Are you a kayaker? It is an ancient and amazing adventure that connects you with the water and the natural world around you. In fact, the first kayaks were created thousands of years ago by the Inuit peoples in the Arctic region. Several hundred years later, people from other areas became interested in kayaks as a sporting vessel. You can kayak on flat water or whitewater, which is calm and gentle, but dangerous. The water will determine the type of kayak that you use. Kayaks should not be confused with canoes. You can use one paddle for kayaking in Florida, and one paddle for canoeing.
16 Best Places To Kayak In Florida
There are many places in Florida where you can kayak. It is not easy to decide where to go. You might choose the location that is most appealing to you, depending on the type of kayaking you are interested in. Are you looking for wildlife viewing and a relaxing afternoon on a lazy river? Are you looking for something more thrilling? Here’s a list with contact information and the best launch locations for kayaking in Florida to help you make a decision.
Santa Fe River
The Santa Fe River is my favorite spot in Florida for kayaking. It’s near where I grew up and there are many great spots for calm paddling or manic splashing depending on how active you want your vacations.
The Santa Fe River is located in the northern part of central Florida. It has clear water and all the natural beauty that you could desire, including rare wildlife and fascinating flowers. The most important thing is that the Santa Fe River is one of the best rivers for kayaking in Florida.
Indian Key (best in South Florida)
Indian Key Historic State Park is a great place to go on a Floridian coast adventure. This island is located just off Islamorada’s Overseas Highway. You can reach it only by kayak. There is a sign on the water that points you to the landing.
A self-guided walking tour is available to see the remains of an old village from 19 century. There are also great snorkeling opportunities around the island.
It’s possible to launch from Islamorada where you can rent a kayak or tour. The paddle to the island takes around 20 minutes over shallow water and seagrass. The water is very shallow, so this can be great for everyone. In the clear blue waters, you may also spot sharks or stingrays.
Suwannee River (best in North Florida)
The Suwannee River is 246 miles long and is famous for multi-day paddling kayak trips. The blackwater river runs through forested swamps, wetlands and is mostly slow. If you’re a seasoned kayaker and are interested in whitewater kayaking in Florida there are some wild sections to this river.
The Big Shoals Tract is where the largest whitewater rapids are located in Florida. They are class I-II (and sometimes third) for difficulty. The waters at Big Shoals are calm and flat. There is also a trail that can be used to portage along the shore. It is possible to take in and out of the rapids from the same spot. You will need to hike to reach the launch site.
Indian River Lagoon
Just an hour’s drive from Orlando’s theme parks, the Indian River Lagoon features spectacular bioluminescence displays that include glowing plankton as well as marine creatures.
You can rent a kayak at many locations near Cocoa or Titusville, or join a night paddle tour to see the bioluminescence spectacle. You can also paddle in the morning and explore the Merritt Islands National Wildlife Refuge near the Kennedy Space Center.
The Indian River Lagoon is formed by the Banana River, the Indian River, and can be great for manatees and dolphins. Sharks are also found in the lagoon, as well as alligators that can be found within the inland waters.
Merritt Island, Florida’s largest barrier Island, is home to the Kennedy Space Center of NASA and 140,000 acres natural preserve. The Refuge’s waterways offer a unique view of the coastal Florida ecosystems. These waters are home to manatees, dolphins, and alligators. This is also a popular spot for bioluminescence kayaking. Bioluminescent plankton in billions glows in the dark when water is disturbed. This is when a paddle is inserted into the water. It creates an amazing sight that can only be seen on the darkest nights.
Rainbow Springs is the home of the fourth-largest Florida spring in terms of the water it produces. Kayaking in Florida around Rainbow Springs is a great way to explore the area. You can kayak through caves and crevices, as well as the stunning spring waters.
Even better, Rainbow Springs is a Florida State Park. This means that you will have to pay to access it but also have access to the rest. You can also rent a kayak from an outfitter if you don’t own one.
Rainbow Spring is Florida’s fourth-largest spring. There are dozens of bubbling vents, creating a swimming area at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon. This pool looks like it’s one of the cleanest you’ve ever seen.
The 72-degree water is clear as you paddle from the headspring. It will stay that way for 6.5 mi until it merges into the tea-colored Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon.
Although the Rainbow River doesn’t flow wild, there are still houses along its west bank. It is an aquatic preserve with lots of wildlife.
It is possible to see otters in Florida’s rivers from this location. We saw them both separately and others who kayaked with us also saw them.
The Rainbow River is also home to many birds. We had a great time darting kingfishers, a tall, decorated snag with 20 wood storks as ornaments, great and little blue herons, and other species. (This was taken on a winter Saturday when the river saw fewer people than it does during summer weekends.
Weeki Wachee River
Eight miles of the Weeki Wachee River run from its headsprings in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park to the Gulf of Mexico. The turquoise waters are famous for their clearness and great views of manatees that visit the springs in winter.
You can launch at the state park where you can rent kayaks. Or you can continue on to Rogers Park.
You can paddle in either direction or launch at Bayport Park and Rogers Park. You will need to pay a fee to launch your kayak in the state park.
This location is different than others. It is not a river, spring, or state park. It is located along the coast, and it has many beaches that are simply amazing. You can choose to paddle or do hardcore rowing. After that, enjoy a relaxing swim along the coast before you relax on the sandy beach and soak in the sun.
Manatees, turtles, dolphins, manatees, and other sea creatures can be found on these beaches. Make sure to take your camera with you (in waterproof bags). If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even kayak across the water to Crab Island.
Great Calusa Blueway
The Great Calusa Blueway, a marked trail running 190 miles along Florida’s Gulf Coast is the Great Calusa Blueway.
