9 Best Canoes for Beginners

When it comes to shopping for canoes, there’s a lot of different options out there. It can almost feel like you’re drowning in the variety of options! This problem is exacerbated if you’re new to canoeing.

So what are you to do? 50 years ago you might have asked a neighbor what they know about canoes. In the modern age, it’s only reasonable for you to turn to Google. And that’s how you found us, your electronic neighbor.

Below, we’ll take a look into the 9 best canoes for beginners. This guide will help you narrow down your options and gain a better idea of what you’re looking for in a new canoe!

The top 9 Best Canoes For Beginners are

  1. Esquif Huron 15 Canoe
  2. Old Town Discovery 119 Solo
  3. Old Town Penobscot 174
  4. Old Town Saranac 160
  5. Sun Dolphin Scout SS
  6. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw
  7. MyCanoe 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable Canoe
  8. Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Travel
  9. Mad River Adventure 16

What You’re Looking For

You know that you want a canoe, but what is important to you? There’s a couple of questions that you can ask yourself to figure that out.

First things first, what do you want to do with your canoe? Do you want to go fishing? If you’re fishing, do you want to do traditional fishing or do you want to go bow fishing?

Up next, how many people do you want to bring with you? Is canoeing going to be a family activity, or are you going canoeing because you want to get away from everyone?

Then you have to ask yourself, and be totally honest here, how good am I at canoeing? Do I have any experience at all, or am I totally new at this canoeing thing?

As we go through each of our 9 canoes, we’ll try to help you answer each of these questions. We’ll look at what each canoe is best for, if a canoe ideal for a group or for soloing, and how difficult it is to use the canoe.

Keep questions in your mind. As we go through each canoe, look for one that is designed for what you want to do, make sure it matches your expectations for size and is also one you feel competent enough to use.

Each one of these canoes was chosen with beginners in mind, so they’re all really good choices. Really, you want to find the one that is best for you! Let’s get to it!

1) Esquif Huron 15 Canoe

The Esquif Huron 15 Canoe is a great 15 foot canoe weighing in at only 55 pounds, so it’s easier to carry and load up on top of cars. It’s made out of a T-Formex ABS plastic laminate and vinyl which makes it durable and requiring very little maintenance.

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What It’s For

Whether you want to use it for a multi-night camping trip on the lake, fishing trips, river floats, or even small rapids, this canoe get fulfill all your needs.

It’s flat bottom makes it stable enough to be able to stand up for fishing or any other reasons.

Who It’s For

The Esquif Huron 15 canoe can have up to 3 paddlers or be used solo, depending on your preference! This would make it perfect for a couple or two friends who want to get out and explore!

The weight capacity is 500 pounds, so just enough for two larger adults are three smaller people.

So while this canoe is great for two people, it is also really manageable. You’re road-tripping with your spouse in your brand new Subaru Impreza? Well, it turns out you can bring a canoe that’s perfect for both of you!

Level of Difficulty

This canoe is great for beginners. It was built with a very flat bottom that gives this canoe a lot of balance. It also has adjustable seats that can give you a lot better position for rowing.

It requires no regular maintenance. That’s a huge perk for a lot of people who are just getting started in canoeing!

For current price and availability click here!

2) Old Town Discovery 119 Solo

This is a great canoe for someone who wants the ease of transportation, solitude, or both! We have 3 canoes from Old Town, and you’ll see that this is an excellent brand.

If you’re interested in a great solo canoe and you like Old Town, which is a pretty good call, this may just be the canoe for you! Let’s go ahead and jump in!

What It’s For

Like I’ve already mentioned, this canoe is great for fishing. Although it’s smaller, it still has plenty of space for all your fishing needs. Plus, a lot of fishermen like solitude, so this canoe is a win-win!

The Discovery 119 Solo combines the balance and strength of a good canoe with the practicality and ease of a kayak. You’ll see this combo frequently on this list because it’s a great one-two punch for beginners!

