10 Best Places To Kayak In Florida [#5 Is My Favourite Spot]

best places to kayak in florida

I have always adored the waters ever since I was a child. In fact, it has been a significant part of my connection with Mother Nature. If you were to ask me, Florida is one of those places on the planet which is packed with beautiful rivers, ocean, ponds, and swamps.

This location can boast of having diverse ecosystems as well as pristine waters which every nature lover will appreciate. Here, you will get every opportunity of going out and enjoying the outdoors and kayaking will be one of those pursuits that will provide you with immense pleasure.

With so many kayaking opportunities in this region, there is simply no time to waste. I have always loved kayaking in Florida, and in the following paragraphs, I will throw some light on the top 10 best places to kayak in Florida.

1) The Imperial River

This particular river which is situated close to Naples in Florida will offer fantastic kayaking opportunities for the adventure buffs. Flowing through Estero Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and Bonita Springs, this river is known for its unique brownish tea hue. It also offers a picturesque float past awnings of oak, pine, and cypress trees.

The water of this river is almost transparent when viewed from the top. It will be possible to watch wildlife including turtles, fish, as well as manatees very easily through this clear water. Of course, getting yourself a see through kayak will make the whole experience more satisfying. Check out the video below to see how clear kayaking in crystal clear water works.

However, I will recommend you to visit this place during the cold winter months to get a glimpse of the manatees without fail. Although I was fascinated by kayaking in the waters of the Imperial River, I traveled to another nearby destination which happens to be Barefoot Beach situated only a few minutes from the Imperial River.

2) Rainbow River

The well-known Rainbow Springs which happens to be the fourth biggest spring in the state is located in the western part of North Central Florida.

It is responsible for supplying fresh water to the river itself. While kayaking along the river, I simply loved watching the exquisite flora and fauna along with attractive pine trees, turtles, not to mention the river otters as well.

While paddling, I went past the Ocala National Forest and came back again to Rainbow Springs in a loop. This recreational area which was assigned a National Natural Landmark in the year 1972 was a tourist spot initially in the 30s, but now it happens to be a protected forest area. 

I rented a kayak at the park which also provides restrooms along with a picnic area. Hiking trails are also available in case one likes to do a bit of stretching.

3) Turner River

The Turner River is one the top places to kayak in Florida. It provides plenty of mangrove tunnels, captivating swamplands of cypress trees, as well as sawgrass marshes. Moreover, the river also provides the facilities of continuing to Everglades City and Ten Thousand Islands. I found the Everglades City to be quite attractive, thanks to the opportunities of watching breathtaking wildlife.

However, I was told by the locals to remain in my kayak while doing so. The idea of offering me as lunch to one of these alligators did not fascinate me much.

Besides the Everglades City, I also enjoyed visiting the Ten Thousand Islands which happens to be a chain of islands off of the Gulf Coast of Florida.

This region provides a short trail for kayaking named the Sandfly Island Loop where I was able to observe exotic wildlife in an unpopulated area. Here, one will get the facilities of kayak camping along the Wilderness Waterway.

4) Oleta River

The Oleta River is one of the places in Florida where I enjoyed kayaking thanks to its location, in close proximity of Miami. I will suggest everyone coming to Florida to check out the Oleta River which is known primarily because of its clear waters.

It provides an opportunity to any kayaker for kayaking inlets including the Haulover Inlet. While paddling, I was welcomed by a white sandy beach which offers an ideal spot for a hike or picnic. The park consists of quite a few nature trails where I was able to experience Miami’s wildlife to my heart’s content.

I was lucky enough to spot an alligator, though I have heard that fortunate adventurists will be able to get a glimpse of many species of birds, turtles, as well as manatees. The general store at the park offers kayak rentals and guided tours for the tourists.

5) Sanibel Island

This is one of the best places to kayak in Florida and is located in the same place where the Imperial River is situated. While kayaking here, I got many opportunities of watching manatees feeding on water plants, and, although it might seem to be an incredible fact, I spotted several dolphins in the bay.

Being one of the barrier islands on the west coast of Florida, the Sanibel Island presents dense mangrove forests along with impressive wildlife plus numerous species of birds as well. As a matter of fact, Commodore Creek Kayak Trail originates from the national wildlife refuge.

