The Best Places to Kayak in Florida
If you’re looking for the best places to kayak in Florida, you’re in the right place! The Florida Travel with kids-family loves to kayak!
Florida is a paradise for kayaking enthusiasts, with its diverse waterways that offer stunning views of nature and wildlife. From the clear springs of the north to the winding rivers of the south, there is no shortage of places to explore by kayak in the Sunshine State.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, Florida has something for everyone. In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the best places to kayak in Florida and what makes them so unique.
Before we get to the list of the best places to kayak in Florida, let’s talk about how you will get around during your vacation. First, unless you drive yourself, you’ll need a rental car! If you decide to rent a car during your Florida vacation, I recommend renting one from Discount USA Car Rental.
Discount USA Car Rental offers the lowest rates through all the major companies, and you don’t pay anything you pick up your car.
The best places to kayak in Florida
Here are the best places to kayak in Florida, in no particular order.
One of our favorite spots in Florida is Crystal River. You will find crystal clear waters all over Florida, even in the deep water of Crystal River.
The freshwater that feeds into this river is perfect for the manatees swimming there. Winter is the best time to kayak along Crystal River to see the manatees. That is when more manatees arrive in the area.
It is also possible to slip out of your kayak and go swimming with the manatees in Crystal River.
If you are searching for the best kayaking option in Florida, I highly recommend Crystal River! It truly is one of the best ways to check multiple items off your to-do list.
You might also want to check out 16 things to do in Crystal River with kids to plan things to do beyond kayaking in Crystal River.
Suwannee River seems to have it all when you want to go kayaking. This river begins in Georgia. It then flows through the state of Florida until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, you have miles of coastline to see along the way.
This is another one of my favorite places for kayaking. This scenic river also offers easy access to numerous beaches along the way. So you can easily stop kayaking at any of them for some relaxation on the sand.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
The Weeki Wachee River flows through the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Kayak tours are offered at this park. These tours last approximately 2 hours. Each guided tour will take you to the best springs in the park. Manatees hang out at those springs.
Weeki Wachee is a great place to spend an entire day. There are plenty of places to dock your kayak in between your time out on the water.
As you paddle along the Weeki Wachee River, you may find yourself in Rogers Park. If you started at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, you just managed to paddle approximately 11 miles.
Don’t worry; I won’t blame you if you don’t want to go that far. Instead, you could choose to take your kayak to Roger’s Park and do a little kayaking on the river there.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is only approximately 60 miles east of Orlando. This is one of the best places to visit when you want to escape the theme parks for a day.
You can rent kayaks at this wildlife refuge. There are a few paddling trails to choose from. Choose the one for your day trip carefully. This will ensure your kayaking trip is full of natural beauty and wildlife.
Ocala National Forest
Kayaking along Juniper Springs will have you exploring the Ocala National Forest. The paddling trail on this river is quite narrow. However, there are many twists and turns as well. Those unique features allow you to tuck yourself away in intimate spaces for some peace and quiet.
You must start your kayaking journey early in the day. They won’t let kayaks on the water in the afternoon. They want to make sure everyone reaches their starting point before it gets dark.
Lake Powell is a lake within Camp Helen State Park. This lake is considered the largest coastal dune lake in North America.
These types of coastal dune lakes are quite rare, so the opportunity to be able to kayak on them is fantastic.
Saltwater flowing into this freshwater lake can create a brackish look. Therefore, the water isn’t as crystal clear as it is at other kayaking destinations around the state.
However, saltwater does bring in saltwater species. You can see those species along with the freshwater species during your kayaking adventure.
Indian River Lagoon
Kayaking the Indian River Lagoon will give you an experience you can’t find in many other places in the sunshine state. There are more than 150 spoil islands within this lagoon. You can visit many of the uninhabited islands during your time out on the water.
These mangrove islands have evolved over time. However, some of the islands are off-limits because they are used as nesting locations for birds.
