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 River.) The cypress trees and lush ferns and air plants create a magical and peaceful environment. The highly scenic trip is a shady, jungly trail along a narrow, twisting river. Kayak trips leave from Riverbend Park, 9060 W. Indiantown Road, Jupiter, FL 33478.
2. Not to be confused with the Loxahatchee River, this kayak trail at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a very different ecosystem. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on the refuge. This paddling trail through the Northern Everglades 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. It’s a 5.5 mile trail, although there is a shortcut that allows you do about 1.5 mile loop. The refuge is at 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33473.
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.
John D. MacArthur State Park is at 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach, FL 33408.
4. Kayaking to Peanut Island is another great destination in northern Palm Beach County. With its location near the Port of Palm Beach, it has clear blue water and lots of sea life.
You can put in your kayak at the Riviera Beach Marina, which has two outfitters offering kayak and SUP rentals. Peanut Island has a lot to offer — excellent snorkeling, beaches and interesting history. (It is the site of a bomb shelter built for President John F. Kennedy, whose family estate was nearby.) Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Peanut Island.
Riviera Beach Marina is at 200 E. 13th St., Riviera Beach, FL 33404.
5. One of Broward’s best and most natural kayak trails 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 rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards by the hour or day. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on this kayak outing. The park is at 6503 N. Ocean Drive, Dania Beach, FL 33004.
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 33305, and Blue Moon Outdoors at George English Park, 1101 Bayview Drive, Fort Lauderdale 33304.
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 33301, 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. While there are no rentals, you can launch a canoe or kayak on the Dania Cutoff Canal from South Fork Canoe Launch, at 4490 S State Rd 7, Davie, FL 33314. From there, you can paddle east on the Dania Cutoff Canal and then north through wild bird-filled Pond Apple Slough. In two miles, you reach the I-595 bridge.
If you continue under the noisy bridge, you reach the New River. From there, we headed east and paddled along Secret Woods Nature Center where we enjoyed seeing more birds. On the return, as you reach the Dania Canal, there are good views of the Seminole Hard Rock Guitar Hotel.
8. West Lake, a Broward County park, offers extensive, peaceful mangrove areas for paddling, making it one of the best kayaking locations in the area. This area attracts lots of birds because it is the largest remaining mangrove ecosystem in the 85-mile urbanized coast from Miami Beach to West Palm Beach.
We’re lucky to have it: This area was slated for development and saved in the 1970s by environmentalists and a crusading county commissioner, Anne Kolb, after whom part of the West Lake preserve is named.
You can rent kayaks and canoes here. The park is at 1200 Sheridan St., Hollywood, FL 33019. The 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. We were surprised to find beautiful mangrove tunnels on the kayak trail that weaves through the park.
If it’s not too windy, you can paddle to Sandspur Island in the Intracoastal for a picnic and swim. Because Oleta is close to the Haulover Inlet, which brings ocean animals with the tidal water, kayakers sometimes see manatees, rays and dolphins.
The park is at 3400 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach, FL 33160.
10. Biscayne National Park in south Miam-Dade County rents kayaks and has four kayak trails of various lengths along is mangrove-lined shore. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on Biscayne National Park, which includes links to maps of each trail. Biscayne National Parka is at 9700 SW 328th St., Homestead, FL 33033.
Bonus: The wildest place to kayak is only an hour south of Miami — Everglades National Park. There are several kayak trails in the park along the road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo on Florida Bay.
Our top choice would be Nine Mile Pond, where we spotted a 15-foot crocodile.
This Florida Rambler story on kayaking in Everglades National Park lists several other choices.
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:
- The wreck at Garden Cove in Key Largo is one of the closest-to-Miami paddling destinations in the Keys. Here’s a Florida Rambler article about this Key Largo kayaking spot.
- Indian Key Historic State Park is an outstanding kayak destination. The historic island is a ghost town with ruins overgrown by jungle and great snorkeling along its rocky shore. Here are details from a Florida Rambler article on Indian Key.
- 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. 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
Peanut Island, Riviera Beach
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.
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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.