Articles written by: Bonnie Gross

Bonnie is co-founder of Florida Rambler. The former executive producer of Sun-Sentinel.com, she enjoys hiking, biking and paddling with her husband David Blasco. They live on the Middle River in Fort Lauderdale. Bonnie Gross on Google+

Kayaking the Alafia River near Tampa

Alafia River: Kayaking through tame rapids a half hour from Tampa

This cypress-lined Alafia river has an unusual feature for Florida: Rocky shoals that create fun rapids to kayak. It’s near hiking trails, springs and a very nice paddling trail at Little Manatee River State Park.

An antique train trestle on the Little Manatee River is a good place for a lunch break. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Little Manatee River near Tampa: Great for kayakers, hikers & campers

Just 45 minute from Tampa/St. Pete, the beautiful river, state park and region is a natural haven that can keep you busy exploring for days. There’s an outfitter to make trip-planning easy, plus it offers cabins and camping.

Cortez: Charming fishing village, perfect place for classic seafood shack

Cortez: Charming fishing village, perfect place for classic seafood shack

This authentic fishing village near Bradenton is the perfect place to find classic Florida seafood shacks — open air, casual with the freshest fish.

This barred owl at Arbunkle Creek swiveled his head to follow us as we paddled under his tree.

Kayaking Arbuckle Creek: Unexpected beauty at a bombing range

Arbuckle Creek is a gorgeous river through an ancient cypress forest. It feels remote and wild but is convenient to Orlando and South Florida. It’s a gem, full of wildlife and magnificent scenery.

Wood storks, anhingas and herons all nesting together in Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach. (Bonnie Gross)

Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach: Watch the wood storks nesting

One of the best places to see wood storks and other wading birds nesting up close in winter is Wakodahatchee Preserve in Delray Beach. In February and March, dozens of storks build nests close to an easy-to-walk .75 mile boardwalk.

Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.

Swamp Cabbage Fest marks 51 years, Feb. 25-26, 2017

La Belle — You can get gator tail and swamp cabbage at this festival. But the real reason to go is to revel in a last corner of small town America in Florida — beauty pageants, high school bands, armadillo races and a rodeo.

Ivey House Bed and Breakfast in Everglades City is designed for outdoors-oriented visitors. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Ivey House in Everglades City: B&B for outdoors folks

If you’re visiting the western entrance to Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands, there is a bed and breakfast that caters specifically to kayakers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts – the Ivey House Bed and Breakfast in Everglades City.

The Turner River's mangrove tunnels are beautiful -- so full of bromeliads. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Turner River kayak trail: The best in the Everglades

I’ve paddled a lot of trails in the Everglades, but so far, the Turner River is my favorite. It goes from pristine cypress swamp, through mangrove tunnels to sawgrass marsh, and it teems with birds, gators and fish. It’s everything the Everglades offers in one trip.

Bedman Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River near Alva. (Photo: David Blasco)

Along Caloosahatchee River: Kayak trails, rustic scenery & small towns

Between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers, a stretch of the Caloosahatchee River offers a taste of Old Florida — small towns, rivers ideal for kayaking and good public campgrounds.

Fort Myers Bunche Beach: Heaven for birders, kayakers

Fort Myers Bunche Beach: Heaven for birders, kayakers

People and birds alike enjoy the beautiful beaches and sandbars plus the pristine mangrove creeks at Bunche Beach. There are several routes for kayakers or it’s a great place for just combing the beach and enjoying the wildlife.

Curious manatee at Manatee Park, Fort Myers, on the Orange River, Feb. 14, 2015

Manatee Park & the Orange River: Fort Myers kayak trail ideal for winter day

When it’s chilly, you can see dozens of manatees at this free park. Even without manatees, the Orange River is a beautiful kayak trail through Old Florida scenery.

Strangler fig along Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk along the Tamiami Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)

Tamiami Trail: Scenic drive exploring Everglades

The Tamiami Trail, linking Miami and Florida’s west coast, gets you close to alligators, cypress swamps and Everglades scenery. It also offers outstanding stops along the way, particularly the Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park.

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