This might be one of the best spots to use a tandem kayak in Florida.
One of the unique species you can see while kayaking at Indian River Lagoon is comb jellies. These clear, glob-like creatures will not sting you like regular jellyfish will!
Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park isn’t too far from Orlando. It would be the perfect day trip when you want a little time in nature. One of the best things to do at this park is kayaking. However, you can also go hiking on the trails.
The best kayaking here can be found near the main spring. That is where ancient buildings and tranquil gardens are located.
The best time to visit Silver Springs is early in the morning or later in the evening. This is when it is cooler outside.
Rainbow Springs State Park
The Rainbow River runs through Rainbow Springs State Park. The water in this river looks like a rainbow. This makes it the perfect spot for a unique kayaking experience.
You will find this park, and river, in Dunnellon, Florida. Either before or after your kayaking adventures, you will want to take the time to check out the ancient artifacts within the park. Those artifacts are from the Paleo-Indians who lived there at one time.
Pay close attention to the cypress trees as you paddle down the river. You may find birds in them. But, of course, there will also be birds in the water, river otters, and the occasional alligator.
If you don’t have your own kayak, you can always take advantage of the kayak rentals at this park.
One of the best places for kayaking in Florida is Rock Springs. You can easily spend the day paddling through the tall grasses and cypress trees. In addition, there are plenty of native birds in the area to keep you company.
Take a little time to relax near the small lake. It will be a welcome respite from all your hard work.
This kayaking destination gets quite crowded on the weekends, especially during the early hours of the summer months. So, arrive really early and beat the crowds and the heat.
Santa Fe River
The Santa Fe River is 15 miles long. However, it offers a strong current that allows kayakers to conquer all those miles in a short amount of time.
During your kayaking journey, you will find that you can stop at a dozen or more springs. A great way to plan your day is to determine which springs you want to stop at first. That way, you won’t waste time paddling to all the others.
Blackwater River State Park
The Blackwater River in Blackwater River State Park is one of the best kayaking destinations in the sunshine state. You will find this park near the Panhandle.
It is best to take one of the kayaking tours along this river. This will make it easier to find your way with all the twists and turns of the river.
Keep your eyes on land during your kayaking experience. The wildlife viewing in this park is incredible.
Indian Key Historic State Park
Indian Key Historic State Park can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. This island park is the perfect spot for kayaking near dolphins, whales, and sharks. Just don’t get too close.
You can only reach this island park via kayak. Therefore, it is best to plan ahead, so you know where you can dock your kayak once you arrive.
St. Lucie River
If you want to kayak near mangrove forests on the shoreline, the St. Lucie River is one of your best options. You will see lots of wildlife on shore as you paddle along.
It is easy to paddle both ways on this river in Florida. However, if you do get tired of kayaking, you can always take the ferry back to your starting point.
The Green Swamp
Okay, so the Green Swamp may not seem too appealing for your next kayaking adventures. But it’s not as bad as it sounds!
This kayaking destination is located in Central Florida. The Green Swamp is basically sections of the Hillsborough River, Peace River, Ocklawaha River, and Withlacoochee River.
All these rivers create hundreds of miles you can explore via your own kayak.
The best part about kayaking in the Green Swamp is you can easily see more than 100 different types of animals. Most of those animals will be birds. So, this might be at the top of your list if you love birdwatching while kayaking. Check out The Ultimate List of Florida Birds if you are a bird lover!
After kayaking, you may want to check out the town of Cumpressco within this wilderness preserve. This is one of the ghost towns in the state of Florida.
The Loxahatchee River isn’t too far from the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the few rivers in the United States that has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.
This river flows from the Lakes. So, it is always moving and bringing lots of wildlife to the area. The diverse wildlife includes bald eagles.
The Loxahatchee River is approximately 7 miles long. It goes through a cypress swamp. This makes it perfect for beginner and advanced kayakers.
Quite a bit of Turner River goes through Everglades National Park in South Florida. You will need to pay a fee to enter the park for kayaking.
