Last updated on April 27th, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Florida’s best kayaking trails range from paddling through saltwater and mangrove tunnels to kayak trails where you paddle through forests of cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. Many of our favorite Florida kayak trails involve a destination: Our list includes kayak trips to islands that are now ghost towns.

Here’s a guide to our favorite kayaking trails for each region. For each area, we’ve picked one kayak trail that is less well-known but definitely worth discovering.

Best kayaking in Florida Keys

Favorite kayak spot: Indian Key off Islamorada.  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. Full story:  Indian Key: Kayak to Florida Keys history — and snorkel too

Worth discovering: Kayaking to Little Bahia Honda Island. The popular Lower Keys park is perfect for kayak outings. You can kayak around the island or head out to tiny picturesque Little Bahia Honda Island. Full story: Full story: Kayaking in clear water at Bahia Honda State Park

 

The kayak dock. It's an easy paddle to Indian Key State Park, one of my favorite kayaking trails in Florida.. (
It’s an easy paddle to Indian Key State Park, one of my favorite kayaking trails in Florida.. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

More places to kayak in the Florida Keys:

12 great kayak outings in the Florida Keys

36 hours in Key Largo: Gilbert’s Resort and kayaking the wreck at Garden Cove

Destination Key Largo: Pennekamp State Park

Long Key State Park: Beach camping in the Florida Keys plus paddling

Camping in the Middle Keys: Curry Hammock State Park

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Best kayaking in Southeast Florida

Favorite kayak spot: Fisheating Creek in Palmdale. This gorgeous, wild, winding river is well-known in Florida, but can only be paddled when water levels are high enough. This river through a pristine cypress forest belongs on the bucket list of those who love the Florida outdoors. Full  story: Legendary Fisheating Creek : Kayak trail lives up to hype, but timing is everything

Worth discovering: The St. Lucie River in Stuart is not a well-known kayaking destination — and it should be. It’s wild and gorgeous  — a forest of old live oaks thick with airplants and Spanish moss. There are a few small islands that inspire the imagination and, after paddling about two hours, you reach a remote area where you can picnic and take a hike reachable only by boat. Full story: St. Lucie River: Beautiful kayak trail deserves discovery

The dark tea-colored water was a mirror for the cypress forest along Fisheating Creek.
The dark tea-colored water was a mirror for the cypress forest along Fisheating Creek. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

More places to kayak in the Southeast Florida

Kayak trail to a hidden beach: St. Lucie Inlet Preserve in Stuart

Peanut Island in Riviera Beach: Snorkeling, historic Kennedy Bunker, even camping

Sebastian Inlet in Melbourne Beach: Getaway for camping, paddle sports, wildlife

Kayaking West Lake in Hollywood Beach: A little bit of nature hiding in Broward

Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound: A Florida treasure

Boca Raton: Urban Paddle: Back yards of the 1%

MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach: Kayak trail to Munyon Island for beaches, mangrove tunnels

Oleta River State Park offers respite from Miami’s urban bustle

Mizell Johnson State Park (formerly Lloyd State Park) in Dania Beach

Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach: Window on the Everglades

Loxahatchee River in Jupiter: Kayak a wild, scenic river in South Florida

Roughing it: St. Sebastian River Preserve in Fellsmere

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Best kayaking in Florida Everglades

Favorite: Turner River. 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 can offer in one trip. Full story: Turner River kayak trail: The best in the Everglades

Worth discovering:  Sandfly Key. You can explore the wilderness of the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s Gulf Coast with this short kayak trail to an uninhabited island full of history. It’s the perfect “starter” kayak trail for an area full of paddling possibilities.  Full story: Ten Thousand Islands: Sandfly Island is perfect ‘intro’ kayak trail

Turner River Kayak Trail, Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places to kayak in Florida.
Turner River Kayak Trail, Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

More places to kayak in the Everglades:

Fakahatchee Strand: Big, wild and great for Everglades hiking and kayaking

Everglades kayak trail: Halfway Creek off Tamiami Trail is all about the plants

Canoe or kayak Everglades National Park: Coot Bay and Mud Lake trail

Ten Thousand Islands: Ride the tide through Indian Key Pass

Everglades canoe trail: Exploring Nine Mile Pond

Everglades kayak trail: It’s called Hell’s Bay for a reason

More Everglades kayak trails: A roundup from Florida Rambler.

