I lived next to Lake Merritt for two years and have lived in the East Bay for 16 since then, but this weekend was my first time taking in Oakland from the vantage point of being on the lake. We rented two canoes for my family of four and paddled against the wind for a bit. If your heart is filled with Oakland Love — and mine is– it’s really a spectacular feeling to view the Grand Lake theater sign and the apartment buildings of Lakeshore Drive from that position.
What to know about renting boats on Oakland’s Lake Merritt
- Bring cash. Rental and deposit fees are cash only. The various types of boats — pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, sunfish, catamarans — are pretty affordable. Depending on the size of the boat, rates range from $15 to $30 per hour for multiple persons. A small discount is available for Oakland residents. In addition to the hourly fee, a $20 or $30 deposit is also required.
- Bring muscles. My canoe was difficult to maneuver by myself (I am a fit 40-year old woman) and my 6-year old passenger was not much help. There were certain sections of the Lake in which the wind was working against us and I felt like I was on a treadmill, rowing in place with all my might. Maybe I’d have been more successful with a teenage child or just with my husband as a daytime date. When I questioned the staff person who helped me get out of the water, he said that he would not have recommended a canoe for a woman with a child. Okay then. The rental person at the desk did not seem concerned with me going out there. Apparently, a kayak or a pedal boat is easier to steer. Now I know.
- Bring nothing. Your purse or backpack may get a little wet, particularly on a kayak, so it may be best to leave most belongings at home if possible. Life jackets and paddles are provided. Youth lifejackets have a whistle attached in case you need to summon for help. There was a capsize while we were there. While it’s unlikely, who needs to risk their phone going for a swim in the Lake?
- Parking. There is a parking lot at the boathouse and is $5 for the entire day on weekends. The boathouse is accessed by entering through Bellevue Ave, the same road you take into Children’s Fairyland. Pay at the booth and drive beyond Fairyland until the road curves to the left. Weekends can get crowded and may take some extra time to find nearby parking.
- Hours. Currently, the boating center is open only on weekends from 11 am-5 pm. Pro Tip: With repercussions from the pandemic as well as windy and wet weather, it is best to call ahead before your planned visit to ensure they are open.
Plan Your Visit to the Lake Merritt Boating Center
Location: 568 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA
Phone: (510) 238-2196.
For complete details, visit their website.