The kayaking part
The canals are quite narrow; often only one boat wide. We ran into a major traffic jam upon returning to Giethoorn, but luckily our little kayaks could squeeze by my of the amused boaters waiting in line.
For some reason Giethoorn is a Chinese tourist magnet. Many people in Belgium have never heard of it, but over 200,000 Chinese tourists visit it every year. This link gives some more fun info about the houses, history, and farming culture in Giethoorn.
While it hasn't happened recently (thanks to climate change), the canals sometimes freeze in the winter, and the region becomes an ice skating mecca. You can skate continuously for hundreds of kilometers down different channels and lakes. There is a famous 200km skating race, called the Elfstedentocht (eleven city's tour), that is organized when the ice freezes (most recent race was in 1997). The race covers a good portion of northern Netherlands, and nearly 20,000 people take part!
There are so many kayaking opportunities in this area (destinations AND rental shops) - I'm already looking forward to my next visit. :)
The Water Nerd Part
Pictures (click to enlarge)
Distance: 21 km (13 miles)
Duration: 6 hours (including a break for lunch)