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Ten best kayaking spots in South Florida

Last updated on February 20th, 2021 at 08:26 am

In southeast Florida, waterways are plentiful. It’s surprising, then, to discover how hard it is to find good places to kayak or canoe. Open space is rare here; we’ve paved it, covered it with condos and then filled in any spots left with strip malls.

A few great places survive, though:  waterways with interesting, appealing scenery where kayaks are not dodging speed boats.

In South Florida, you can always launch your kayak along the beach, of course. But here are some other alternatives; our list for best kayaking in South Florida. This list focuses on southeast Florida — the Atlantic coast from the Keys through Palm Beach County.  

Palm Beach County

1. I consider the kayak trail on the Loxahatchee River the best in South Florida. Here’s my previous Florida Rambler item on the river.    What’s great about the Loxahatchee is that you kayak through one of Florida’s two federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. (The other is the Wekiva.) The cypress trees and lush ferns and air plants create a magical and peaceful environment. The three-hour highly scenic trip is a shady, jungly trail along a narrow, twisting river.

Best kayaking in South Florida: The wild Loxahatchee River in Palm Beach County, where this lily blooms.

Best kayaking in South Florida: The wild Loxahatchee River in Palm Beach County, where this lily blooms. (Photo: Bonnie Gross

2. The kayak trail is at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a very different ecosystem. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on the refuge. This trail takes you through wet prairies, sawgrass marshes and tree islands. It’s a sunny, open trail where you’re likely to see birds and gators.

3. When you’re kayaking at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach, you’re never far from civilization, but the scenery and bird-life are spectacular. The salt-water marshes offer no shade,  so even in winter, bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. You can kayak around the lagoon or venture into the broader, choppier Lake Worth. Here’s our trip report on one popular destination in Lake Worth, which is about a one-mile paddle: Munyon Island. It offers sandy beaches, a boardwalk and picnic pavilions. Be very aware of tides, however. During low-tide, the area around Munyon Island becomes a mud flat. While at MacArthur State Park, take time to walk the spectacular beach, which we recommend here.

4. Kayaking to Peanut Island is another destination in the MacArthur Park area. You can put in your kayak at the Riviera Beach Marina, which is also  home to a great tiki bar. (More about this in the link.)  Peanut Island has a lot to offer — snorkeling, the beaches and the history, which includes the Kennedy Bunker. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Peanut Island.



Broward County

5. Broward’s best and most natural kayak trail is Whiskey Creek in Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (formerly known as John U. Lloyd Beach State Park) in Dania Beach. You can launch your own from the park’s marina, and now, after several years absence, the park has a concessionaire who rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards by the hour or day. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on this kayak outing.

Florida paddling: Whiskey Creek in John U. Lloyd State Park, Dania Beach, Florida

Florida paddling: Whiskey Creek in Dania Beach,

6. I’m lucky to live on the Middle River in Fort Lauderdale, an urban waterway that circles Wilton Manors.  The Middle River is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular outings by kayak and stand up paddleboard. While you’ll find a stretch or two of mangroves and undeveloped land, it’s largely a view of people’s pools and landscaping, with an occasional heron, manatee or iguana sighting. You can launch kayaks at Colohatchee Park, 1975 NE 15th Ave., Wilton Manors, with restrooms and picnic tables. There are two good outfitters on the river —  Sunrise Paddleboards at 2520 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, and Blue Moon Outdoors at George English Park, 1101 Bayview Drive, Fort Lauderdale.

7. Fort Lauderdale’s most historic river is the New River, which runs through the heart of the city. The downtown section is popular with yachts and speed boats and thus not ideal for kayaks. But there are areas that make for better paddling. The canals along Las Olas Boulevard and on the south side of the New River, along Rio Vista and  the Tarpon River, offer views of mansions. yachts and lush landscaping.  You can put in at Victoria Park, 100 N. Victoria Park Road, Fort Lauderdale, where there are a few parking spaces and some old stone steps leading down to the waterway. Miles away, the western portions of the New River are calmer and make for interesting exploring, too. We’ve put our canoe in the water at a private marina and yachting center at 3201 W. State Rd 84, Fort Lauderdale, and paddled under I-595 and then explored the waterway along Pond Apple Slough.

8. West Lake, a  Broward County park, offers extensive, peaceful mangrove areas for paddling. This area attracts lots of bird life because it is the largest remaining mangrove ecosystem in the 85-mile urbanized coast from Miami Beach to West Palm Beach.

You can rent kayaks and canoes here too. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Last boat  out at 3:50 p.m.) Kayaks are $14 for one hour, $24 for two hours and $30 for four hours. Phone number (954)357-5186. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about kayaking on West Lake.


Miami Dade County

9. You’ll find a good kayak trail in the middle of the city at Oleta River State Park in North Miami. An outfitter makes it easy for visitors to get on the water. Here’s a Florida Rambler post on this hidden treasure.

Oleta River paddler

Olete River paddler

10. Like kayaking off the beach, paddling in Biscayne Bay doesn’t require a trail. There are many appealing places to park and launch a kayak along the Rickenbacker Causeway leading to Key Biscayne. We’ve also put our kayak in at a location further south, near the Deering Estate. This kayak trip can involve visiting an active bird rookery or circling Chicken Key. Here are details from a previous Florida Rambler post on Biscayne Bay .

Bonus: The wildest place to kayak is only an hour south of Miami — Everglades National Park. There are several kayak trails in the park. We like Nine Mile Pond, where we spotted a 15-foot crocodile.

