You can't talk about kayaking in Florida without first discussing the history. Indian Key present in Florida is termed as the Tropical paradise, where all the visitors wish to visit due to the rich history. It is preserved in the form of State park. During 1836, Indian Key, the country seat for the Dade Country was a home to the wreckers- folks, people who recovered goods from the ships which ran off from the nearby reefs.
The Indian Key comprised of a 2-story house, post office, warehouses, stores and a hotel where a man named John Audubon stayed. Indian Key thrived till 1840, 7th August, when it was attacked by the Seminole Indians. 13 residents were killed, 50-70 residents managed to escape along with a famous medical doctor and botanist named Dr. Henry Perrine who got killed. This town never managed to recover. However, now Florida Keys Island offer the visitors with evocative scenes i.e. overgrown ruins along with the jungle-like vegetation, crumbling foundation and constructed buildings along with the street signs which follow the original streets.
Indian Key was a coral reef in the past years due to which it is a perfect place for snorkeling, however, you need to be careful because the shoreline comprises of sharp-edged, prickly reef rocks.
Florida researchers are still trying to figure out the mysterious origin of the oldest canoe which came over the surface after the Hurricane Irma. According to the archaeologists, the wood which was used to construct that canoe is dated to 1600’s. Revell states that Florida has a huge concentration of the canoes dugout from the lands all around the world.
So the kayak history in Florida goes all the way back into 1600’s, at present we are going to discuss the top 10 places in Florida.
Florida is considered as one of the best vacation destinations for kayaking as it has massive palm trees, Orlando theme parks, and sandy beaches. Florida has natural landscapes of diverse variety ranging from the reefs, bays, inlets along with the moss-covered canopies of mangrove forests and ancient Cyprus. Florida has the most beautiful and pristine paddling trails.
1. SEBASTIAN RIVER
The Sebastian community present on the coast of Florida’s Atlantic in the name of St. Sebastian. This man was a Christian martyr, killed during the persecution by Romans during the period from 200 to 300 A.D.
The river with the same name is also present in Brevard Country and the Indian River Country in a location termed as Space Coast near Cape Kennedy. Paddling in the Imperial River is considered as easy to moderate during most conditions, however, you might experience tidal influence while you reach the Indian River.
While kayaking at the Sebastian River, you can experience fresh-water as well as Salt-water vegetation, depending on the location. The surface widens when you reach the Indian River during the trip, where you need to look for the motorboat traffic. You can find restrooms, parking area along with launch area when you reach Dale Wimbrow Park. Guided trips, as well as rentals, are offered. You can enjoy the wildlife opportunities during this trip with wading birds, fish, turtles along with the alligator and manatee.
2. IMPERIAL RIVER
It is not the wildest river because you can discover the houses and cabins on your way. The houses are well-spaced with plenty of pine, oak along with the cypress trees which offers a perfect scenery. The eastern area of the Imperial River is extremely scenic over this creek-like river. The trip of the Imperial River is 9 miles long, however, it breezes through the Estero Bay, Bonita Springs and the Gulf of Mexico.
While traveling through the Imperial River, you are under the canopy of oaks and pines along with the cypress trees. You might also find the manatees into the brown water which is clear enough to view the turtles and fish. The Imperial River is a part of the 190 miles of marked trails which are used for canoes and kayak.
3. SANIBEL ISLAND
It is a gorgeous place in the same area comprising of Gulf coast as the Imperial River and Bonita Springs. Sanibel Island is present on the West Coast of Florida as one of the barrier islands. It is heavily filled with a massive number of wildlife, birds and heavily filled with mangrove forests. The Commodore Creek Kayak Trails initiates from the National Wildlife Refuge. The manatees can be viewed while enjoying the meal consisting of water plants and you can also enjoy the view of dolphins at the bay.
4. RAINBOW RIVER
Further west within North Central Florida, there is a popular spot termed as Rainbow Springs. It is known as the first magnitude spring which pumps fresh crystal water in the Rainbow River. The Rainbow spring is one of the largest spring in the world which has gin-clear water teamed up with fish, birds and natural beauty. During the right conditions, you can easily view the underwater attractions for around 100 feet, due to which it is the popular attraction place for scuba diving and snorkeling.
During the general current, the 6-mile river flows in Dunnellon Florida for about a mile each hour. The river has a bottom average of 3-6 feet but you might see the boils and caves which are 30 feet deep or more than that. Along the Rainbow River, you can discover the fauna and flora typically of West Central Florida along with the Cyprus, Moss-covered pine, turtles as well as the river otters. The padding trail of the Rainbow Springs Park will take the visitors to the Ocala National Forest and then back to the Rainbow springs which are the fourth largest in the state.
