These Florida outdoors guidebooks for outdoors recreation and things to do are handy companions for learning more about kayaking destinations and hiking trails, campgrounds and exploring the Sunshine State’s back roads and hidden treasures.
These are the most popular Florida outdoors guidebooks purchased by our readers in 2023.
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2023 Readers’ Picks
Florida Keys Paddling Guide
by Bill Keogh
1 Few people know the backwaters of the Florida Keys as well as Bill Keogh, who has guided kayakers from his base, Big Pine Kayak Adventures, at the Old Wooden Bridge on Big Pine Key for decades. Each trip in his guide includes charts, route suggestions, information on distance, tides, and winds, and safety tips. You’ll find information on wildlife, habitats and ecosystems that will be encountered, as well as historical and natural features of the area. This book has been our readers’ top choice for several years.
Related Rambler article: 12 great kayak outings in the Florida Keys
Florida Atlas & Gazetteer
2 No maps of Florida have the detail and depth offered by this comprehensive guide to Florida’s byways. Detailed large-format maps take you to places you’ll never find on a smartphone or state road map. You’ll find off-the-track campgrounds and recreation, bike trails and secret, secluded beaches. This is the bible for traveling in the Sunshine State.
Florida Keys Paddling Atlas
by Bill and Mary Burnham
3 This detailed color atlas of the Florida Keys is an excellent companion to our top seller, Bill Keogh’s Florida Keys Paddling Guide. This third most popular guidebook on our charts is designed for paddlers, fly fishers, snorkelers, and other small-craft enthusiasts. Color charts are fully annotated with key put-ins, take-outs, paddle-friendly marinas, hidden waterways, bird watching, fishing spots, surf spots, and more.
Related Rambler articles: Getaways in the Florida Keys
The Florida Lighthouse Trail (2nd Edition)
by Josh Liller
4 From Amelia Island to the Keys to Pensacola in the Panhandle, the coast of Florida is dotted with lighthouses of all sizes, shapes, materials, and – best of all – histories. The Florida Lighthouse Trail is a compilation of short histories, written by expert contributors from around the state. Each chapter has fascinating details about these great sentinels.
Related story on Rambler: Travel tips for Florida lighthouse lovers
Kayaking the Keys: 50 Great Adventures
by Kathleen Patton
5 Spanning the 200-mile stretch of the Florida Keys, this field guide to the entire island chain highlights 50 paddling adventures, many for canoeists as well as kayakers. Trips include short paddles suitable for beginners and children, half-day trips as well as day-long and overnight excursions. Trips are arranged geographically, beginning near Miami at the top of the Keys in Biscayne National Park and stretching 73 miles past Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park.
Quixotic Key West & the Lower Keys
by Karuna Ebert and Steve Alberts
6 People who love visiting Key West often wonder where locals dine, drink, shop and snorkel. Well, this guidebook by FloridaRambler contributors Karuna Eberl and Steve Alberts are here to tell you. We’ve visited the Keys dozens of times, but still learn lots from this entertaining and useful guide. The book is full of practical listings for where to eat, stay and go, but it is also full of quirky stories that are part of what makes Key West unique.
Related FloridaRambler article: Paradise Found: Things to do in the Lower Keys
The Fort at Prospect Bluff: The British Post on the Apalachicola & the Battle of Negro Fort
By Dale Cox
7 The deadliest cannon shot in American history was fired at the “Negro Fort” at Prospect Bluff on Florida’s Apalachicola River on July 27, 1816. The resulting explosion killed more than 270 men, women, and children, and destroyed the largest free black settlement in North America. This is the story of an Underground Railroad that ran south to Spanish Florida and eventually to Trinidad, the Bahamas, and for a few even to Newfoundland.
Related Story on Florida Rambler: Fort Gadsden, ‘Negro Fort’ history buried in Apalachicola National Forest
Florida Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide
by Bella Stander and Gerald C. Hill
8 Illustrated map and guide to all standing and “lost” lighthouses in Florida on a detailed state map with a history and description of each lighthouse. Directions to every standing light or the best viewing spots. Directory of lighthouse cruises, island ferries & sightseeing flights. Listing of maritime museums. 32 original watercolor illustrations of all standing lighthouses in Florida.
