2016 Beach Princess: The Great Kayak Purchase

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Amanda Major Beach Princess

Kayaking in 2016!

I live in a city about 15 minutes from a nature preserve, several rivers and bays, and the Gulf of Mexico. We are surrounded by water in every direction, just a relatively short car ride away. What do multitudes of people do when they live around the water? They buy boats. I get massively sea sick on open water with waves, and we’re not really into investing thousands on a nice pontoon boat. We know several families that kayak, and when I asked about purchasing kayaks for myself and my three teens, the advice I was always given was to buy something substantial, probably not under $1,000.

$1,000 for a kayak. Well, I could probably convince my husband to go for that. Spend $4,000 for kayaks? Well, we’ve crossed over into used car territory here. No way was he going for that. No way. I do a lot of scheming, but that’s out of my financial range for an activity I had never even tried. I’d never even so much as sat in a kayak, so buying four grand in kayaks was laughable.

Thus I waited several years and did nothing.

And then in one weekend, I went out and bought four cheap kayaks from Academy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Wal-mart. All four were bottom of the line in terms of pricing from the stock they carried in-store. One of the reasons I went with the cheap kayaks, besides price, was the ability to carry my own boat. I held multiple kayaks that cost more and were longer, and it was going to take two of us to carry the boat to the truck. I wanted more independence, and I didn’t want a kayak tied down on top of my SUV or hanging way off the end of a truck bed. I’m not the greatest driver. I also need simplicity and very little prep work to be ready to go. Cheap equipment may not work for everybody but it worked for us.

We have a shed in the backyard, but it’s full of yard stuff and a riding lawnmower. But my sons share a converted garage for a bedroom, and there’s plenty of space, so we built a bunk bed. No plans were used for this project so don’t judge!

cheap kayak rack

Beach Princess kayak rack

Alabama kayak bunk bed

We tied the four boats down in the back of my husband’s truck and headed for Magnolia Springs, Alabama, for our first adventure. Suddenly we were kayakers.

Magnolia Springs

Magnolia Springs is a sleepy little Alabama town in south Baldwin County with under 1,000 residents.

Magnolia Springs is located at the headwaters of the Magnolia River, which was originally called River de Lin, or River del Salto by local residents. The largest enterprise in the area was turpentine distillation; the stills were burned by their owners in 1865 to prevent them from being captured when Union soldiers began amassing in the area. It’s a very old city with lovely cottage style houses that are really expensive to purchase and rent for vacations.

Kayaking here is free. Man, do I love free…

Townofmagnoliasprings.org provides some information regarding the town. “Nestled within the undulating curves of the Magnolia River, the beautiful town of Magnolia Springs developed from a Spanish land grant in the year 1800 and, by the end of the War Between the States, rapidly became a primary destination for the families and descendants of many of the soldiers who had fought on both sides.  Families from Vermont, Chicago, St. Louis and other points north built homes, inns, and businesses along the river’s edge and were joined by native Alabamans and transplants from other Southern locations.

At the turn of the century, the water from the many natural springs along both sides of the river was declared “the purest in the world” by several chemical companies in Chicago.  The community’s name comes from the ever-flowing springs and the abundance of aged magnolia trees that grace every residential garden.  A majestic canopy of giant oak trees lines the hamlet’s streets as well as a variety of exquisite camellias, and, in spring, the highways and byways of Magnolia Springs become a bower of azalea, wisteria, dogwood, and magnolia blossoms. 

Central to this community is the river — today the Magnolia River remains the only river route mail delivery in the continental United States.  Quaint boathouses grace each shore, water birds swoop and dive, and the river banks are lush with wildlife and greenery.  In decades past, the river was the “highway” for all commerce and communication, with steamers, sailboats and paddle wheelers connecting the river’s residents with the outside world.”

Magnolia Springs Alabama kayak launch

There is a public area on Rock Street (pictured above) that has very limited parking and about a six-foot space to put a kayak into the water.

No pier here and you’ll get your feet wet, but it’s a pretty easy place to put in.

The river is usually semi-clear and cold, and if you go to the left from the launch, you will arrive in an area that has just forest and no houses. You are paddling upstream, so the trip back will be easier on your arms.

Magnolia Sprigs river in Alabama

Magnolia Springs kayak adventure

One of my favorite things about kayaking, other than just being out in nature, is spending time with my kids. They are teens, and so my time with them at home is limited. This is something we can hopefully still do together as they become adults.

kayaking wih kids

kayaking with kids in Alabama

cheap kayaking

kayaking with kids

kayaking with teens

Magnolia Springs has some beautiful sunsets.

Magnolia Springs kayaking

Magnolia Springs kayaking for very little money

Magnolia Springs kayaking

Magnolia Springs kayaking for fun

Magnolia Springs Alabama sunset

Get back to Rock Street before the sun goes way down, because there’s no light to provide guidance, and visibility drops fast.

Magnolia Springs

Magnolia Springs kayaking

kayaking the Magnolia river

I know cheap kayaking equipment isn’t for everybody. All of my friends, bless their kind hearts, have more pricey boats than we do but have never rubbed it in. But for beginners with a budget, looking for an inexpensive way to spend some quality time together, going cheap has worked out for us so far.

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Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


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Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.