One very fine mid-priced choice would be to keep it in the Perception family with the Airalite-constructed Carolina 14.5 ($1,750 with rudder; www.kayaker.com). Airalite is a fairly new plastic materialit's been around for about two years nowthat yields much of the strength, light weight, and appearance of more-expensive composite, but at a much lower price. The Carolina itself is a compact boat but one with enough length to offer good tracking without sacrificing maneuverability. Plenty of storage for day trips, and if you ever choose to overnight, then it has room for that, too.
Dagger's Specter 15.0 ($1,000; www.dagger.com) offers a similar performance package in a slightly longer, less-expensive boat (it's available in Airalite, in this case the rotomolded version). It's designed to be a day tourist that can handle calm waters or light surf. The Specter is very stable, tracks well, and offers plenty of space for day trips and even weekenders. In short, a lot of boat for the money.
On the high end, Necky's composite Elaho ($2,800; www.necky.com) is light, stiff, and maneuverable. It's sort of a touring playboat that's a blast to paddle. Plus it's a gorgeous boat!
For a look at more great kayaking gear, check out Outside Online's all-new Kayaks Buying Guide.