Here are some ideas for sustainable and fun things to do outdoors. Believe it or not we are still living through the historic Covid-19 pandemic, so between working from home or wearing a mask every time you run an errand, you may be craving some safe and socially-distanced activities.
Here are some fun outdoor activities to do when you’re bored that also support environmentally-friendly practices or have a low environmental footprint (AKA sustainable).
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#1. Kayak a River
Exploring the outdoors by kayak, paddleboard, or canoe. Floating along a river allows you to see parts of these waterways that you might otherwise never see. You might even get to see aquatic life such as turtles, fish, water bugs, and water lilies.
If kayaking isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy your local rivers by skipping rocks, hammocking nearby, and wading or swimming in it (if it’s safe to do so of course).
#2. Find New Hiking/Walking Trails
This is an easy one. Look around your city for new parks or walking trails you have not been to yet and go try them out!
During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was desperate to safely get out of the house so I discovered new parks and trails all over my city. Some had ponds with ducks, some were paved paths and others were dirt, one even had an authentic Korean pavilion. Go see what you can discover while also getting in a little exercise!
- walking alone (be safe)
- inviting a friend
- jogging/running with music
- roller blading
- bringing your dog along
#3. Go on a Picnic
Picnics are one of my favorite discoveries I made during the pandemic. Spruce up one of your daily meals by enjoying it outdoors. It can remain socially distanced if needed or it can entail just a relaxing solo trip to the park or the lakefront as a picnic for one.
For some ideas on how to have a more eco-friendly picnic with all the gear and tips you’ll need, check out my post on How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Picnic.
#4. Visit a Botanical Garden
Visiting a botanical garden is a great way to appreciate nature’s beauty and also support its conservation, scientific research, documentation, and education.
It is easy to maintain a safe social distance in the outdoor spaces of large gardens such as these.
My friend and I recently (during the pandemic) had a wonderful morning visit to our local botanical garden. Very few people were around (go early), the plants were gorgeous, research groups were conducting butterfly counts, elderly volunteers were enjoying their gardening work, and it created a space of peace and separation from the crazy world for a few hours.
Plus, we had a blast taking fun artsy pictures of each other and my inner plant-identification nerd was having a grand ole time. I highly recommend strolling through a botanical garden the next time you are craving a new outdoor experience.
#5. Go Camping
Camping is obviously the perfect socially distanced outdoor activity! Duh. Go escape the world for a little, cook your food over a fire, enjoy nature walks, and stare at the stars at night.
If you’re not so sure about camping, let me remind you of all the camping options you have to choose from:
- primitive camping (AKA remote sites with no running water)
- campsites with bathrooms and showers
- go “glamping” with all the amenities so you don’t have to forego any of the usual life luxuries 😉
- camp in a national or state park
- camp in your own backyard
- campsites with amenities and lots to do (river activities, volleyball courts, disk golf courses, snack shops)
- campsites with just nature begging to be hiked in and explored
- camp in cold weather with a big fire and warm drinks
- camp in hot weather near a body of water to cool off in and sleep without a cover on your tent to feel the breeze all night
#6. Take a Lake Day
If you have a lake or body of water nearby, go enjoy it!
Here are some eco-friendly ways to do that (without using gas-powered machines):
- float on an innertube
- rent out a kayak
- go fishing
- paddleboard: find inflatable stand up paddleboards here at REI! Inflatable SUP boards are shockingly sturdy and way easier to transport in your vehicle.
- take your dog: get them used to water or play fetch in the water if it’s safe
- try out sailing: sailing is pretty invigorating and is a great hobby to learn!
- enjoy a walk
- sunbathe: relax and just dip your toes in the water
#7. Visit a "Pick your Own" Farm
Pick-your-own Farms or U-Pick Farms are a safe outdoor activity that is perfect for social distancing. They are farms where customers are able to pick out their own product from the field or orchard.
If you’re looking to stay away from crowds, support your local farmers, and collect fresh produce, then this is the perfect outing for you. Oftentimes, the costs of these farmers’ crops is so low that it barely (or never) covers the cost for the labor and supplies required to grow the crop, so visiting pick-your-own farms is a wonderful way to support agritourism and the farmers behind it. As Michael Scott says, it’s a “win-win-win”.
This can be such a fun activity. As you can see, I went tulip-picking and had such a blast picking out a beautiful bouquet for my home and taking pretty pictures with my friends.
Check your local farms for visits, events, and operation hours.
Here are some examples of products you can enjoy picking yourself:
- fresh eggs
- some will even make fresh apple cider on location
#8. Make a Backyard Campfire
This outdoor activity doesn’t even require you to leave your own yard. Make a fire in your own backyard fire pit! You can have so much fun just getting cozy around the fire or cooking some yummy campfire foods like:
- hot dogs
- banana boats (a cross between a s’more and a banana split)
Before you start using your fire pit, check with your county and city to see what the rules are regarding neighborhood backyard fires. Most cities allow small recreational fires like these as long as you are following some basic rules which include:
- the fire pit cannot be built more than 3 feet wide (disclosure: the picture above is a campfire from my last camping trip, it is not in a neighborhood)
- do not burn an unreasonable amount of wood or cause an unreasonable amount of smoke that may affect your neighbors
- only burn clean and dry firewood (not paper, plastic, cardboard, magazines, or trash).
- make sure wind speeds are below 15 miles per hour
- keep your fire 25 feet from combustible objects and 10 feet from the property line
- But again, make sure you check the rules for your area.
#9. Take Artsy Pictures
When you have nowhere to go or feel like you can’t leave your house, grab a camera and go outside to practice taking pictures of natural elements, your family member, best friend, or a pet. My favorite type of photography has often been macro photography in which you get very close up to the small details of nature like a bug on a flower petal.
