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When you think of Orlando you probably think of theme parks and Mickey Mouse. But that’s not all there is. Orlando is home to a wealth of wildlife, scenic trails, springs and countless lakes and rivers, making it an excellent paddling location.
There are plenty of places to go kayaking in Orlando, Florida. We have narrowed it down to just a few of our favorite spots.
5 Best Places To Kayak In Orlando, Central Florida
1: Shingle Creek, FL
Shingle Creek is a 23 mile long creek that begins in South Orlando and flows south into Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga) and forms part of the headwaters of the Everglades. This can be a great spot if you’re looking for a paddle through wildlife and wilderness without straying too far from civilization.
A good place to access the water is at Steffee Landing at Shingle Creek Regional Park. There’s parking, restrooms and a paddling center where you can rent kayaks.
There is another launch site at Babb Landing at the Pioneer Village, just a short drive north of Steffee Landing. The Pioneer Village has parking, restrooms and a collection of historic buildings.
There are parts of Shingle Creek that are not navigable but there is a two mile paddling trail where you can see lots of wildlife, including plenty of alligators to kayak with and bird life.
2: Indian River Lagoon, FL
The Indian River Lagoon is located on the east coast of Central Florida and is just an hour’s drive from Orlando. This coastal river lagoon can be a popular place for kayak fishing, as well as night kayaking to experience the natural phenomenon that is bioluminescence.
There are several places you can launch your kayak, with spots where you can pull off the road to park and launch. There is a kayak launch site at Sand Point Park in Titusville and another one just over the bridge at Parrish Park in Titusville.
You can paddle through the expansive Indian River Lagoon and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, next to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This area is home to a variety of wildlife, including manatees. There are lots of mangroves around Merritt Island, so you might want to bring along a GPS or compass as it can be easy to lose your bearings.
3: Wekiva River, FL
The Wekiva River is a National Wild and Scenic River that flows for 16 miles from Apopka before joining the St. John’s River. It can be a fantastic place to escape the crowds of the theme parks.
Wekiwa Springs State Park is located in north Orange County and can be an easy trip from the tourist areas of Orlando. There is a kayak launch at the park, as well as kayak rentals. However, this park can become pretty busy at weekends and during holiday periods.
If you have your own kayak and prefer a quieter spot, there’s a kayak launch at Katie’s Landing at the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. This is around a 10 mile paddle north of Wekiwa Springs.
If you’re launching at Katie’s Landing, it’s an upstream paddle to Wekiwa Springs, although the water is generally slow moving and flat.
4: Blue Springs State Park, FL
Blue Springs State Park is located just west of Orange City. This can be an ideal paddling location if you’re looking for peace and quiet, as well as an abundance of wildlife. However, the park does get busy at weekends.
Blue Springs is generally known for its clear blue water and its abundance of manatees. Manatees spend the winters in the 72 degree waters of the Blue Springs Run. However, you’re not allowed to kayak in these waters between November and March and during other months between the hours of 11am and 5pm.
There is a kayak launch at the park where you can also rent kayaks and canoes, with direct access to the St. John’s River. The St. John’s River is the longest river in Florida, home to large numbers of alligators, birds and fish.
5: Lake Toho, FL
If you’re into fishing you might have heard of Lake Toho, known for its big bass. Lake Toho is a little under 23,000 acres and can be found just south of Orlando in Kissimmee.
The lake forms the headwaters of the Everglades so you can see lots of alligators and a variety of bird life, including ospreys and bald eagles.
A good spot to launch is Scotty’s Cove Conservation Area, where there is a dedicated kayak launch as well as parking.
The lake allows motorized vessels and there are also airboat tours that use the lake, but because of its large size there are still lots of areas where you can paddle and feel far away from it all. There are a number of islands, including Makinson Island where you can camp overnight.
You can also access Shingle Creek from the lake.
What Are The Kayak Laws?
When you’re kayaking in Orlando you will need to adhere to Florida laws and regulations.
- PFDs are required for each person on board a kayak. This can be either Type I, II or III and must be US Coast Guard approved. It does not need to be worn to meet requirements but it needs to be in good condition, a suitable size and quickly accessible. More: Guide to life vests
- Children aged 5 and under must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while on board a kayak.
- Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in Florida and you can face a fine of up to $1000 and jail time for a first offense. You will be considered under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher, or 0.02% if you’re under 21.
- Boat Registration is only required for kayaks and canoes that have a motor attached.
- Paddling at night and in low visibility you will need to have a flashlight or white light on board your kayak. You will also need to have Visual Distress Signals (VDS) for night use if you’re paddling on coastal waters.
- Sound Producing Devices are required on Florida waters. A whistle is acceptable for kayaks and small vessels.
Kayak Rentals & Tours Around Orlando
- The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek (Shingle Creek and Lake Toho, FL – rentals and tours)
- BK Adventure (Indian River Lagoon, FL – rentals and tours)
- Adventures in Florida (Indian River Lagoon, FL – tours)
- Calypso Kayaking (Indian River Lagoon, FL – rentals and tours)
- Adventure Kayak Cocoa Beach (Indian River Lagoon, FL – tours)
- A Day Away Kayak Tours (Indian River Lagoon, FL – tours)
- Wekiwa Springs State Park Nature Adventures (Wekiva River, FL – rentals)
- Wekiva Outfitters (Wekiva River, FL – rentals and tours)
- Paddleboard Orlando (Wekiva River, FL – rentals)
- Blue Springs Adventures (Blue Springs, FL – rentals and tours)
As you’ll see, there’s more to Orlando than theme parks. Kayaking in Orlando can be a great way to see the real Florida and get away from the crowds. Remember your sunscreen and bug spray and watch out for alligators.
Do you have a favorite spot to kayak near Orlando? Let us know and share this guide if you found it helpful.