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Best kayaking in Florida: Our 15 favorite kayak spots

Last updated on February 23rd, 2021 at 12:39 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

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

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

Best Everglades kayaking: Turner River Kayak Trail, Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Best Everglades kayaking: 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.

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

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

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

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


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

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

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divid willey

Monday 22nd of June 2020

What was the opinions or guidelines about the canoe which consists of 3 person canoe and good for fishing.

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

Saturday 28th of March 2020

[…] 15 favorite kayaking trails in Florida […]


Monday 2nd of March 2020

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


Friday 28th of February 2020

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!

Bonnie Gross

Friday 28th of February 2020


It's not dangerous. You might see a croc in Everglades National Park but they are shy and no threat if you leave them alone. Alligators are very common and are similarly more afraid of you than vice versa. (Of course, don't swim where you've seen them! And be careful if you have a dog, because gators do attack dogs.)

I'd say Florida has two really special kayaking experiences:

1. In Central and Northern Florida, the clear, pristine springs are a wonder. If you went to the Ocala area, you can experience Silver Spring, Juniper Spring AND the Rainbow River. Details here:

2. The Everglades is unique, and as a journalist I was trained to use that word only when it truly means one of a kind. Kayaking there is special. I'd recommend the Turner River, which I write about here: and trails in Everglades National Park (Probably Nine Miles Pond.) The Everglades, however, extends in areas up to Lake Okeechobee, and another exceptional kayak trip through a cypress swamp is the Loxahatchee River.

I hope this helps!



Monday 24th of February 2020

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

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