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: The kayak trail at Curry Hammock State Park. This might be the ideal kayak experience for many Keys visitors. It is an especially good place to rent a paddleboard because with the shallow clear water, you’ll have the best vantage point to appreciate the sea life underwater. You’ll need about two hours and kayak and paddleboard rentals are cheap and easy from the ranger station. The water is shallow and sparkling clear, perfect for admiring thousands of upside down jelly fish (Cassiopeia) that look like they could be dubbed Florida snowflakes. More about Curry Hammock State Park.
More places to kayak in the Florida Keys:
Best kayaking in Southeast Florida
Favorite kayak spot: Loxahatchee River in Jupiter. One of only two federally designation Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Loxahatchee’s scenery is exquisite. Paddlers can take short out-and-back trips of two to three hours or arrange for a shuttle and kayak a more demanding 8.3 mile trip downstream. The latter may require several portages over fallen trees and is for adventurers in good shape. Loxahatchee River in Jupiter: Kayak a wild, scenic river in South Florida
Terrific but only for a limited season: 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, which is generally during the hot, buggy rainy season and during only a few weeks in the fall and early winter. 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
More places to kayak in the Southeast Florida
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 (Note: Water levels are critical here, so make sure the water isn’t too high or too low.)
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
More places to kayak in the Everglades:
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
More places to kayak along Florida’s Gulf Coast
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
More places to kayak in Central Florida
Note: Some facilities are still closed from Hurricane Ian and Nicole. Please confirm in advance.
Hontoon Island near DeLand: Camping, cabins, great kayak trip in wild setting (cosed as of 1/15/23)
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
Best kayaking in Northwest Florida
Favorite: Suwannee River. If you think all there is to the Suwannee 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: Suwannee River: Skip the song; but go for kayaking & camping. Also: Suwannee 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
Worth discovering: Kayaking to Atsena Otie from Cedar Key. Atsena Otie island is even older than historic Cedar Key. It’s a half-mile kayak from the town beach. You are rewarded with a sandy beach and an atmosperic historic cemetery to explore. Full story: Atsena Otie: Cedar Key’s easy, fun & scenic kayak trip to an island
More places to kayak in Northwest Florida
Best kayaking in the Panhandle
Favorite: Blackwater Creek near Milton: Blackwater River is known as the only pristine white sand bottom river in the United States. This river passes through the wild and natural lands of Blackwater State Forest all the way from the Alabama state line. There are no homes or docks on the river. The current is two to three miles per hour and the water is shallow, making it one of the easiest paddling trips you can take. Blackwater River is a series of big S curves. At every curve, there’s a sandbar – a magical spot ideal for wading, swimming, building sand castles and having picnics. In summer, the Blackwater River is a very popular tubing river. Read more at our story on kayaking near Milton
Worth discovering: Coldwater Creek: One of the most popular tubing and paddling rivers in the Milton area, Coldwater Creek is a swift, cold, clear stream through a beautiful quiet forest, with only a few cottages and docks along its banks. Coldwater Creek’s water is tannic orange and the bottom is largely white sand. The spring-fed river is 80 degrees year around, which means alligators don’t like it, but folks who want to cool down with tube ride in summer sure do. Read more at our story on kayaking near Milton
More places to kayak in the Panhandle
Note: There are some good paddling suggestions in our comments section for more Panhandle rivers that I haven’t explored. The Panhandle has some of the best kayaking in the state, unfortunately far from my home in Fort Lauderdale.
Did we miss your favorite? Please add suggestions in our comment field below.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.