Northern Virginia Boating and Fun on the Water

Updated on September 11, 2023 by Julie McCool

Warm weather means the return of Northern Virginia boating and paddling fun to the beautiful lakes, rivers, and bays of the Washington DC region. Whether you're looking for a casual float, an active paddle, or fishing fun, we've found boat rentals in Northern Virginia perfect for a summer day.

The 2023 boat rental season offers a great selection of places to paddle and safely enjoy the outdoors. In 2020, Tall Ship Providence added a historic and fun cruise option to the Alexandria waterfront (scroll down for details).

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The Potomac River, Occoquan River, estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay, and several lakes all offer opportunities for Northern Virginia boating and paddling. Note that boat rentals are seasonal and some are restricted to weekend hours.

In addition, many parks have public boat launches for a modest fee to visitors with their own watercraft. Follow the links for details on marina hours, prices, and age restrictions at county and regional parks, Virginia State Parks, and other lakes, rivers, and bays in Northern Virginia.

Northern Virginia Boating with Rentals and Tours

Boating is a favorite summer activity, but many of us don't own a boat. Fortunately, there are lots of nice parks and lakes that offer boat rentals and tours.

Alexandria Waterfront Cruises, Alexandria

There are several options to tour and travel the Potomac River from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria. In March and April, Potomac cruises are a fun way to see the cherry blossoms in DC without the crowds.

On weekends year-round, the Potomac Riverboat water taxi ferries visitors to National Harbor and the DC Wharf. Other cruises let you check out the monuments from a new perspective, visit George Washington's Mount Vernon, head to the ballpark, enjoy a meal, or simply relax as you cruise the river.

Alexandria waterfront tour boats
Alexandria waterfront tour boats

In 2020, Alexandria welcomed the historic Tall Ship Providence, a replica of the first ship authorized to serve in the Continental Navy and John Paul Jones’ first American command. Now you can sail the Providence on a 90-minute cruise while interpreters share the history of the ship. Guests get to visit the Captain's cabin and ship's hold and enjoy the view from on deck.

Belle Haven Marina, Alexandria

Sailors can rent from a fleet of quality boats including a captained 34′ C&C sloop Canadame, 19′ Flying Scots, 14′ Sunfish, and more. Boat rentals open for the season in April. Non-sailors can enjoy the peace and quiet of paddling a canoe or kayak through Dyke Marsh.


Burke Lake Park, Fairfax Station

Busy Marina on Father's Day at Burke Lake Park VA
Father's Day at Burke Lake Park VA

Burke Lake Park offers boat rentals, scenic boat tours, and a public boat launch. Visitors can rent canoes, fishing kayaks, rowboats, and jon boats or launch their own boats. Burke Lake offers some of the best fishing in Northern Virginia and the lake is stocked with largemouth bass, walleye, catfish, and perch.

Plus, the whole family can enjoy a guided tour of the lake on the park's pontoon boat. However, swimming, paddle boarding, and wind-surfing are not allowed. The Burke Lake Marina is open for boat rentals from April to early September.

Fountainhead Regional Park, Clifton

Fountainhead Park Marina in Northern Virginia
Fountainhead Park Marina

The marina at Fountainhead Regional Park rents out a variety of boats for use on the Occoquan Reservoir from March to mid-November. Visitors can rent 3 or 4-person jon boats (engines available), single or double kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards by the hour or for the entire day. A public boat launch and paddle tours are also available at the park.

After your time on the reservoir, visit the quaint town of Clifton for a meal or a treat.

Lake Accotink Park, Springfield

Lake Accotink paddle boats
Lake Accotink sparkly paddle boats

Rent a kayak or sparkly pedal boat at the marina, or take a leisurely ride on the tour boat. A boat launch is available for small boats powered by electric motors, sailboats under 15 feet, canoes, kayaks, and rowboats. The marina is open from late May through early September.

Discover fun hiking and biking trails in our guide to Lake Accotink.

Lake Anne, Reston

Lake Anne Plaza Boat Rentals in Reston VA
Lake Anne Plaza Boat Rentals

Enjoy a quiet paddle around Lake Anne on a beautiful summer day. Reston Association usually offers kayak, pedal boat, and SUP rentals from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend (Friday – Sunday). Book your rental at the Lake Anne boat dock for $20/hour, cash only.

Be sure to go see and paddle under the beautiful Van Gogh Bridge. Lake Anne also has a public boat launch area for Reston residents. And if you prefer to stay on land, enjoy a relaxing walk on the trail around Lake Anne.

Lake Fairfax Park, Reston

Rent a pedal boat or kayak on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day to tour the 18-acre lake. (The former tour boat no longer operates.) There is also a private boat launch but no motor-powered boats, sailboats, or paddleboards are permitted on the lake.

Discover more fun things to do in our complete Guide to Lake Fairfax Park.

Lake Fairfax Park Rental Boats
Lake Fairfax Park Rental Boats

Lake Ridge Park and Marina, Woodbridge

The Lake Ridge Park Marina offers three-season boat rentals, with a Universal Access Boat Launch and dock access. Canoes, pedal boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and jon boats are available for rent from April to mid-October.

Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge

New in 2023, paddlers at Virginia State Parks can earn prizes and gear in the Wandering Waters Paddle Quest. Follow the link for details.