5. CRYSTAL RIVER
This spot comprises of 30 beautiful springs, especially at the Kings Bay. The crystal river is considered as a heaven for the manatees who love to spend their winters enjoying the warm spring water. The Crystal River area offers a ton of opportunities for the kayaks along with an additional trip towards the Three Sisters which is listed as #4 on the top places to kayak in Florida.
Crystal River is also a great place to head out and go scalloping from. We do this trip every year.
6. JUNIPER SPRINGS
It is a 7-mile canoe which runs from the Juniper Springs. It is considered an exceptional wilderness adventure. The canopied creek breezes between the dense forests which seem to be untouched by human beings. It is a good idea to visit during the early mornings and paddle through the spotted light which filters through the trees and drops down in the crystalline water.
To enjoy the best experience, visit the place during weekdays rather than on holidays or weekends. During the peak timings, the place may feel crowded by 50-60 canoes. However, during the weekdays you can enjoy the run over the Juniper Springs along with the local wild animals.
7. THE PEACE RIVER
It is located in Southwest Florida and is a perfect place known for kayaking. The Peace River offers short trips along with week-long adventures. The Canoe trail of the Peace River is around 67 miles and begins from the Fort Meade till the Arcadia. The river runs through the swamps beneath the canopy comprising of the cypress trees and also covers the hammocks and hardwood forests.
8. WEKIWA SPRINGS
It is located minutes away in the north of Orlando which is considered as the hustle and bustle. Wekiwa Springs State Park located in Apopka is rated at Number 9 on the top ten list of kayaking destinations in Florida. These springs are a refreshing spot for swimming over the head springs along with an exceptional sandy bottom. Wekiwa springs serve as a perfect alternative to the huge theme parks. It is a 16-mile river which offers the visitors with a perfect taste of adventure over the edge of the great city.
9. SUWANNEE RIVER
This black water river runs for around 246 miles i.e. from Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp and down to the North Florida which divides the panhandle straight from Florida Peninsula down its way towards the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwannee River offers smooth paddling but it has few stretches comprising of the whitewater which are rarities present in Florida.
One of the most popular areas in the Suwannee River is Wilderness Trail which runs for 40 miles present between the Suwanee River State Park and the historic resort for tourists in White Springs. Another favorite spot is known as Stephen Foster State Park.
10. CHASSAHOWITZKA RIVER
In the South of the Homosassa Springs, there is a river named Chassahowitzka River which winds for 4 miles to the Gulf of Mexico all over a 31,000-acre wildlife refuge spread over to protect the migrating birds. Starting from the launch area, there is a series of minor underwater caves which offer outstanding opportunities for snorkeling to the visitors.
Best season/ time to kayak in Florida
The Florida Keys with shallow water interisland along with the tropical climate offers the finest experience of sea kayaking off the world. The Atlantic and Florida Bay in the Florida Keys region are perfectly calm for paddlers, however, you might experience the dramatic variations according to the seasons along with some risk of heavy rains and storms.
The Key’s dry season during the winters i.e. from October to March and April is a perfect time for enjoying kayaking. You will find moderate temperatures during this period, however, severe weather and truly cold winds are uncommon. You might experience storms and rains accompanying the cold fronts plunging from North. You won’t even experience the insect biting issue.
The ocean attracts the Kayaks during the humidity and thick heat weather i.e. in Summers of South Florida. Weather threats daunt during this season. It is common to experience thunderstorms late during the daytime, bad waterspouts or worse hurricanes are also possible.
The timings preferred for kayaking include early morning during the summers to avoid the heat of the sun.
Training centers in Florida
If you are interested in kayaking and want to be a coach or you want to kayak often, you can join the many different kayak training centers in Florida.
The training centers for a kayak in Florida include the following:
- Sprint Training & Resource Center
- South Florida Canoe Kayak Club
- Adventure Spirit Kayaking
- The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek
- Crystal River Kayak Company and Dive Center
- Crazy Woman Kayaks LLC
- Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center
- Jupiter Outdoor Center
- Blue Moon Outdoor Adventures - Fort Lauderdale
- Florida FFA Leadership Training Center
Adventures in Florida:
This company began with a group of friends who did month-long expeditions. These group of friends incorporated the training center for kayaks. This company managed to successfully provide the customers with mini group travel, high level of professionalism and that too with first class service. Adventures in Florida is a training center which never compromises on their commitments, for their guests and help in preserving the natural environment. The company is awarded by 5-star ratings on Trip Advisor.
The local guides at this training center are:
- Certified Kayakers,
- Certified first responders to Wilderness,
- Certified Master Naturalists
Adventures in Florida offers the visitors with traveling opportunity to the best paddling destinations and that too with the highest quality. Whether you are an experienced paddler or a first-time kayaker, they offer with canoes which are highly stable, comfortable and provide you with excellent performance. This company offers you with expedition quality regarding the camping gear.