All skill levels will find the calm waters ideal and it can be great for seeing marine life such as manatees, turtles, and dolphins. You will pass by places once inhabited by Native American Calusa, who built towns from shells.
There are many places in Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, and Bonita Springs that offer kayak rentals or tours.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
The state park is located in central Florida and contains one of Florida’s two designated wild, scenic rivers. This tells you a lot about why you might want the place. It’s centrally located, so it’s a great choice if you happen to be passing through.
Wekiwa Springs deserves to be praised for being accessible. There are kayak rentals available and several access points along the water. There is also plenty to see: eagles, bears, alligators, and herons. However, they won’t disturb you on the main tourist routes. It’s actually one of the safest places to visit because of the abundance of park staff and tour guides.
You might also want to visit the Ocala National Forest while you’re there. Guided tours can be taken on the forest’s hiking trails.
The perfect spot to go kayaking in central Florida is Withlacoochee. The water here is a brownish reddy color, and the river runs for 157 miles before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. If you have a bit of time, you could kayak it the whole length.
If you enjoy kayaking and camping, this forest is an excellent choice. There are many great places to set up camp. You can even park your RV at certain locations along the river. If you are a serious camping enthusiast, you will want to check ahead to see where you can camp.
There isn’t much I can say about the Everglades. It’s the state’s most popular tourist spot and a great place to kayak if you want to get off the beaten track and escape the crowds. Although it sounds counterintuitive, it is possible to find a spot in the Glades where you are alone.
The Glades cover a large portion of southern Florida. They are home to wide-open spaces, open lakes, and murky swamps. You can also take a slower meandering route along the Turner River if you prefer to be safe. There is a designated kayaking trail that runs eight miles east of Everglades City. You can also hire a guide to help you if you are a beginner or need a safety net.
Coastal Dune Lakes
A few miles from Panama City, you will find the Coastal Dune Lakes. This rare geological feature is only found in three countries and has fifteen named lakes.
Lake Powell is the largest lake and can be great for both beginners and more experienced paddlers. You can find a lot of water here, including quiet inlets and natural shorelines. There is also a state park where you can rent kayaks. Lake Powell has been designated “Outstanding Florida Water”.
Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park is located about an hour north of Orlando. It has crystal river clear blue waters that are home to manatees in winter. The Spring Run is closed to paddlers during winter to protect manatees.
It is located on the banks of the St Johns River, so you have plenty of options to paddle through wild Florida. You will often see alligators in the brackish rivers. There are also Florida scrub jays and other wildlife. The park offers kayak rentals and the river is accessible in both directions for beginners.
Walton County, Blackwater River
Florida’s panhandle lies in the region where Florida meets Georgia and Alabama. It is a great alternative to the popular coastal and central areas. Even better, you can paddle along a lot of rivers without worrying about getting lost or being spooked by tourists.
Particularly, kayaking in Walton County is something you should look into. Although you might not be able to see manatees in the other Floridian hotspots you will paddle past beautiful coastal lakes separated only by beachy dunes. If you are looking for more challenges, you might consider kayaking in the Blackwater River. Blackwater River, however, is definitely for the more adventurous.
The Tomoka River
The Tomoko River, another Florida paddling spot within one of the state’s many national parks is home to a trail that’s especially loved by local kayakers. You’ll be able to paddle through the Tomoka Basin and an urban area. This is unusual for a Florida kayaking trail. It’s quite unique, at least in comparison to other paddling routes I’ve seen. If you’re traveling to Florida and want an unforgettable adventure, make sure you check out the Tomoka River.
There are a few launches on this trail, but I prefer the Tomoka State Park launch. There is a parking lot available. You can also spend time on the grounds before you start your kayaks towards the Halifax River.
Rock Springs Run is a scenic natural waterway that was formed from a series of artesian springs. The water is slow-moving and clear, with freshwater species like turtles, alligators, and fish. You can also see birds and deer along its shores and in the pine flatwood forest. You will paddle against the current in one direction and you won’t need to paddle in the opposite direction. This is a great trail for beginners.
It can sometimes be easier to rent a kayak rather than take your own. You can rent kayaks at many locations throughout the state. Many outfitters offer guided tours that allow you to learn more about the history and wildlife of the area while you’re exploring.
● Robbie’s of Islamorada (Indian Key – rentals and tours)
● BK Adventure (Indian River Lagoon – rentals and tours)
● Suwannee Canoe Outpost (Suwannee River – rentals)
● Weeki Fresh Water Adventures (Weeki Wachee River – rentals)
● Lovers Key Adventures (Great Calusa Blueway – rentals and tours)
● Blackwater Canoe Rental (Blackwater River – rentals)
● Camp Helen State Park (Coastal Dune Lakes – rentals)
The sunshine state offers a lot of opportunities for paddlers and kayakers. Florida is home to some of America’s most friendly people, great restaurants, and some truly amazing sports teams.
You’ll find some of the most luxurious Airbnbs in Florida, and you can also rent accommodation in Fort Myers and Tampa Bay. Florida is full of amazing things. You’ll have an incredible time, whether you’re taking a kayak trip through the Florida Keys or national wildlife refuge.
If you are thinking of visiting Florida to kayak or canoe, there are a few options. You can combine it with other stops to create a Florida vacation you will remember for the rest of your life. You’re guaranteed to have a great time, whether you’re kayaking in the clear waters or camping in a state park.
Florida is a beautiful place to visit all year. With its many kayaking trips and snorkeling tours and paddleboard operators, it’s a great place to go. The Santa Fe River is a great place to start, especially for beginners. But, Rainbow Springs and the Suwannee River are also worth a visit. Enjoy a wonderful vacation!
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