Other canoe and kayak trails in Everglades National Park include:

  • Bear Lake Canoe Trail: an out-and-back paddle along a straight man-made historic waterway through thick mangroves. We’ve done this one and enjoyed the mangrove tunnels and wildlife.
  • Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail: Famously: “Hell to get into and hell to get out of.” Through mangrove creeks and ponds.
  • Noble Hammock: a 1.9 mile loop through a maze of mangrove tunnels and small ponds.


Florida Keys

That was 10 spots, as promised, but I can’t skip the Keys. South Florida usually refers to the urban three-county area. But nearby are the Keys — kayak heaven. There are unlimited places to put in your kayak and paddle through spectacular scenery in the Keys. Here are four particular favorites:

Trail for kayaks and canoes through mangroves at Pennekamp State Park

On the paddle trail at Pennekamp

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is famous for its snorkeling, but it also offers 2.5 miles of mangrove trails through the park. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Pennekamp.
  • Big Pine Key/ No Name Key is home to the endangered Key Deer. It’s also a popular spot to kayak. A good base is the Old Wooden Bridge Cabins. Bill Keogh, a well-known author, nature guide and recent author of “Florida Keys Paddling Guide,” operates guided kayaking tours from here ($50 for three hours) and rents kayaks here and  throughout the Lower Keys. (He’ll deliver them to where you are staying.)   If you rent kayaks at the Old Wooden Bridge Marina for self-guided tours, you get an excellent map showing specific features and key sites around No Name Key. The paddle around the island takes about four hours, but the winds on the far side of the island can make the going tough.  Having circumnavigated No Name Key by kayak, I’d recommend exploring the coastal area facing Big Pine Key instead.  Along the way, we saw plenty of birds, Key Deer and any number of creatures in the water, from crabs to rays.
  • Bahia Honda State Park is a great starting point for kayaks, which can be rented at the park. Paddlers circumnavigate the park, explore nearby islands and paddle under the historic “saddleback” bridge built by Henry Flagler. Here’s Florida Rambler’s guide to kayaking at Bahia Honda.



Links for South Florida kayaking spots:

Kayaking the Loxahatchee River, Jupiter

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Boynton Beach

Kayaking to Munyon Island at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park,

Peanut Island, Riviera Beach

John Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach

Middle River, Wilton Manors, kayak outfitter

West Lake Park

Oleta River State Park in North Miami

Kayaking Biscayne Bay

Nine Mile Pond and Everglades National Park

Indian Key Historic State Park in Florida Keys

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Old Wooden Bridge Cabins and kayaking Big Pine/No Name keys

Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys


If you have a favorite spot we’ve missed, believe me, we want to hear about it and give it a try! Please leave 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.

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Tuesday 19th of April 2022

Everglades National Park - Amazing! My family and I didn't really know what to expect when we visited this park today. We were blown away by what we saw. For one thing, the park is well-kept and clean. Also, it has amazing wildlife! At the first stop alone (Royal Palm), we saw anhingas catching and eating fish, giant red grasshoppers, and at least four alligators.


Monday 28th of February 2022

Excellent list. Thank you for sharing. You are my go-to site for family outings and activities since we moved here. Adding Virginia Key for those who are not familiar with it. You can rent there too!

Harold Ochstein

Monday 21st of January 2019

You missed Jones Lagoon in Biscayne National Park. It is one of the most unique spots to paddle in South Florida. A shallow, clear marine wonderland , paddling there is like gliding over your own saltwater aquarium.

Clear waters, inches deep, filled with an amazing diversity of marine life that is untouched by civilization. It is teeming with fish swimming among the mangroves, birds nesting on the islands, baby sharks and stingrays and even an occasional Manatee or Crocodile swimming by while you paddle through an intricate web of mangrove islets. A wonderful escape from downtown Miami, yet it's only 17 miles away as the Heron flies.

There are about 550 acres of sun drenched seafloor with thousands of Upside-down Jellyfish, small Starlet and Finger corals, Sea Cucumbers visible right under you as you glide across the still waters on your paddleboard. Because of it's remote location and being protected by the park's no-combustion zone you will very seldom see another soul on your journey there. It is a 30 miniute boat ride to the fringe of the Lagoon from the Biscayne National Park Visitor Center where you will launch your paddle-craft to explore this fascinating wilderness. Tours are provided by Biscayne National Park Institute or come by your own private boat.

Bonnie Gross

Monday 21st of January 2019

You're right -- it's missing and this trip is absolutely on my to-do list. Until recently, it wasn't easy to book a Jones Lagoon trip. thanks for the idea and encouragement! -- Bonnie

Rebekah Colburn

Sunday 19th of March 2017

Thanks so much for this post. I have been almost everywhere on this list, but I just discovered a hidden gem today. I couldn't believe that I hadn't ever been because I used to live in Lake Worth, but it is well hidden. It is Snook Island Natural Area in Lake Worth. It should be added to the list, it's scenic, super quiet and a great place to observe nature and wildlife. They also have an boat dock that is very nice. Check it out!

Bonnie Gross

Monday 20th of March 2017

Thanks so much! I had visited there a few years ago when it was just being developed, but haven't been back since its completion. I will definitely check it out and add it to the list. I am ALWAYS looking for new places to paddle in South Florida!


Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

You left out Martin county. Halpatiokee park and St.Lucie inlet state park are our treasured paddles. Check us out next time.

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