Rent canoes, tandem kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards from the Breakwater Marina store. The park also has a popular boat ramp area with sailboat hoists and parking for cars and trailers. Motorboats are allowed, and there's a cartop launch for smaller boats, such as canoes and kayaks, on Powells Creek. Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Add a hike to your outing: Leesylvania State Park Hike Through History.

Mason Neck State Park, Mason Neck

Beach and boating at Mason Neck SP
Boating at Mason Neck State Park

Rent a kayak or canoe for an hour or all day to explore Belmont Bay or Kane's Creek, home to eagles and other native birds. Cartop boat launch facilities are available but there are no facilities for trailer launching.

Allow time for a hike and explore the eagles and nature at Mason Neck State Park.

Occoquan Regional Park, Lorton

Occoquan Regional Park offers hourly and daily kayak rentals for exploring the Occoquan River. Kayaks are launched from shore and single or double kayaks are available. The park also offers a boat launch, paddle tours, and access to the Occoquan Water Trail.

After your paddle, enjoy outdoor dining with a view of the river at Brickmakers Cafe and explore Occoquan Regional Park trails and history.

Pohick Bay Regional Park, Mason Neck

Pohick Bay kayaking
Pohick Bay kayaking

Explore the beautiful environment of Pohick Bay in your own or a rented boat. Rental boats, available by the hour or the entire day, include jon boats, kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and stand up paddleboards. There is also a public boat launch, including an area for boats launched from trailers, and shore access for kayaks and canoes.

Riverbend Park, Great Falls

Kayaking on the Potomac River at Riverbend Park is one of the Fun Spots for Northern Virginia Boating
Kayaking the Potomac River, Riverbend Park

Riverbend Park offers weekend canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals in summer for exploring this shallow rocky section of the Potomac River. Boat rentals at Riverbend usually open in early June. A public boat launch is also available. Water skiing, jet skis, big boats, and tubes are not permitted.

We enjoyed kayaking with our teens at Riverbend, and we also saw families in canoes and rowboats. Just be aware that the Potomac River current is strong.

Add a hike to your outing on the Riverbend Park River Trail.


Northern Virginia Boating: More Places to Launch Your Own Boat

In addition to the places to rent boats in Northern VA listed above, several area parks offer self-launch boat access.

Algonkian Regional Park, Sterling

Algonkian’s boat launch is an excellent entry point to explore the Potomac River. The launch accommodates nearly any kind of boat including kayaks, canoes, and jon boats, as well as powered boats launched from trailers.

Bull Run Marina, Clifton

Bull Run Marina offers a boat launch for powerboats and cartop-launch boats from March to November. The launch is situated between a pair of wooden docks and offers easy access to the Occoquan Reservoir. To use the launch, purchase a season pass and gate key at Fountainhead Regional Park.

Extend your fun with a visit to the Charming Town of Clifton. And add a hike to your outing on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail: Fountainhead to Bull Run Marina.

Bazil Newman Riverfront Park, Landsdowne

Bazil Newman Riverfront Park, formerly Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park, offers boat launch access to the Potomac River and Goose Creek. Canoes and kayaks must be carried to the non-motorized boat landing at Kephart Bridge.

Great Falls Park, McLean

Likely the most intense place for kayaking in Northern Virginia, the waterfalls at Great Falls Park are only for experts. Still, watching kayakers navigate the falls in the summer is one of our favorite things to do at Great Falls. In fact, the park hosts the Extreme Kayak National Championship every August.

Kayak takes the falls at Great Falls Park Virginia
Kayaking Great Falls

Less intense kayaking is popular below the falls, in Mather Gorge, and you'll see kayaks, SUPs, and rafts navigating the river in summer. Most boaters launch from the Maryland side of Great Falls.

Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park, Sterling

This park, adjacent to the historic Goose Creek truss bridge, offers a canoe and kayak launch to Goose Creek, which is a designated State Scenic River.

Piscataway Crossing Regional Park, Leesburg

Piscataway Crossing offers easy boating access to the Potomac River, with access to Mason and Harrison Islands in the Potomac. The boat launch accommodates boats carried on car tops. Trailers, motorized boats, and jet skis are not permitted.

Explore the Occoquan Water Trail

The Occoquan Water Trail follows a 40-mile route on two tributary waterways of the Chesapeake Bay and is part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The 40-mile water trail is in two sections, separated midway by the Occoquan River Dam. Paddlers can travel the entire trail and the lower portion is also accessible to motor craft.

The trail begins on narrow Bull Run and continues to the tidal estuaries of the Potomac River. The changing landscape traces 13,000 years of human history and includes areas once visited by Captain John Smith and long occupied by Native Americans. Public parking and boat access to the Occoquan Water Trail are available at Occoquan, Fountainhead, and Bull Run Regional Parks.

Whether your goal is a short paddle with the family, a day of relaxed fishing, or an epic adventure on historic waterways, Northern Virginia boating has an option for you. Grab a rental or bring your own boat to explore the beautiful lakes, rivers, and bays just outside Washington DC.

And when you tire of being on the water, jump in the water at Northern Virginia waterparks (some of which are right next to these boating areas).

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Enjoy Northern Virginia boating and fun on the waters of the Washington DC region, with our round-up of boat rental and bring your own craft facilities.