Besides enjoying my adventure in the open, I was also fortunate enough to pay a visit to the Edison winter estate which is rich in history. Here one can even reach the Tarpon Bay by means of a kayak loop stretching for 2.5 miles.   

6) John’s River

John’s River offers some of the clearest waters in Florida for kayaking. I got plenty of opportunities to enjoy the magnificent manatees which are found in huge numbers in the area. I even had the chance to visit a manatee refuge where I stayed for a brief period of time. I have heard that this park offers rentals apart from picnic spots and swimming areas too.

There is also the facility of arranging a guided tour related to the Blue Springs State Park which is a heaven for all those who love forests. It is even feasible to park one’s kayak while enjoying a stroll adjacent to the spring from where the area has derived its name.

We must not forget to carry our cameras along you would not want to miss out on the incredible wildlife-viewing facilities plus the stunning scenic beauty.

7) Cedar Key

One can describe this area in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico as a typical fishing village. It will surely provide a mind-boggling kayaking experience for any adventure enthusiast out there.

I got the opportunity of paddling all the way to Atsena Otie which happens to be a water trail where the Native Americans reside.

The memory of watching a marvelous sunset right here is still fresh on my mind. I will strongly suggest anybody to go for kayaking at the Cedar Key where you will be able to catch the glimpse of eagles, osprey, and blue herons which have their habitat in the mangrove forests safeguarded by the wildlife agencies of the federal government at present. 

While paddling at the Cedar Key during summer, you can also watch adoring Leatherback turtles besides dolphins.

8) Manatee River 

This particular kayaking spot situated in West Central Florida presents an abundance of pine, scrub, as well as moss-covered mangroves.

The river which flows for approximately 46 miles all the way to Tampa Bay right through Manatee County is an ideal place for any novice who does not have too much experience in kayaking.

The trail here spans for a length of 9 miles, originating from Fort Hamer Country Park and ending in the Manatee Dam. While paddling here, I had the privilege of coming across sandbars for a brief moment of my journey. 

The river is virtually empty on the weekdays which makes it appropriate for watching a large number of birds, alligators, manatees, as well as other forms of wildlife.

9) Coldwater Creek

Milton happens to be one of the best locations to kayak in Florida. It presents the Coldwater Creek which is a waterway that is deemed to be amongst the best paddling trails in this region. This attractive creek can boast of sandy river rock bottoms as well as intriguing sand bars where one can have a great time with their team members.

Interestingly, in spite of being sluggish, this particular creek is actually the oldest  in the entire state. Here I came across several residences scattered across the creek in the midst of attractive and serene hardwood and pine forests.

Kayaking here provided me with a fantastic workout, and I felt rather rejuvenated after paddling the whole day.

10) Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River State Park is amongst the oldest recreational areas in Florida which was opened to the public in 1938. The park features the Hillsborough River which provides exquisite opportunities for kayaking.

It is full of a plethora of exotic birds as well as panoramic water views. The river flows for more than 50 miles to the Hillsborough Bay through pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, as well as marshes.

A small set of rapids has been created right here which is rarely found in Florida.

While camping at the Hillsborough State Park, I had a wide range of choice in terms of sites. Being an individual who enjoys adventurous pursuits, I opted for the primitive camp which one can only access on foot. The main campground consists of several tent sites which provide the facilities of water, power, not to mention picnic tables too.

Final Thoughts

With so many fantastic tracking destinations in Florida, it is really difficult to restrict yourself to only these 10 destinations mentioned above. Nevertheless, these 10 places are the best places to kayak in Florida in my opinion.

However, in case you are planning for kayaking in Florida Springs during your subsequent vacation, a question might arise in your mind: “Is it safe to kayak in Florida?” While it is a fact that there is always the danger of being attacked by alligators while paddling in the waters, in case you take the required precautions and follow several safety protocols the chance of an alligator assault is quite minimal. 

I have the experience of kayaking in Florida as well as other parts of the world, and I never had to face any such problems ever. So, get ready and plan for your next kayaking trip to Florida next summer.

Douglas Keister

I am an adventure fanatic that loves nature and adventure sports like kayaking, camping and water sports. I have been doing this for almost 10 years now and have learned quite a few tricks. With my experience, I hope to provide you with the most reliable and accurate information for your next adventure.

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