Here are some artsy photography perspectives to try out:
- Macro (close up) pictures. Grass seedheads when the setting sunlight shines through them, the veins of a leaf, or a dew drop on a succulent. It’s eye-opening to see up close what you may normally walk right past.
- Landscape photos. Back up and see the “whole picture” of the environmental landscapes around you. Try to find a high spot to see more of the horizon.
- Portraits of your friends or family members. The classic candid shot of a girl in a flowing dress walking through a field or use a backdrop of flowering vines.
#10. Plant a Garden
Starting a garden can be a rewarding way to add some joy (and potentially some fresh vegetables) into to your daily life. It is pandemic-safe and gets you outside every day.
- Make sure you check what plants grow best in your area and what the appropriate time of year is that you should start.
- If you start your plants from seed, plan early.
- Consider planting bug-repelling plants around your vegetable plants and companion planting (marigolds are great for this).
- Check on them every day to see how they’re doing, scout for bugs or disease, and make any necessary modifications.
- Drip irrigation is the most water efficient and reliable way to water your garden.
- Don’t expect perfection the first time around (trust me, I know…).
#11. Bike Ride
Go on a bike ride! Seek out scenic views, historic landmarks, cool buildings, new biking trails, or even just ride around your neighborhood. Biking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get some exercise, and see some new sights.
If you are trying to be extra careful during the coronavirus pandemic, then bike riding is probably best if done “off the beaten path”. Sometimes taking regular bike paths can put you in close proximity to others, so just be wise as you consider potential distancing options with each of these outdoor activities.
#12. Stroll through a Plant Nursery
This outdoor escape is one I can easily forget about, but plant nurseries always end up filling me with so much joy! Imagine an outdoor setting with a beautiful spread of colors and foliage: flowers and plants, large fanning leaves, and tiny buds on tall trees, indoor tropical plants and outdoor fruit trees.
You don’t even have to buy a plant to enjoy a plant nursery. It can be a place to dream up your future backyard landscape or you can just purchase a small indoor plant for your coffee table (what I am doing in this picture).
#13. Go hammocking
Hammocks are a fun outdoor essential (according to me). This poor quality picture is from a trip to Yosemite. We stayed in a cabin that overlooked rolling hills of tall pine trees, so in our down time my hubby and I would set up our hammocks among the trees and relax, taking in the gorgeous views.
Need I point out that hammocking is a Covid-safe outdoor activity for the pandemic? Hammocking among the trees is basically the epitome of social distancing…
Here are some ideas of what to do in your hammock:
- read a book
- take a nap
- enjoy your surroundings (my favorite is listening to the wind blow through the trees)
- swing your hammock
- give yourself time to just think
- talk to God/pray
- go on a date or hammock with a friend. Use this awesome ENO tandem system (it’s two bars that allow two people to hammock on the same trees next to each other without the hammocks touching).
I am a big fan of ENO hammocks. They’re portable, durable, lightweight, breathable, and easy to quickly hang up. I personally have the ENO DoubleNest which can hold two people (and is great for one person as well) and my hubby has an ENO SingleNest which is great for one person.
While they both come with sturdy carabiners on both ends, they do not come with their matching ENO hammock straps to hang the hammock around trees, poles, fences, and such. I have done just fine using the regular length ENO Atlas Straps, but if you think you may be hanging around trees with extra-wide trunks or if you plan to hammock in sparsely-treed areas, then go with the ENO XL length hammock straps.
If you would like to regularly hammock in your own backyard but don’t have big enough trees, then consider this highly-rated portable heavy duty hammock stand (I’m seriously considering this one for my own treeless backyard!). If you want to stick with the ENO brand (and pay extra for it) then you also have the option of the ENO SoloPod Hammock Stand.
#14. Spend a Day at the Beach
Yes, this is what our beaches look like in Texas…and yes it is still worth driving to to get out of the house and enjoy yet another outdoor environment!
Activity ideas for the beach:
- play in the waves
- go fishing
- use binoculars to search for whales and dolphins
- look for sea shells
- boogie board/surf
- dig for sand crabs
- explore tide pools
- walk or run along the shore
- build a sand castle
- read a book
- fall asleep to the sound of the waves
If there are any unique or special buildings, outdoor tourist attractions or historical sites in your area, go visit them! This is a safe thing to do during the coronavirus pandemic if you are able to keep socially-distanced. This picture was from a trip to Denver just months before news of the Covid-19 pandemic began and even still there were no other people around when we rode bikes to visit the Colorado State Capitol building. If there are areas like this near your city, consider giving them another visit.
Here are ideas of sites to visit out of doors:
- Historical markers
- Old courthouses
- Downtown buildings
#16. Horseback Ride
Besides exploring nature by walking, bike-riding, or kayaking, another option is horseback! Find horseback trail-riding opportunities near you to enjoy the outdoors in a completely different way.
Your horse may take you through streams, bring you close enough to touch tall tree branches, or get you just high enough to see the whole horizon (like in my picture above).
#17. Play Disc Golf
My new hobby of the pandemic has been disc golf! And yes this picture was very much staged LOL.
It’s been surprisingly easy to find plenty of disc golf courses around my city and definitely easy to stay socially distanced from other groups of players. It provides an opportunity to walk through the natural environments native to your area (just in case you’re tired of the perfectly manicured landscaping around your neighborhood, I guess…).
The best part about disc golf, though, is that it is a sport that anyone can do! Trust me…I have never been able to throw a frisbee in the direction I intend to, and yet I (mostly) can now by practicing disc golf and learning just a few techniques.