Looking for places to kayak in Olympia? The Woodard Bay Conservation Area should be at the top of your list for an easy kayak trip all ages can enjoy. Experience wildlife on par with a safari in this tranquil part of South Puget Sound. You won’t be disappointed.

Kayak in Henderson Inlet to a Bat Nursery

Bat nursery? You read that right! One of the biggest points of interest on this kayaking trip in Olympia is the old abandoned pier that is now a nursery roost for little brown and Yuma myotis bats! Hundreds of bats call this pier home, and from May to August, females are raising their pups under its aged wooden beams. The area is a protected habitat, and they ask that you stay back 50 feet from the pier with watercraft so as not to disturb the bats. If you decide to take a late evening or early morning kayak trip, you may see the bats going out to hunt or returning from a night of feeding.

There is so much more to see at this great kayak destination! It truly is like taking a trip on a wildlife safari. See jellyfish in the shallows at the point of entry. Look for adorable seals popping their head up out of the water.

This old pier is now home to two species of bats and is a fun point of interest on a kayaking adventure in Olympia. Photo credit: ThurstonTalk

Birdwatching via Kayak at Woodard Bay

If you are a birdwatcher, Woodard Bay is not to be missed. You will love spotting great blue herons looking for their next meal: more than 100 nest here during the spring and summer months.

Experience something truly unique with the huge nesting grounds of over 1,500 double-crested cormorants. If you are lucky like we were, you will get to watch as the parents defend their eggs from nearby bald eagles. The sound they make as they raise the alarm is quite incredible – it sounds like a growl! Witness the bald eagle expertly avoid the cormorants, catch the breeze and then dive. The one we were tracking ended up on a very low branch above the water, giving us a view we never imagined!

While The Overlook Trail is closed for the spring and summer months each year to protect the birds’ nesting grounds, kayakers can see them up close.

Double-crested cormorants’ nesting. Photo credit: ThurstonTalk

Kayaking at Woodard Bay Conservation Area

Check out the map below to find the Woodard Bay Conservation parking area. A Discover Pass is required, so be sure to pick one up before you go.

The other thing you want to do before you go is check the tide. It’s best to go when the tide is high, so you don’t have to trek through wet, sinking sand to launch your kayak.

If you want to see the bat pier and the cormorants’ nesting grounds, once in the Henderson inlet, head north (away from the Woodard Bay Road Northeast bridge). You will come across the cormorants first on your right. You cannot miss them! When you reach the mouth of the bay, take a left around the point to the pier. Across from the pier is a small beach with a couple of benches. It’s the perfect spot to stop for a snack or to take beautiful photos of the inlet and bay. You will also see a few replicas of old canoes. Continue up the path to find a large information sign about the bat roost. There is a covered area with information on the history of the area. Beyond that, there is a restroom.

Please remember to respect wildlife, adhere to all rules about nesting and roosting grounds, and leave no trace. No dogs are allowed at Woodard Bay Conservation Area, even on leash.

kayaks on the beach at Woodard Bay Conservation Area
The kayak launch at Woodard Bay Conservation Area is easy to get to, just a talk down a short, somewhat steep concrete ramp. Photo credit: ThurstonTalk

Where to Rent Kayaks in Olympia

Looking for where to rent kayaks in Olympia? Boston Harbor Marina Rentals is the closest rental place to Henderson Inlet. They have single and tandem sit-on-top kayaks as well as single and double sit-inside kayaks.

Grab your camera, take a snack or a picnic lunch, and enjoy time on this serene kayaking trip in Olympia. For more activities and things to do in Olympia, check out the Experience Olympia & Beyond website.


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