Exercise doesn’t have to mean a tortuous turn on an elliptical machine inside a crowded gym. We’re lucky to live in an area abundant with opportunities to hike, bike, kayak and explore the great outdoors. Here are a few ideas to get your family started:

Grab a Paddle

• In Boston, National Park Service rangers lead sea kayak tours from Grape and Spectacle islands, two of the Boston Harbor Islands. The free tours are first-come, first-serve for 10 kayakers at a time, and the islands are accessible by ferry. bostonislands.org

• Charles River Canoe & Kayak is a full-service paddle-sports operation with locations on the Charles River in Boston, Cambridge and Newton, and on Natick’s Lake Cochituate. The company offers rentals, guided trips, lessons and kids’ paddling camps. paddleboston.com

Cape Ann’s Discovery Adventures in Gloucester offers guided sea-kayak tours of Ipswich Bay, as well as introductory paddles, lessons, summer programs for kids ages 8-15, and unique kayak-snorkel tours that let you explore the ocean from above and below. discoveryadventures.com

The Norton Kayak Co. oversees three-hour tours that begin with a skills class followed by a natural history tour of the Norton Reservoir. In conjunction with town recreation departments, Norton Kayak also hosts full-moon, family and moms’ paddles, and teen after-school trips. nortonkayakco.com

Take a Hike

• Boston boasts 2,200 acres of green space, half of which make up the famous Emerald Necklace – nine parks linked together by parkways and waterways. In Massachusetts, there are hundreds of places to explore with kids. cityofboston.gov/parks

Arnold Arboretum, 125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain. A botanical treasure in the middle of Boston, the Arboretum boasts more than 4,000 types of trees and plants. Walk or bike past lilacs, cherry trees, birches and hundreds of other species. arboretum.harvard.edu

Beaver Brook Reservation, Mill Street, Belmont/Waltham. Work up a sweat at the playground, cool off in the spray pool or just enjoy the scenic beauty of woodlands, open fields and a waterfall. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

• Blue Hills Reservation, 695 Hillside St., Milton. Get up, up and away just minutes from downtown Boston. Great Blue Hill, a 635-foot rise, crowns this huge park which offers skiing, swimming and hiking. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

Borderland State Park, 259 Massapoag Ave., Easton/Sharon. Visit the historic Ames mansion; enjoy the gorgeous walking and horseback riding trails. The ponds are perfect for summer canoeing and winter ice-skating. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

Boston Harbor Islands State Park, Boston. Explore Fort Warren on Georges Island. Then catch a free water taxi to one of the other nearby islands. Hiking trails, picnicking, beaches and great views of the Boston skyline. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, 500 Walk Hill St., Mattapan. No need to get out of the city to commune with nature: coyotes, pheasants and other creatures make this sanctuary their home. massaudubon.org

• Bradley Palmer State Park, Asbury Street (Route 1), Topsfield. Old carriage roads make this park a delight for cycling, horseback riding or simply strolling. The shallow spray pool is a great summer spot for younger kids. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

• Breakheart Reservation, 177 Forest St., Saugus. Fish or swim in Pearce Lake. Check the website for ranger-led nature programs for families. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

• Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, 280 Eliot St., Natick. The sanctuary offers classes for kids and miles of nature trails, including handicap-accessible areas and a boardwalk through wetlands. massaudubon.org

• Charles River Esplanade, Boston. Besides the concerts and events centered around the Hatch Memorial Shell, the Esplanade has walking and biking trails, playgrounds, playing fields, a wading pool and sailing. Each spring and autumn, check out the Sundays in the Park programs, featuring such activities as fishing, model boat sailing, pony rides and music. esplanadeassociation.org

• Franklin Park, Walnut Street, Jamaica Plain. Miles of walking paths, an 18-hole public golf course and a great zoo form the crowning jewel in the landscape of architect Frederick Law Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace. franklinparkcoalition.org

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield. Feed small birds from out of your hand, walk the trails and explore the unique Rockery Trail. massaudubon.org

• Maudsley State Park, Curzon Mill Road, Newburyport. Stroll the paths and picnic on the open spaces while watching for bald eagles here. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

• Minuteman National Park, 174 Liberty St., Concord. Walk or ride your bikes along the 5-mile Battle Road Trail through woods and fields from Concord to Lexington. Or paddle a canoe to the North Bridge. nps.gov/state/ma

• Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, 293 Moose Hill St., Sharon. Trails in Mass Audubon’s oldest and largest sanctuary lead to a red maple swamp, a vernal pool and meadows. Kids will love the bird-feeding station and butterfly garden. massaudubon.org

• Nickerson State Park, Route 6A, Brewster. A world away from the beaches of Cape Cod, this park offers woodlands, freshwater ponds, hiking, fishing, camping and seasonal educational and recreational programs. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

• North River Wildlife Sanctuary, 2000 Main St., Marshfield. Stroll the boardwalk through a red maple swamp and cattail marsh to a salt marsh overlooking the North River. You’ll likely see a variety of birds and maybe even a harbor seal or two. massaudubon.org

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport. Located on Plum Island, the refuge spans 6.5 miles of sandy beach and about 3,000 acres of salt marsh. It’s home to about 300 bird species, including the endangered piping plover. parkerriver.org

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Boston. The Greenway connects the North End, Chinatown and the Wharf District with lush urban park space to roam and public events to enjoy. rosekennedygreenway.org

Walden Pond State Reservation, 915 Walden St., Concord. Visit Thoreau’s cabin site, cross-country ski, swim or hike. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, off West Road, South Wellfleet. Five miles of trails, a beach, woodland, a pond and wildlife. Child and adult education programs include walks, workshops and cruises. massaudubon.org

Wompatuck State Park, Union Street, Hingham. Camp sites, biking and hiking trails. mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks

Pedal Power 

Arnold Arboretum. This lush, 125-year-old Boston city park and Harvard botanical research center has a wonderful set of roads which are mostly closed to motorized traffic. Peters Hill provides the best ground view of Boston from within its boundaries. To reach the summit, you have to walk the last 200 feet. arboretum.harvard.edu/visit

• Paul Dudley White Charles River Bikepaths. This 14-mile loop follows both banks of the Charles River from the Museum of Science in Boston to Watertown Square, in Watertown. In some places it is barely wide enough for one bicycle to pass another safely; in others, there are separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists. mass.gov/dcr/parks/charlesriver

• Jamaicaway Bikepath. This path runs from Route 9 on the northwest bank of Leverett Pond along the Jamaicaway to the southeast bank of Jamaica Pond.

Stony Brook Reservation Bikepaths. These little-known bike paths wind through an MDC reservation, Boston’s highest point, Bellevue Hill in West Roxbury, to the Mother Brook, which connects the Charles and Neponset rivers, in Hyde Park. mass.gov/dcr/parks/metroboston/stony/htm

Great Deals for the Great Outdoors

• Buy the Annual MassParks Pass for $60 and get nearly unlimited parking access to state park facilities within the Massachusetts Department of Conservation (DCR) that charge a parking fee. You can also borrow one from your local library.

• Purchase a family membership to the Massachusetts Audubon Society and enjoy free access to 43 sanctuaries and free or reduced rates on some of their educational and fun programs. Sign up online at massaudubon.org.

• Sign up for a family membership to the Trustees of Reservations and get free or reduced rates to more than 100 “special places” in Massachusetts, including Crane Beach in Ipswich and World’s End and Weir River Farm in Hingham, along with classes and special family programs. Sign up online at thetrustees.org.