If you happen to find yourself in Seattle on a beautiful, warm, sunny day (highly likely during the months of June-August) and are looking for ways to take advantage of the outdoors, I recommend you make your way to Agua Verde in the University District.
This awesome spot on the northern shore of Lake Union just east of the Montlake Cut has kayak and paddle board rentals as well as a dynamite Mexican restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the water.
During my birthday weekend, Brian and I FINALLY made it to this highly recommended spot and had a blast! There’s limited parking across the street and I was glad we arrived just as they were opening so we could secure our spot in both the lot and the line and grab two single kayaks for our adventure.
We purchased the hour rental, climbed aboard, and then set out for the Washington Park Arboretum where everyone recommended we paddle around in the woods and among the water lilies. The staff was very helpful, showing us a few maps before we set out to help us orient to our destination and recommending we swing out and cross to the other bank before heading into the cut so we would be traveling with the boat traffic.
What they and others did not adequately convey is that while the areas on either side of the cut are lovely and placid, only occasionally disrupted by other boat traffic, kayaking through the cut itself can be treacherous, especially when it’s busy. The boats were going quickly and putting off significant wake, and given the narrow nature of the cut, it results in a white water-type experience for those of us in tiny, hand-operated vehicles.
I’m not going to go so far as to say I felt unsafe, but I was quickly tired of being batted around, trying to avoid the boats to our left and the rock wall to our right. I was warm when we set out so the constant rocking was making me somewhat seasick, and I was quickly soaked. I couldn’t wait until we were through the cut and off into the small, calm waterways of the Arboretum. (It should come as no surprise that I do not have photos of that part of our adventure—it was all I could do to get through the cut, let alone document the experience. Maybe another time with the help of a GoPro.).
I say this not to deter anyone from the experience, but to let you know it can be a bit of an adventure navigating the cut on a busy day and that you might consider bringing a change of clothes/anticipate getting wet if you opt to take that route during your experience!
Once we were in the Arboretum and I had calmed down, we had the experience I had originally envisioned. There were other people paddling about as well as people walking the trails, and we were able to enjoy the scenery and water wildlife.
Thankfully Brian had his phone in a waterproof bag and could occasionally check our location—it’s not clear where you can kayak or how deep into the Arboretum you’re headed and since we’re unfamiliar with the area, we appreciated the assist getting us back out to the main waterways to mount our return.
After surviving the return trip we docked our kayaks, cleaned up and got in line for lunch. It was a fun workout and a beautiful day, and I was ready for a taco and a margarita! Both the food and drinks were delicious and while all of the outdoor seats were taken, we found a spot where we could somewhat take advantage of the views and the weather and dug into our meal.
I highly recommend Aqua Verde regardless of your activity level—you can simply hang out on their patio and enjoy the weather and a snack if you don’t want to hit the water, and it’s a fun spot to add to your list if you’re exploring other things to do in the U-District and want to stop for a snack or meal. Enjoy!