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Best kayaking along Florida’s Gulf Coast

Favorite: Myakka River. This big state park offers a memorable and beautiful kayak trail, full of wildlife. At some points, big old live oaks draped with Spanish moss line the shores. At others, your view is of broad grassy marshes. We passed uncountable gators and many were among the largest alligators I have ever seen. There was no manmade presence visible and no sounds except nature.Full story: Kayaking on Myakka River at Mayakka River State Park

Worth discovering: Caladesi Island State Park. Off the coast of Clearwater and Dunedin, it has been called the best beach in America. What’s even better? Kayaking to Caladesi and seeing wonderful wildlife along the way. Full story: Caladesi Island: Kayak to a wild beach

 

Caladesi Island State Park
Caladesi Island State Park on St. Joseph Sound. (Photo: David Blasco for Florida Rambler.)


More places to kayak along Florida’s Gulf Coast

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

Kayaking from Cabbage Key in Pine Island Sound

Shell Creek: Near Punta Gorda, the prettiest kayak trail you’ve never heard of

Matlacha Pass Preserve: An artsy town is gateway to nature-filled paddling trails

Telegraph Creek: Worth discovering along the Caloosahatchee 

The Chaz in Homosassa: Springs & wildlife make this river a special kayak trail

Best camping near Sarasota: Camp Venice

Sarasota’s Lido Key Mangrove Trail: Paddling with cormorants, wildlife

Northport: Kayaking Deer Prairie Creek for hours of paddle heaven

Cayo Costa island: A remote, romantic getaway that is wild Florida at its best

Mound Key in Fort Myers Beach: Take Calusa Blueway to archaeological island

Port Charlotte sea kayaking: White pelicans & mangrove mazes

Imperial River: Nice kayak trail through old Bonita Springs

Collier-Seminole Park in Naples: Kayak trail, camping near Naples

Kayak Sanibel, Captiva: Where to go to enjoy wildlife & beauty

Koreshan State Park in Estero preserves wacky Florida history

Peace River in Arcadia: Florida canoe trip is an easy adventure

Camping and kayaking near Tampa Bay: Fort Desoto

Five favorite places to paddleboard in Tampa Bay area

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Canoeing close to a Suwanee bluff. The Suwanee offers some of the best kayaking in Florida.
Limestone bluffs along the Suwanee River (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Best kayaking in Central Florida

Favorite:  Silver Springs and River in Ocala. If you haven’t experienced Florida’s most famous spring, you’re missing what just might be the most beautiful kayak trail in Florida. The pristine scenery and wildlife are outstanding. Full story: Silver Springs State Park has much to like: Kayaking, cabins, hiking, history

Worth discovering:  Blackwater Creek near Eustis, a little-known river near Orlando, has over-the-top scenery where it flows out of Lake Norris. It’s an easy paddle worth seeking out for its great beauty. You can even arrange for free canoes. Full story: Kayaking Blackwater Creek & Lake Norris in Eustis: Splendid waterways to discover

Worth discovering: Arbuckle Creek in Avon Park. We couldn’t name just one great unsung kayaking spot in Central Florida, so here’s a second.  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. Full story:  Kayaking Arbuckle Creek in Avon Park: Unexpected beauty at a bombing range

Six turtles at Silver Springs River, which offers some of the best kayaking in Florida
Six turtles at Silver Springs River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

More places to kayak in Central Florida

Juniper Springs in Ocala Forest: Fab kayaking at pristine spring run

Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest: Easy scenic paddling; lots of wildlife