There’s also a lot of options for modification here. It’s really easy to change out the seat, add another seat, throw on a trolling motor, etc.

Who It’s For

The Discovery 119 is a smaller canoe, coming in at just 11’9″ feet long, 32.5″ inches wide, and only 49 lbs.! This is one of the smaller canoes on this entire list!

This canoe is obviously meant for just one person. I mean, that’s literally in the name. So the short answer is that the Discovery 119 is meant for someone who wants to canoe by themselves!

However, with some of the modification options out there, you can actually turn this into a two-person canoe. It gets a little cramped, but it works!

Level of Difficulty

Solo canoes tend to be more difficult and yet more easy as compared to larger canoes. They’re difficult because they require more balance and more skill.

It’s definitely a little easier to tip over in this canoe. Wind can also cause some problems. However, because of the triple-layer polyethylene, the canoe is made of you don’t really have to worry about punctures.

Having a solo canoe is also easier because it’s so light, so the transportation of the canoe is super easy. It’s also easier if you’re looking for some really sharp handling!

If the Old Town Discovery 119 is something you’re interested in, check the current price and availability here!

3) Old Town Penobscot 174

Our second Old Town is named the Penobscot 164. This canoe has a lot in common with the Discovery 119, but has it beat in one serious category!

This is a smooth canoe, very smooth. Want to find out where this canoe excels? Let’s take a closer look!

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What It’s For

So where does the Old Town Penobscot 164 excel? As it turns out, the Old Town Penobscot is nearly indestructible! It can slide over rocks and go down waterfalls without damaging the canoe. Get a dent? No worries, its easy to pop them right out of its sides.

This canoe is great for leisurely trip along the river or even adventure packed rapids. The Penobscot is a fast canoe and can carry quite a bit of gear. It features a high bow and stern for riffles and rapids and tracks amazing on lakes.

Who It’s For

This canoe is really for anyone wanting an adventure. Comes with two seats so no need to take out the canoe alone. It is fairly heavy, but that’s what makes it so indestructible.

Great for people wanting to use it for daily use or for longer expeditions. It’s made of a 3 layer polyethylene material and weighs in at 83 pounds. The length is 17’4″ and has a width of 36.”

The weight capacity is 1,500 pounds, so plenty enough for two people and all the gear.

Level of Difficulty

This canoe is pretty easy to use, I’ve even seen boy scouts using one . I wouldn’t say someone needs too much experience to have a lot of success in this canoe! Totally ideal for a beginner!

Click here for the current price and availability of the Old Town Penobscot 164.

4) Old Town Saranac 160

Our last Old Town Canoe is the Saranac 160. Unlike the other Old Town canoes on this list, this is not a solo canoe. It comes with two seats already built-in!

Even though this canoe is meant for two or more people, it still has a lot of features that make it seem like a mix between a canoe and a kayak. You’ll certainly appreciate the efficiency of this canoe!

What It’s For

The Old Town Saranac is like the swiss army knife of canoes. It can do just about anything you need it to do, and you’ll have a whole lot of fun doing whatever it is that you choose to do!

There’s also plenty of storage space, and that’s one of the features that make this canoe so perfect. It has room for passengers, it handles well, and it has enough storage space for a day trip! The Saranac 160 also comes equipped with rod holders and storage trays.

So whatever it is that you want to do on the water, you can’t really go wrong with the Old Town Saranac! For current price and availability on the Saranac 160 click here.

Who It’s For

This is a great canoe for couples or groups of three. It has lots of space and also great stability which makes it ideal for any group canoeing event! This is especially true for groups with younger passengers!

The added storage space also means that you can have a picnic out on the water. If you’ll have hungry kids on board, you can make sure to pack some extra snacks!

Level of Difficulty

I’d rate the difficulty of this canoe as EASY. It has a very wide bottom and low seats that make it easy to have balance. If you’re thinking about having a family adventure, this would be a great canoe!

You’ll also find that having two passengers, as compared to our earlier one-seater canoes, makes a really big difference. The excellent Old Town seating system is ideal for canoes with more passengers!

