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Handy guides for exploring Florida’s outdoors

Last updated on February 28th, 2013 at 05:21 pm

Exploring Florida sometimes requires more than just a sense of adventure and time to travel.  Even those of us who write about Florida’s outdoors use guides for planning.

Here are a few books in our library that we are comfortable recommending to our readers. The images and links take you to, where you can read reviews and purchase these books.  Florida Rambler receives a modest commission should you decide to purchase a book through these links.

Of course, we think the handiest guide of all is, so even if you buy these books, please come back! 🙂

Moon Florida Camping: The Complete Guide to Tent and RV Camping (Moon Outdoors)

This may be the most comprehensive guide available for Florida Camping, and it’s my bible.  This 660-page guidebook includes almost every campground in the state, public and private, with descriptions, things to do nearby, reservations and fees, directions and contact information. The detail runs deep, although photos are lacking. I have found this book to be quite reliable, although it is beginning to age and many of the published rates are outdated.

Still, little has changed in the detail and the evaluations of individual campgrounds.  If you like Florida camping, whether you’re in a tent, RV or boat, you cannot do without this book.

The Best in Tent Camping: Florida: A Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos (Best Tent Camping)

I like this book, but only as a supplement to Moon’s Florida Camping (above). This is not a comprehensive guide.  The descriptions are very good, and details and maps for the campgrounds it does cover are excellent.

Author Johnny Molloy has made a career out of writing guides for hiking, camping and paddling throughout the southeast, and it seems that at times he relies on contributors as opposed to personal experiences.

Nonetheless, this book is useful and worth including in your camping library — but only if you already own Moon’s Florida Camping.

Canoeing and Kayaking Florida (Canoe and Kayak Series)

This is one of the best guides for discovering Florida kayak and canoe trails. No single guidebook can possibly cover all of the state’s paddle trails, especially with new “Blueway” trails being promoted as draws for tourism. But the 100 trails it does cover are thoroughly reported with maps, descriptions, level of difficulty, put-in, take-out and shuttle detail, and phone numbers you can use to obtain the latest water levels.

Noticeably missing are trails in the Florida Keys.  For that, you’ll have to get Bill Keogh’s “Florida Keys Paddling Guide” (below). But for a general overview of rivers, lakes and backwater creeks, this book is hard to beat. The descriptions are specific about scenery and terrain, so you know the authors have actually visited and paddled these trails. A must for every paddler’s library.

Florida Keys Paddling Guide: From Key Largo to Key West

The Keys are a paddler’s paradise. You can launch a kayak almost anywhere. Author Bill Keogh, who lives on Big Pine Key, has paddled the Keys from top to bottom, and he knows all the best spots to launch and the best areas to explore.

Keogh does a great job describing wildlife and ecosystems so you understand what’s around you, and he lists almost 70 launch points and takes you on 47 adventures of special interest, accompanied by nautical chart references, tidal alerts and previews of what you’ll encounter.

In the appendix, he lists canoe outfitters where you can rent a yak and provides a seasonal bird list. This may be the bible for Keys paddlers.

Florida’s Fabulous Canoe and Kayak Trail Guide (Florida’s Fabulous Nature)

When I bought this book at Canaveral National Seashore, the photography blew me away.  It is stunning. Then I read about a few of the paddle trails where I had kayaked, and the descriptions were on the mark. I bought the book and now look forward to visiting these trails.

Descriptions are inconsistent from trail to trail, with varying degrees of trip and landing information, but you get decent detail on the more important trails. Camping info is sparse, but short vignettes scattered about the book add color or history about specific trails.

If I only bought one kayaking guide to Florida, this book would not be it. But the photos our outstanding, the maps helpful and many of the descriptions are at least adequate. Make no mistake, though, this is really a picture book.

Florida’s Paved Bike Trails, Second Edition

Paved trails for bicycles, skaters and walkers are growing like wildflowers around Florida, especially in Central Florida and the Gulf Coast, where the appetite for converting abandoned railroad beds into multi-use trails seems insatiable. This book tries to keep up by staying ahead with details on future trails and expansions of existing trails, and it does a pretty good job of it.

Each trail described in the book provides maps and access points, as well as a detailed description of what you’ll see along each trail. Distances and amenities, such as rest rooms and water fountains, are also part of the package. The book is organized by region, and there is an index in the back for quick reference.


Baits, Rigs & Tackle

This is the Florida fishing bible, written by one of the state’s top fisherman and most prolific fishing writers, Vic Dunaway, and published by Florida Sportsman magazine. This essential resource covers everything from rods and reels to baits and lures and how to rig them for the fish you are targeting. Much of the focus is on Florida fishing, both fresh and saltwater, but the lessons learned here are valuable anywhere there’s a fish waiting to be caught.

I’m on my third version of this book and couldn’t do without it.  Dunaway’s attention to detail is nothing short of amazing, right down to how to tie the best knots and why, what’s the best line to use in your particular situation and what rod and reel to put it on. The illustrations are colorful, the book well-organized, and the writing is easy to read for both the novice and experts alike.


Without a Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak

This is not really a guide, but it covers a lot of territory that you may paddle someday, if you haven’t already. Warren is an avid kayaker and journalist, the perfect combination for the writer of a book about the Ultimate Florida Challenge, a 1,200-mile paddling marathon circumnavigating Florida.

Along the way, you learn about paddling on open water, finding places to camp, how to efficiently pack your kayak for overnight (or longer) trips, foods to eat and the games your mind plays when paddling alone for weeks on end.

Warren had a lot to think about. He delicately weaves into this story his personal encounter of love slipping away, a devastating divorce and the emotional journey to a new beginning.

And then there is the haunting night paddles when all you think about are unseen speedboats, ships and encounters with predators of the deep. On the kayaking circuit, they call him SharkChow.

Feel free to recommend Florida guidebooks in our comments below!


A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

This page may include affiliate links from which we may earn a modest commission if a purchase is made. More often, we include free courtesy links to small businesses, such as kayak outfitters, from whom we receive no commission. 

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