Canoeing & Kayaking Florida (New!)
by Johnny Milloy
9 An earlier edition of this book in my library has a lot of bookmarked pages. I find it a valuable resource when planning my next kayaking adventure. Milloy has built upon the earlier work of Elizabeth Carter, Lou Glaros, John Pearce Doug Sphar for this latest edition, compiling detailed planning tools for more than 100 paddle trails throughout the state of Florida, organized by region, with easy-to-read maps, trip and shuttle details, even grading scenery. Water levels are a constant challenge on Florida’s inland waterways, and this guide tells you how to find current levels and compare them to normal levels.
Related article: Best kayaking in Orlando and Central Florida: 15 wild rivers
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These outdoor guides didn’t make our bestseller list in 2023, but they have in past years.
Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddle Trail
by the Florida Paddling Trails Association
This is the eighth edition, useful for both short and long-distance paddlers who yearn to paddle all or part of the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail from Pensacola to Key West to the Georgia border. Every Florida coastal habitat type is featured, from barrier island dune systems to salt marsh and mangroves, along with the Sunshine State’s colorful history. The guide includes information on launches, campsites, campgrounds, motels, points-of-interest, and the many public lands along the route.
Complete Book of Baits, Rigs & Tackle
By Vic Dunaway
I’m on my third version of this book and couldn’t do without it. Written by one of Florida’s foremost anglers and former editor of Florida Sportsman magazine, Vic Dunaway. This essential resource covers everything from rods and reels to baits and how to rig them for the fish you are targeting. Much of the focus is on Florida fishing. The illustrations are colorful, the book well-organized and easy to read. Baits, Rigs & Tackle is out of print, but the content is timeless, and you can still buy used copies on Amazon.
Related article: Florida kayak fishing, where a few have gone before
Best in Tent Camping: Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs
By Johnny Molloy
This is not a comprehensive guide, but descriptions are very good, and details and maps for 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. $30 on Amazon.
Beach and Coastal Camping in Florida
By Johnny Molloy
This user-friendly guidebook offers down-to-earth, detailed advice about 24 oceanfront campgrounds in Florida for both tent and RV campers, organized by geographic region. A bit superficial on some levels, this book does simplify the coastal camping experience in Florida and offers a good starting point for the beach camper.
Related story on Rambler: Beach camping in Florida: Living the dream
Florida’s Paved Bike Trails
by Jeff and Gretchen Kunerth
Florida has seen an explosion of paved bike trails over the past decade, and Florida journalist Jeff Kunerth has gone along for the ride. Jeff and his wife Gretchen present the detail you need for more than 60 of Florida’s best paved trails, from the Nature Coast State Trail to Shark Valley and the Cross-Florida Greenway, backyard rides and wilderness adventures. Most of these trails are considered multi-use trails, making them also available to roller skaters, walkers and even wheelchairs.
Related Rambler articles: Hiking and biking trails
Touring the Springs of Florida
By Melissa Watson
Florida has the highest concentration of fresh-water springs in the world, and Melissa Watson’s “Touring the Springs of Florida” features full-color photos and in-depth descriptions for each spring included in this book and surrounding areas. Detailed maps, GPS coordinates, and thorough driving directions lead you every step of the way. Whether you’re tubing, swimming, snorkeling, paddling, hiking, diving, or simply sightseeing, there’s a spring for you.
Related articles: Florida’s Springs
By Rick Sapp
I’ve camped all over Florida, usually in public campgrounds because they offer a natural experience with more space at a lower price than private campgrounds. This guide is right up my alley with its focus on public campgrounds, everything from primitive sites to campgrounds with hookups, from youth and group sites to teepees, yurts, and cabins. It includes hundreds of campgrounds, many of which you’d never know exist. I don’t own this book yet, so I ordered it today.
Related articles: Camping in Florida, RV & Tent
Backroads of Florida
by Paul Franklin and photographer Nancy Mikula
Explore the other side of Florida, where quiet rural byways and quirky roadside charm lie beyond glittering coastal cities and trendy beach resorts. Follow in the footsteps of the Spanish explorers, pirates, crackers and cowboys who shaped Florida’s history. Whether it’s skimming across the Everglades in an airboat, snorkeling with manatees or paddling your kayak through a cypress swamp full of alligators, orchids, and tropical birds, there’s a world of excitement and beauty waiting for you on Florida’s back roads.
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Hiking Guides by Sandra Friend and John Keatley
Outdoors writers Sandra Friend and John Keatley are the experts when it comes to hiking through Florida’s swamps and forests, and they have published a series of books with the details you need to hike and backpack from the Panhandle to the Everglades. If you are a Florida hiker, you already know who they are. Here is a selection of their books available on Amazon.
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Bob Rountree is a retired journalist, beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without finding a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 11 years ago.