This canoe really is ideal for younger children. If you’re looking for a family canoe, it’s hard to wrong with the Old Town Saranac.

5) Sun Dolphin Scout SS

The Sun Dolphin Scout SS is the ultimate fishing canoe that we have on this list. It follows more of an old fashioned design as compared to the Old Town Canoes that we reviewed.

This is also the largest canoe that we have on this list thus far. If you want a more classic kind of canoe, you’ll want to pay close attention to what this canoe is all about!

What It’s For

Like I mentioned above, this canoe is meant for one thing in particular: fishing. It has plenty of space, can seat three passengers, and has built-in coolers and rod holders.

On top of all that, it has a square back that makes it beyond easy to attach a trolling motor! I mean, it really doesn’t get any easier than that for our fishing friends.

Who It’s For

Well, this is an easy answer. This canoe is meant for fishers! And I’ll add that this canoe is meant for a lot of fishers! It’s a big canoe that can easily seat 3!

Want to go on a fishing trip with your buddies? Then this is the canoe for you! It’s also 14 feet long, so there’s plenty of legroom too!

In my opinion, the best part is that the Sun Dolphin Scout SS comes at a great price! So if all your fishing buddies want to go in on this canoe, you’ll pay an incredibly low price!

Level of Difficulty

This is an easy canoe to maneuver, but difficult to transport. It’s big, which means it sits really well in the water, although it’s much better on flat, slow water.

I’d say this canoe is great for beginners who are handling easy water. You might find that it requires more effort to get this canoe moving, but the safety and balance of this canoe make up for it! You can also add a trolling motor which can make maneuvering even easier.

6) Sun Dolphin Mackinaw

This canoe is like the Honda Odyssey of boating. It’s large, has lots of features, and is perfect in every way for families. If you’re looking for a family canoe, this one merits serious consideration.

It has everything you loved about the Scout SS, but with additional size and considerations for comfort! Talk about perfect for families!

What It’s For

Very simply, the Mackinaw is meant for recreation. It’s big: 15’6″ long. It has coolers under the seats, beverage holders, and a storage container. Does it get more cush than that?

Even with all that storage, there’s still room for three people! All of these features make this ideal for families or for groups that want an easy day out on the water!

Who It’s For

This canoe seems to have been made with families in mind. In fact, there’s not much more you could do to this canoe to make it more perfect for families!

On top of the above features, it’s also easy to attach a trolling motor thanks to the square back on the Mackinaw. So there are ways to make this canoe even more leisurely!

Level of Difficulty

This is an easy canoe to maneuver. It tracks well and responds surprisingly well for a canoe of this size. The weight and hull design makes the Mackinaw canoe incredibly stable!

7) MyCanoe 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable Canoe

I try to stay as unbiased as possible, especially when these lists might affect what readers purchase. But I might have to depart from that approach just slightly here.

The Origami Folding Canoe is so cool. I’ve personally never had the opportunity to try it out, but man would I jump at the opportunity! It’s just such a cool idea!

What It’s For

This is the canoe for travelers. Similar to inflatable canoes, it’s just so easy to pack up this canoe and take it just about anywhere. In fact, you can slip this canoe into your trunk if you need to!

So how does it work? Well, just how you think it would. This Origami canoe literally folds. You can fold it into shape, then into storage, and then back into shape! The folding only takes about 10 minutes with two people working on it.

It’s surprisingly durable for this unique design, but not as sturdy as solid canoes. Of course, that’s not why you would want to get this canoe! You’d purchase this one because of its unique folding design and portability.

Who It’s For

The Origami Folding canoe is perfect for one or two people. Because it’s so portable, this makes it perfect for couples who want to stop for day canoeing on a long road trip!

This is also a great canoe for someone who doesn’t want to throw a canoe on top of their car. That simple fact saves you from a lot of hassle while traveling.

It’s also worth noting that this canoe is a little more expensive than many of the canoes on this list.

