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Lovely Turkey Creek in Palm Bay combines kayaking & hiking

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.

Turkey Creek Sanctuary canoe landing
Turkey Creek Sanctuary canoe landing in Palm Bay. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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.)

Turkey Creek in Palm Bay dolphin
A dolphin in Turkey Creek near Palm Bay Marina. This is the start of the kayak trail to Turkey Creek Sanctuary. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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.

Turkey Creek in Palm Bay fallen palm trees
The upper end of Turkey Creek has a number of fallen and submerged logs, but we could get around all of them (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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.

Turkey Creek in Palm Bay at Turkey Creek Sanctuary
The boardwalk at Turkey Creek Sanctuary offers views from the atop the sandy ridge. (Photo: David Blasco)

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.)

Boardwalk at Turkey Creek Sanctuary
Boardwalk at Turkey Creek Sanctuary. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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.

Airplants in hammock along Turkey Creek Sanctuary boardwalk.
Airplants in hammock along Turkey Creek boardwalk. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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:

What’s in and near Palm Bay:

Castaways Point Park in Palm Bay
Castaways Point Park in Palm Bay. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
  • 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:

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Thursday 27th of August 2020

What an amazing place! So lovely. Can't wait to visit there & do some fishing. Thanks for sharing.


Friday 15th of March 2019

just note leaving from palm bay marina, it takes about 30 minutes or so to get past the houses and people to get to turkey creek. its not easy when the wind is blowing against you.. =o(


Thursday 4th of October 2018

Thank You for all your wonderful information to share about enjoying Florida. I also live in FTL/ Do you ever do any group activities, that someone can participate in?

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