There are a few mangrove tunnels along this river in the Everglades. Unfortunately, they don’t offer guided tours of these mangrove tunnels. However, you can take a guided tour of the mangrove tunnels in nearby Collier-Seminole State Park.
You won’t run into any motorized boats as you paddle along this river. However, there will be plenty of wildlife. It is important to give all the animals you see plenty of space. They will do the same, so you can all enjoy a peaceful experience.
After you are finished kayaking for the day, head into Everglades City for your next adventure.
Winter Park Chain of Lakes
There are six lakes within the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. Those lakes include Minnehaha, Nina, Maitland, Osceola, Mizell, and Virginia. All those lakes connect via the Winter Park Canal.
Kayaking through the canal is simple. You can even paddle in 3 of the six lakes without a problem. You can easily follow a paddling trail or two whenever you head out on the water here. It would take you months to do them all.
Little Talbot Island State Park
There is nothing wrong with heading out to one of the barrier islands to go kayaking in Florida. Little Talbot Island State Park is one of the best destinations for kayaking around barrier islands.
It is an easy paddle through the salt marsh and sandbars. Experienced kayakers can venture further along the coastal marshes.
When you are not in your kayak, you may walk along the nature trail in the maritime forest—or spend time near the sand dunes.
Pine Island is an island near Fort Myers in Southwest Florida. It is one of the best islands for kayaking on the Gulf Coast. There are multiple launch points to choose from on Pine Island.
You may even spend a little bit of time on the white-sand beaches this island is known for.
Bahia Honda State Park
This state park is located on an island in the Florida Keys. One of the best ways to explore Bahia Honda Island is by kayak.
You will find crystal-clear water around this island. That water is perfect for viewing marine life from your kayak.
It isn’t difficult to reach this state park on Big Pine Key. You can either drive there or take a boat ride.
Tarpon Springs in Tampa Bay offers calm waters to kayakers of all skill levels. Paddling through the saltwater marshes offers glimpses of gorgeous views. You may even spot a manatee or two, as well as other wildlife, during your adventure.
I recommend taking a break somewhere along the river, so you can grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant.
Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail
The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail offers more than 190 miles of kayaking trails. All those miles make it easy to see why this is one of the best places to kayak in Florida.
You will find numerous sections that are perfect for beginner kayakers. There are also areas that are best left to experienced kayakers.
Lake Talquin State Park
Lake Talquin State Park is located in North Florida in Tallahassee. Start your visit by checking out the infamous Venus Fly plant.
Then head out onto the water in a kayak to see the rest of the wildlife and vegetation.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
When you are near Key Largo, take a little time to kayak through John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Yes, this park is mostly known for diving and snorkeling, but it’s also pretty amazing for kayaking.
This is your best option for exploring miles of mangrove trails. It can get quite busy here on the weekends and holidays. Arrive early to beat the crowds.
Shell Key Preserve
Shell Key Preserve can be found in Tampa Bay. You can only reach the barrier island by kayak. I recommend using a clear kayak. This will allow you to see the diverse marine life in the clear water.
Choose your launch site and set out in search of manatees and dolphins. Then relax on the white sandy beaches when you arrive on the island.
You won’t find shallow waters during this kayaking trip. The water levels will be dependent on the tides. Make sure you are prepared for any waves that may be rolling in off the Gulf Coast. Then simply enjoy the sights in and out of the water during your kayaking trip.
The best places to kayak in Florida
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best places to kayak in Florida.
More Florida Travel Tips
Don’t forget to check out even more things to do in Florida:
- The 10 best places to see sea turtles in Florida
- The best strawberry farms in Florida
- How to visit Dry Tortugas National Park
- The best Gulf Beaches in Florida
- The best place to find sharks teeth in Florida
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here. If you want even more tips, make sure to join our mailing list. We’ll share any new tips and tricks we learn, along with Florida news and recent blog posts of our adventures.
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