Level of Difficulty

This canoe is a little more difficult to handle than other beginner canoes. It doesn’t track great, and it has less stability than a lot of canoes. Still, it’s not too difficult, and could be perfect for beginners!

8) Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Travel

Our second inflatable canoe on this list, the Sea Eagle TC16 has a lot in common with the Sevylor Ogden canoe. However, it also has some nice added features.

Of course, the canoes are meant for slightly different kinds of adventures. So how do they stack up? Let’s investigate below!

What It’s For

Even though this canoe is inflatable, it feels a lot like a solid canoe. Sea Eagle claims this canoe is unsinkable, and I’m inclined to believe them! This is one solid, yet inflatable canoe.

Just like the Sevylor Ogden, this is a great traveling canoe because you can deflate it and pack it up! Unlike the Ogden, it can handle slightly more challenging waters.

Who It’s For

This is an incredibly sizeable canoe for being an inflatable canoe. It’s 16 feet long and comes with two seats. I’d actually consider this a three-seater though because of all its space.

If you’re interested in a reliable canoe that is easy to take on the road, this is a great option for you!

Level of Difficulty

While inflatable canoes are notoriously less stable than solid canoes, you’ll be surprised by how easy this canoe is to handle. It tracks well and doesn’t flip easily.

And, like other inflatable canoes, it is easy to get upright if you do ever flip. In fact, that’s one of the nicest features of any inflatable canoe! And it’s certainly nice for this one.

Check out the current price of the Sea Eagle TC16 Inflatable Canoe here!

9) Mad River Adventure 16 Canoe

To round out this list we have the Mad River Adventure 16 canoe. This is the perfect canoe for just about any beginner! It is the middle of the road for beginner canoes, and that makes it the perfect way to end this list!

What It’s For

This canoe is actually built for beginners! That’s right, it’s made with beginners in mind. It has all the basic features you’d like to find on a basic canoe.

It has a shallow arch hull that allows this canoe to track incredibly well. Its size and flat bottom make it very stable. Both of these features make it ideal for someone new to canoeing because it helps build confidence!

Who It’s For

In this case, we answered who it’s for by talking about what it’s for. The reason this canoe exists is for beginners! From design to development to deployment, this canoe is meant for beginners!

It also has plenty of space, so the parents can easily fit in the canoe with one or two of their kids to help them learn!

Level of Difficulty

This is an incredibly easy canoe to use. It’s made to track well and has an incredibly wide, flat bottom. In fact, of all the canoes on this list, this might be the easiest to use!


Now, you probably have some pretty serious takeaways after all this reading, watching, and possible shopping. If you don’t have any takeaways, either I’m a bad writer or you’re a bad thinker.

Well, I have some takeaways too. You may be surprised to find that some of our conclusions are the same! I sure hope we have similar conclusions because I don’t believe you’re a bad thinker.

The first takeaway is that even budget canoes cost a pretty penny. As someone who is just getting into canoeing, that is certainly something to consider. You need to be prepared to spend some serious money!

The second takeaway is that there is some serious competition on this list. We tried to keep it as diverse as possible, but there’s still a lot of parallels between different canoes.

For example, if you want an inflatable canoe, there are multiple options. If you want plenty of space, then you still have a number of choices. Let’s say fishing is your thing, then there isn’t necessarily a clear choice.

What’s great about this takeaway is that it means that while you have more focus due to the list, you still have choices. There wasn’t any canoe that is clearly “the one”. This list hopefully gives you focus, but also leaves you with choices!

The third and final takeaway is related to the second one. There is almost limitless information out there. There are dozens and dozens of articles, videos, and opinions out there.

What this means is that at some point you’ll just have to make a decision! Canoeing is awesome! You’ll have so much fun once you get out there. So make a choice and get out there! It’s really hard to go wrong.

If you pick one of the above options, odds are you’ll be happy. Each one of the above canoes is going to great for just about any beginner. Be smart, do your research, but choose sooner rather than later.

Happy boating!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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