Kayaking Blue Cypress Lake: Exceptional scenery, so many ospreys, near Yeehaw Junction

De Leon Springs: State park known for pancakes has much more

Hontoon Island near DeLand: Camping, cabins, great kayak trip in wild setting

Turkey Creek in Palm Bay combines kayaking and hiking

Ocklawaha River in Fort McCoy: Kayak or canoe a river that was saved

Beautiful park, fabulous paddle, shady campground: Rock Springs Run and Kelly Park

Blue Spring State Park in Orange City: Manatees in winter; swimming & tubing in summer

The Withlacoochee River in Nobleton: One of Florida’s most scenic kayak trails

Weeki Wachee Springs: Kayaking, manatees and mermaids

Spruce Creek near New Smyrna Beach: A diamond in the rough

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My favorite spot along the Santa Fe River was this small unnamed spring near Rum Island (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
My favorite spot along the Santa Fe River was this small unnamed spring near Rum Island (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Best kayaking in Northeast Florida

Favorite: Santa Fe River near High Springs. The Santa Fe River near Gainesville is a treasure for its many clear bubbling springs and its unspoiled beauty. It’s one of Florida’s most beautiful places to kayak, canoe, snorkel and swim. It’s way north, but worth making part of a trip. Kayaking Santa Fe River

Unsung but worth discovering: Pellicer Creek in St. Augustine. Full of birds and other wildlife, the waterways in Faver Dykes State Park offer many options for exploring by kayak through wild and beautiful land. Full story:  Florida ‘low country’ found at Faver-Dykes State Park

More places to kayak in Northeast Florida

Bulow Plantation Ruins: 5 minutes off I-95 for romantic ruins, picnic & paddle

Tomoka State Park: Gateway to the Ormond Scenic Loop

Exploring the St. Johns River by kayak from Welaka

Paddling New Smyrna waterways

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Best kayaking in Northwest Florida

The Suwanee River will reward you with tranquility and beauty
The Suwanee River will reward you with tranquility and beauty. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Favorite: Suwanee River. If you think all there is to the Suwanee River is an old song with problematic lyrics, you’re missing out on one of Florida’s greatest kayaking, canoeing and camping rivers. Full story: Suwanee River: Skip the song; but go for kayaking & camping. Also: Suwanee is one of the best canoe-camping rivers in the country. Full story: Suwannee, one of Florida’s most beautiful rivers, offers comfy screened camping on platforms

Worth discovering: Ichetucknee River in winter. The Ichetucknee is the most pristine spring run in the state. It has eight major springs, crystalline water, lush jungly vegetation plus plentiful birds and wildlife.  Full story: Ichetucknee: One of Florida’s most beautiful rivers 

More places to kayak in Northwest Florida

Rainbow River: Pure spring water makes kayaking, tubing tops

Springs & the Suwannee: Two northwest Florida parks are great bases for exploring

Crystal River manatees: How to see, kayak or swim with manatees

Wakulla & St. Marks: Out of the way, this Big Bend area is full of discoveries

Cedar Key: Charming, historic, off the beaten track

Grayton Beach: Camp, kayak and bike at one of America’s top beaches

Free kayaking guide to Hidden Coast

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Did we miss your favorite? Please add suggestions in our comment field below.

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park: Kayak to hidden beach

  2. Avatar

    You left our Favorite spot out, Glass Bottom Rentals, on Boca Grande! Amazing blue water, and clear kayaks! Such a great trip!

  3. Avatar

    Hello Bonnie, thanks for the article is great. I’ve been kayaking for more than 10 years now. But never in the US and mostly in the Patagonian rivers and lakes. I’ll be very interested in doing it in Florida in my next US trip.
    Sorry me asking, but not being from the US, how safe it is kayaking there? I mean, are the areas with dangerous wildlife there (I’m thinking crocks!)?
    Also, if you had to choose only one of these places for a first time visitor to Florida Kayaking Spots… which would it be?
    Again, thanks a lot for this great article!

