This is your first step in planning adventures for the coming cooler weather. We’ve paddled dozens of Florida waterways and here’s our pick for the best places to kayak by region plus a few “unsung” favorites we recommend you discover.
Kayak & Canoe
The new Silver Springs State Park near Ocala gives kayakers their first chance to launch at the famous springhead and paddle an exquisite waterway that has never been open to kayakers before.
If you’ve ever dreamed about exploring a deserted tropical island, here’s your chance: Take your kayak down to the Florida Keys and paddle out to Indian Key State Park. Here, you explore jungly ruins and snorkel along a rocky shoreline.
The St. Lucie River is not a well-known kayaking destination — and it should be. It’s wild and gorgeous — a jungly forest of old live oaks thick with airplants and Spanish moss. After paddling about two hours, you reach a remote area where you can picnic and take a hike.
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.
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.
Vast and remote, the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s southwest coast seems challenging to visit, a labyrinth of twisting channels through thousands of remote mangrove islands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not all of Central Florida’s magic is at Disney. North of Orlando is a vast ecological preserve that offers an abundance of recreational opportunities with unique exposure to Florida’s great outdoors.
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.