stern have seatbacks which are a nice feature, providing additional comfort for the stronger paddlers.
The hull is nice and flat, so the craft is very stable and is a good choice for use in calm or very slow-moving water.
The center seat houses small storage compartments, including a 6 inch sealed hatch, which can come in really handy if you have any gadgets with you that you don’t want to get wet.
- Length: 14 foot
- Width: 38 inches
- Weight: 84 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 765 pounds
The Scout SS from Sun Dolphin may be a tad more compact than many of the other family canoes, but it’s really good value for money and is a great option for your wallet.
The 3 seats it features are all molded in, and they each have two rod holders, so it’s an excellent choice of canoe for a family fishing trip.
The square stern that it features will allow you to add a trolling motor, should you at any point decide that you could do with more power to fuel your canoeing.
Its polyethylene construction means it’s really durable and for improved stability, there’s not only a flat hull but also a center keel line too.
- Length: 14 foot
- Width: 38 inches
- Weight: 84 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 765 pounds
Here’s another great family canoe from Sun Dolphin.
At 14 feet in length, it can comfortably seat 3 people in its molded-in seats.
It has a sturdy and durable, as it’s constructed from rugged UV-stabilised high-density polyethylene.
We love that it features a square back transom which gives you the option of putting an electric trolling motor in the canoe. Because sometimes you reach a well-earned break.
Best Family Canoe - Buyers Guide
Should I get a canoe or kayak?
Although a kayak is typically faster and easier to maneuver, we would recommend that for family trips, and for newbies to paddling, that you go for a canoe rather than a kayak, as they are far more stable, which means fewer nerves and fewer mishaps.
How do I go about planning a family canoe trip?
There are some great apps out there to help you plan your next family paddling trip. One of our favorites is Go Paddling which is available on Google Play for use on Android device.
What Features Make Up A Good Family Canoe?
Size, more often than not, tends to be one of the more important factors in choosing a family canoe, since you will need to ensure that all family members can safely and comfortably fit inside it.
It’s worth noting at this point that children don’t necessarily need to have their own seats since quite often they’re sufficiently comfortable on the floor of the canoe.
There are family canoes out on the market today that come in a variety of different lengths and widths. But a bigger canoe does not necessarily translate to how many people of different weights the canoe can hold. That comes down to weight capacity.
In our Top 6 family canoes above, we detailed the different lengths, widths, and weight capacities for each canoe, so this can help you ascertain whether a particular canoe can accommodate the family, as well as any gear you might want to take with you.
Related to the size of the canoe, is the weight. The bigger the canoe, the heavier it is likely to be, and you’re going to have to transport it to and from the water, so you will also have to consider whether (alone or as a family) you can lift and carry it as required.
Stability is also an important factor in determining a canoes suitability. Fortunately, canoes are usually pretty stable boats (even if that may not be your initial impression when you first step aboard).
The stability of a canoe is largely determined by the shape of its hull. Canoes are generally available with hulls of different shapes for different types of paddling and water conditions. More rounded hulls and bows for example are best suited to handling choppy whitewater areas.
When it comes to calmer flatwater paddling, however, whether it be in a bay, lake, or slow-moving river, a flat bottomed boat would make for a good choice. Flat bottomed crafts tend to feel more stable and would be a good idea for getting kids comfortable with canoeing.
Let’s be honest, kids can be a little rough with their belongings at times, and their nature doesn’t always stop when they get into a canoe. Our advice is that you invest in a canoe that can survive the occasional scratch or knock, a canoe that’s durable.
Luckily, recreational canoes are made with durability in mind, composed of sturdy materials such as polyethylene or aluminum, and we would put this forward as something to look for when choosing your family canoe.
Paddling As A Family
Of course, when you’re out on the water with your family, your first concern will be for everyone’s safety. And it’s for that reason that we strongly recommend that you’re each fitted with a Personal Floatation Device (PFD), also referred to as a life jacket or life vest.
In many states, it’s a legal requirement for children to wear personal floatation devices while they’re out on the water. A young child cannot wear an adult’s PFD since, in order to work correctly in the event of a capsize or fall overboard, the PFD must have a snug fit.
The suitability of a PFD for an individual is determined by its weight capacity.
We have a great little article on best life vests (for adults and youths) which can you access via this link.
There are no strict rules in places with regards to at what age children can start out canoeing. Whether or not you can take your child will basically have to be something that you determine.
Toddlers aren’t usually the best at paddling, but they may get a lot of fun from simply riding along with you. If your child does want to paddle, then this is a great way of getting them interested and helping them really feel involved.
How To Paddle Together
Paddling altogether may not come naturally at first, especially if there are 3 or more of you.
Our recommendation is that the strongest, most experienced paddler sits at the back, at the stern, as this is where the steering takes place. Meanwhile, the next strongest person should sit at the front, at the bow. The children, if they want to paddle, can do so from either the bow or from the center.
When you’re all correctly seated, we recommend that, if possible, you have one strong paddler paddling on the right, while the other strong paddler paddles on the left.
If you do have children paddling along with you, they may well benefit from paddling shorter stints, or stints with frequent places to stop and rest. To that end, it may be beneficial to identify potential resting spots before you head out.
Canoeing with your family when the opportunity comes is a great way to ditch all that draining screen time, and get some quality time together instead.
Of course, when choosing your family canoe you’ll be looking at how many people it can carry. But that should not be your only consideration. You need to consider the canoe’s stability, and features like a flat hull since this can really help to reassure nervous or newbie paddlers.
We hope that we’ve helped you pick a good family canoe, or at least given you some insight into what you should be looking for. Have a great time canoeing!