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Readers’ top guides for outdoor things to do in Florida

These outdoor recreation guides for things to do in Florida are handy companions for learning more about kayaking destinations and hiking trails, campgrounds and exploring back roads.

This Top 8 list is based on cumulative data of reader purchases through since January 2019. We added a few suggestions for guides we think you’ll find useful.

Disclosure: The data used to compile this list is cumulative, provided by our affiliate Amazon. Purchases made from this page may result in a modest commission to support our mission.

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 FloridaRambler article: 12 great kayak outings in the Florida Keys

Florida Atlas & Gazetteer

by Delorme

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.

An alternative: Florida Recreation Atlas

by National Geographic Maps

I carry both the Delorme Atlas (above) and this National Geographic Recreation Atlas in my travel kit. While Delorme goes deeper with the details and is updated more frequently, the National Geographic atlas stands out for it’s colorful, easier-to-follow presentation. Both are excellent supplements to get a bigger picture than GPS provides.

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 FloridaRambler articles: Getaways in the Florida Keys

Quixotic Key West & the Lower Keys

by Karuna Ebert and Steve Alberts

4 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

Florida’s Paved Bike Trails

by Jeff and Gretchen Kunerth

5 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 FloridaRambler articles: Hiking and biking trails

Touring the Springs of Florida

By Melissa Watson

6 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

Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail

by the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails

7 The 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail extends from Pensacola to Key West, then north to the Georgia border. Florida’s coastal habitat is featured, from barrier island dune systems to salt marsh to mangroves, along with some colorful Florida history. This is the seventh printed guide for the trail, useful for short and long-distance paddlers. Information on launches, campsites, campgrounds, motels, points-of-interest and public lands along the route. A trail data book, equipment list and trip tips and planning instructions are also included. Complementary color maps can be downloaded for free from

Beach and Coastal Camping in Florida

By Johnny Molloy

8 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.

Our picks

Although these outdoor guides didn’t make our readers’ bestseller list, our editors suggest they are worth considering.

Canoeing & Kayaking Florida

by Johnny Milloy

1 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 Rambler stories: Kayak, canoe and paddle trails

Camping Florida, A Falcon Guide

By Rick Sapp

2 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

3 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. 

We also recommend…

Hiking Guides by Sandra Friend

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 nitty gritty on hiking and backpacking from the Panhandle to the Everglades. If you are a Florida hiker, then you already know who they are. If not, here is a selection of their books available on Amazon.

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Friday 14th of August 2020

Thanks for the list I picked up “touring the springs” as I’ve been meaning to check out some springs when the summer crowds fade away and “backroads” because driving backroads and actually knowing a little bit of history has to be one of my favorite distractions.

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