Central Florida Nature Adventures:
Trip Advisor has ranked them as the most amazing kayak training center in Central Florida. You will discover unique ecosystems with the wildlife enthusiast Kenny who keeps on smiling. You will experience the most exceptional wildlife of Orlando Kayak tour with this company. You can experience the secret spots with Kenny present near Daytona and Orlando where you can see the Otters play, clear springs with fish and turtles swimming along with the manatee's frolic.
These people are best known for their world class service to the customers. A single tour is paddled each day and it all depends on first come first serve basis. The rivers are easily accessible from Daytona, Orlando, Ocala, Mt Dora, FL and The Villages. You can choose any trip such as family tour, photography tour, birding tour or you can book a trip as an adventurous soul. The company offers you with all the necessary equipment so that you can experience an amazing kayak trip.
The paddleboard rentals are offered by them with lessons on any location of waterfront chosen by you such as Winter Park Chain, Conway Chain, and Butler Chain along with different adventure trips. The company also operates the shop named Paddleboard Orlando Pro where they have 60 used and new boards, clothing, paddles and the standup accessories. The PBO team offers you to see the most beautiful water present in Central Florida. They offer you with rentals, tours, and classes with a great time and offer you to travel to unique locations.
This company offers two paddleboard shops, one of which is located on spring-fed Lake Killarney present in the Winter Park. If you want to taste Old Florida then check out the River Outpost located at Wekiva Island. The board rentals range from $25 for an hour and so on. All the paddleboard rentals come with land lessons of 5-10 minutes.
Camping sites in Florida to Kayak
Florida is also known for its campgrounds and parks that allow you to have a direct access to water for your stay. The following are a few camping sites.
1 . John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park:
The nearest city is Key Largo, it has 47 sites with the beach access.
The directions you need to follow starting from Miami, now take Florida Turnpike South and reach the US 1. Follow your track to Key Largo. You will find the State Park entrance to the left at the Mile Marker 102.5.
John Penne Kamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park present in the US. It covers around 70 square miles and is a perfect place for canoeing, kayaking, camping, snorkeling, exploring and scuba diving. It is only coral reef which is easily accessible in Continental US, making it incredibly popular due to which you need to make the reservation for the campsite early. The boat with a glass bottom is provided for non-paddlers which takes the visitors over the coral reefs to view the angelfish, parrotfish, snappers, occasionally wayward shark and barracuda. It allows the kayakers to explore the mangrove venture or straits 1-3 miles inside the Atlantic to enjoy snorkeling over the shallow reefs.
2. Myakka River State Park:
The nearest city is Sarasota, it has 70 sites with 5 cabins.
The Myakka River State Park is 9 miles long stretching through the East of I-75 within the Sarasota over the S.R. 72.
If you are planning to experience natural scenery, visit Myakka River, State Park. It is the largest among all the Florida State Parks, Myakka serves as a homeland for hundreds of animal species. Paddlers can explore the Scenic and Wild River which flows for around 58 miles through the dry prairies, wetlands, and the Pinelands. You can walk over the treetops present on the Canopy walk, hike, and bike, explore the area by riding a tram or you can also enjoy the largest airboat in the world. You can enjoy the overnight stays with primitive campgrounds, full service and stay at the five log cabins available at the site. If your feeling real adventurous, register with the park rangers and kayak to the "the big hole".
3. Cayo Costa State Park:
The nearest city is Fort Myers, it has 30 sites with 12 cabins and access to the beach.
The Cayo Costa state park is located on the South of Boca Grande and in the West of Fort Myers and Pine Island. It is easily accessible by passenger ferry and the private boat. You can bring all your kayaks and gear on the ferry.
Cayo Costa means the key of Coast in the Spanish language which is the underdeveloped and largest barrier island present in Florida. The camping in this area is relatively primitive with summers being scorching hot. There is no electricity present on the island and no air-conditioned cabins. There are beautiful beaches present over 9 miles on the Cayo Costa, you can enjoy the biking and hiking trails present over 5.5 miles along with the mangrove estuaries and pine forests. Dolphins and manatees can be visualized on regular basis. This State Park has one of the best shelling to bring a bag full of treasures from the sea.
Other than these there are many other camping sites which include the following:
- Grayton Beach State Park
- Anastasia State Park
- Silver River State Park
- Collier-Seminole State Park
- Hillsborough River State Park
- Bahia Honda State Park
- Wekiwa Springs State Park
To enjoy kayaking or canoeing in Florida, you need to plan ahead of time. You need to check the weather and wind conditions as it plays a larger part in this activity. During the kayaking, stay in your kayak and enjoy the wildlife around you. There are many places mentioned above to enjoy the kayaking, however, you need to search according to your preference for wildlife and other opportunities such as hiking, biking, scuba diving and snorkeling. The choice of your spot also depends on which region of Florida you are staying in and what type of scenery do you prefer to enjoy.
Gear up and Happy Kayaking!