A kayak trip on Turkey Creek in Palm Bay combines the best of two outdoor treats – paddling and hiking.
The scenic 6-mile-roundtrip kayak outing takes you to Palm Bay’s Turkey Creek Sanctuary, where you can get out and explore 3.5 miles of trails, including a 1.8-mile boardwalk through a lush hammock.
Both the Turkey Creek kayak trail and the Turkey Creek Sanctuary hiking are easy adventures; ideal for families or for folks who want a half day of outdoors action. (It’s a perfect day trip from Orlando or the Port St. Lucie area. We made this kayak trip in a weekend exploring the west shore of the Indian River Lagoon from Stuart to Melbourne.)
The kayak outing starts near U.S. 1 in Palm Bay. You can put in your kayaks at Alex Goode Boat Launch, 1300 NE Bianca Drive, which you reach off Port Malabar Boulevard NE. It’s a free ramp with rest room facilities.
You also can rent canoes and kayaks at Palm Bay Marina, 4350 Highway 1.
We rented a canoe, and we were delighted to start our paddle from Palm Bay Marina with a friendly dolphin circling around us. Dolphin are commonly seen in this wide bay just west of U.S.1 and the Indian River Lagoon, so if you put in at Alex Good Boat Launch, it’s worth paddling east for five minutes to see if you spot dolphins.
Our dolphin repeatedly surfaced all around us in a game of hide and seek. Perhaps he was merely fishing. From the fellow casting a fishing line from shore to the pelicans diving from overhead, everyone seemed to be catching fish that morning in Turkey Creek.
Other kayakers told us they saw manatees in this same location.
The creek flows into the Indian River Lagoon, so your first half of the trip you are paddling against a barely perceived current. At the eastern end of the river, there are houses along the shore. There is also a channel through the mangroves, however, so even here you feel you are in the wild. (Take the middle channel for the fewest views of houses. We took the nature route up and the suburban view back, and enjoyed them both.)
About mid-way in the paddle, you pass under the large Port Malabar Boulevard Bridge and for the rest of the trip, the creek is wilder and very twisty, with many submerged logs.
The creek was full of turtles and when the light was right, you could easily see schools of fish in the shallows. Ospreys hunted overhead continuously and there were plenty of other birds – several varieties of herons, ibises, cormorants, anhingas, vultures, kingfishers, pelicans and others.
Along the way, you’ll come to a canoe landing on your left with a picnic table in a lovely clearing under oak trees. It makes a nice stop for lunch.
You’ll know you’ve reached Turkey Creek Sanctuary because the twisting creek is lined with 25-foot-tall sandy bluffs on its northern shore. The preserve’s boardwalk extends along this sand pine ridge and you may see people gazing down at you from there.
The canoe deck at Turkey Creek is a great place to take a break, even if you don’t want a short hike. If you do, it puts you in the middle of the boardwalk that loops through the hardwood hammock and then along the creek. If you want more hiking, there are several other trails within the preserve’s 130 acres.
The park also has a small nature center and picnic tables.
If you continue paddling beyond the canoe landing at Turkey Creek Sanctuary, you come to the end of creek at a dam. From here on west, lovely Turkey Creek becomes the channelized Melbourne Tillman Canal. Near the dam you are likely to see alligators.
Once you’ve explored Turkey Creek Sanctuary, it’s an easy paddle with the current back to where you started.
Planning your outing to Turkey Creek Sanctuary:
- Alex Goode Boat Launch, 1300 NE Bianca Drive
- Palm Bay Marina, 4350 Highway 1, Palm Bay
- Turkey Creek Sanctuary 1518 Port Malabar Blvd. NE Palm Bay, FL 32905. For more information call (321) 676-6690. Admission is free.
- Can I bring my dog to Turkey Creek Sanctuary? No pets are allowed. A nearby alternative is Ais Trail Park, 2800 Hickory Ave. NE, Palm Bay 32905, three miles away, which is also located on Turkey Creek.
What’s in and near Palm Bay:
- Castaway Point Park in Palm Bay has beautifully situated picnic tables, fishing piers and a little beach on the Indian River Lagoon. It would make a great place to fish, swim, picnic or just gaze at the lagoon.
- The Ted Moorhead Lagoon House, is the welcome center for the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway and offers exhibits on the history and environment of the area. (It closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, so I didn’t get to visit.)
- Downtown Melbourne, five miles north of Palm Bay, is a busy main street with lots of pedestrians visiting restaurants and bars on weekends.
Florida Rambler has written about these nearby places:
- The Brevard Zoo: Kayak trail and lots of interactivity
- Scenic road plus things to do in nearby Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce
- McKee’s Botanical Garden in Vero Beach
- Florida Rambler on things to do in Vero Beach
- Driftwood Inn Vero Beach, funky historic hotel
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
- Oak Hill: Old Florida seafood house and Seminole Rest historic site – Oak Hill is on U.S. 1 at the north end of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, just a mile or so north of the turnoff into the refuge on State Road 3.
- White pelicans: Where to see these spectacular birds – Sightings of white pelicans are becoming more common in and around Merritt Island, especially in Mosquito Lagoon.
- Kayaking the Indian River Lagoon: The spoil islands in the lagoon are great destinations
- Apollo Beach at Canaveral National Seashore – Merritt Island offers access to the southern entrance of Canaveral National Seashore, but there’s another way into this 24-mile pristine beach from the north in New Smyrna Beach.
- Bio-luminescent kayak tours: Eerie glow on night paddles – A special treat awaits visitors to Merritt Island during summer.
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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.