  4. Avatar

    Anything west of St. Marks. Like Turkey Creek, Big Escambia Creek, Chipola River, Ecofina River..

  5. Avatar
    Frances Stone

    You have not included paddling streams in the Panhandle. The Chipola River, Holmes Creek, Econfina Creek north of Panama City, the three great paddles in the Milton area: Blackwater River, Coldwater Creek, Juniper Creek. The great paddles on the Eglin Reservation: Turkey Creek, Boiling Creek and Titi Creek. If I had to pick my absolute favorite it would be Boiling Creek on the Eglin Reservation. A recreation pass is available online to paddle on the Eglin Reservation. Well worth the fee.

    • Bonnie Gross

      Thank you. I am sorry I have not explored the Panhandle adequately to have preferences — it’s on my to-do list! My only experience (and it was a great one) was on Blackwater River. I really appreciate your comments because this will help others!

  6. Avatar

    I did the Oklawaha River and Silver River on the 10th and can’t say enough about how great it was. Put in at Silver Springs and paddle to Gores landing. Free parking at The springs and $5.00 parking at Gores Landing. Put in with my truck at the springs and other car at Gores so we had a ride to go back to the truck. Highly recommened this river. Gores Landing also has primitive camping $10.00 night. They have bathrooms no showers.

  7. Pingback: Best Kayaking Spots in Florida - Trazee Travel

  8. Avatar

    Hi Bonnie, We have used your site to visit some great kayaking spots – thanks! We just finished a great paddling trail in Central Florida on Shingle Creek that is near Disney. The outfitter is co-located on a County Park that has a biking and hiking traild going through the park and there are picnic tables available next to the launch area. The paddling trail itself goes through some very beautiful cypress areas; very scenic and peaceful!

    All the best, John and Marie

  9. Avatar
    Megan E Kilgore

    Hi! Love your site, its always a go-to for planning out new kayaking trips .. I currently live in Delray and feel its worth mentioning there IS more to see in the deerfield/ Boca/ Delray area other than people houses :-P. I’ve launched out of a few places in Boca and kayaking by Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is aaaaamazing. In one short 2 hour trip up and down the intracoastal we saw about 15 sea turtles, a few rays, several horseshoe crabs, and plenty of other birds & fish. The issue with exploring this area is the launch spots, lots are in parks that meet capacity fast on weekeends or are closed.. and during the week they close just a little too early for an after work paddle.

    • Bonnie Gross

      Thank you, Megan. As you can read on our site, both folks behind Rambler — Bob Rountree and me, Bonnie Gross — live in South Florida so we are ALWAYS looking for good places to paddle nearby! It’s a struggle to find good places to paddle, bicycle and hike in an urban area that has so paved over nature.

      Bob is quite familiar with this area of the Intracoastal Waterway, though, and he urges caution.

      Bob says on a quiet morning during the week, it could be a fun paddle if you can launch from Silver Palm Park on Palmetto Park Road. Parking is limited and often packed with boat trailers. Even if you can launch there, be careful of strong currents when paddling under the Palmetto Park Bridge to Lake Wyman.

      Other than Silver Palm Park, there is no access for several miles: Deerfield Beach’s Pioneer Park or Knowles Park in Delray Beach are the closest ramps.

      While Lake Wyman itself is a no-wake zone, the Intracoastal Waterway north of there to Spanish River Park is not. On weekends and late afternoons, it is overrun by jet skis and speedboats churning cross wakes and currents, making it treacherous for kayakers.

      We agree, this small section is scenic. I just wish there was better access with a no-wake zone extending north to Spanish River Boulevard.

  10. Avatar

    Thanks for the incredible article. Will be visiting soon 😉

  11. Avatar
    Kyle Wright

    Waccissa River, Slave Canal to the Aucilla River, Steinhatchee River, St. Marks River Area and any where along the Gulf Coast from Clear Key to Appalacicola make great day trips and weekend tripsychological. Great fishing aND paddling trails.

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