Kayaking In South Florida – MUST-SEE Destinations

Kayaking in South Florida can often seem like you’re paddling in paradise. From clear, turquoise coastal waters and white sand beaches dotted with palms, to wild mangroves and lazy rivers, there are many paddling adventures to be found.

You can also get an up-close look at some of South Florida’s unique wildlife, including crocodiles, roseate spoonbills, Key deer, as well as many other Florida species, such as gators. To experience the wild side of Florida, check out some of these bucket-list paddling locations.

A view at small lagoon of a lake in South FloridaPin

11 Best Places To Kayak In South Florida

1: Indian Key

Indian Key is a small uninhabited island that can only be reached by boat, making it the ideal spot for a kayaking trip. The shallow waters are incredibly clear, allowing you to see seagrass, sharks, and stingrays below you.

This tiny island, which is a state park, is located just off the coast of Islamorada and can be an easy paddle to the designated kayak landing on the island. Indian Key features historic ruins of a village constructed in the 1830s, which can be worth checking out on foot. There are no services on the island, so remember to bring water and sun protection.

Kayaks can be rented from Robbie’s in Islamorada.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, shallow flatwater

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Robbie’s, 77522 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, FL 33036


2: Great Calusa Blueway

The Great Calusa Blueway covers 190 miles of designated paddling trails along the Gulf Coast. This can let you explore small or large sections of coastal and inland waters, depending on your skill level or the amount of time you want to spend paddling.

The blueway can be accessed in several locations around Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Sanibel Island and Bonita Springs. The trail lets you explore the shallow coastline, with lots of wildlife-viewing opportunities. Storks, dolphins, manatees, eagles, and many other species can be spotted along the blueway.

You can rent kayaks on Big Hickory Island.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, shallow bays and calm waterways

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Estero Boulevard, Bonita Springs, FL 34134


3: Everglades National Park

Paddlers on a calm river surrounded by a lush vegetationPin
Courtesy: WIDTTF on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Florida Everglades can be one of the most unique places in the world to paddle, with the area being home to both alligators and crocodiles (the only place on Earth where this occurs).

There are numerous paddling trails of various lengths to suit different skill levels, including multi-day trips. Trails can be accessed from Flamingo on the southern coast and from Everglades City on the Gulf Coast. Kayak rentals and multi-day tours can be found at both locations.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy but the area is remote.

Where to Launch & How to get there:
815 Oyster Bar Lane, Everglades City, FL 34139.


4: Key Largo Mangroves

Kayaking through the mangrove tunnels in Key LargoPin
Courtesy: David Berkowitz on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Key Largo’s mangroves can be found in the Upper Keys and can be a great place to paddle whether you’re a beginner or an advanced kayaker. The waters around Key Largo are calm and shallow, with fantastic opportunities to see dolphins and manatees in the wild.

The mangrove tunnels can be best explored by paddle along Dusenbury Creek. You can launch at Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo from where it’s just a short paddle across the bay to Dusenbury Creek. Kayak rentals and tours are also available at the launch.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, calm water

Where to Launch & How to get there:
104050 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL 33037


5: Sanibel Island

Kayaks lying along the Sanibel Island coastPin
Courtesy: Lizard10979 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Sanibel Island, on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, offers a fantastic range of paddling opportunities, from sea kayaking on turquoise waters alongside white sandy beaches to paddling through mangroves and quiet bays filled with wildlife.

One of the best places to spot wildlife is within the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. You can launch into Tarpon Bay, inside the refuge, where you can look for various species of birds, including spoonbills, pelicans, and bald eagles. You can also spot manatees and turtles.

Kayak rentals are available at the Tarpon Bay launch (launch fee applies).

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, calm water close to shore

Where to Launch & How to get there:
900 Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel, FL 33937


6: Orange River

Entering Manatee Park on a kayakPin
Courtesy: Sporst on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Paddling the Orange River in Fort Myers can give you an up-close view of manatees in their natural habitat. The best time for viewing these endangered mammals is in the winter if the water temperature in the Gulf is cooler.

You can launch and rent kayaks at Manatee Park and paddle upstream for around five miles through natural landscapes. The Orange River forms part of the Great Calusa Blueway, so you can extend your trip out to the coast along the Caloosahatchee River if you want extra paddling miles.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, slow-moving water

Where to Launch & How to get there:
10901 Palm Beach Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL 33905


7: Loxahatchee River

Kayakers paddling along calm Loxahatchee RiverPin
Courtesy: WIDTTF on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Loxahatchee River is a designated Wild and Scenic River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean in Jupiter. The river features gently flowing water that can be easily paddled in either direction. The roughly eight-mile trip takes you through native cypress forests and mangroves as you head toward the coast, with lots of wildlife to be spotted along the way.

There’s a kayak launch at Riverbend Park in Jupiter. Kayak rentals are available inside the park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, slow-moving water

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Riverbend Park, Jupiter, FL 33478


8: Virginia Key

Virginia Key can feel like a tropical oasis despite being just minutes from downtown Miami. The island has a strong history, with Virginia Key Beach Park being the only beach that was accessible to African Americans up until the 1960s, as all other Miami beaches were designated for white people only.

You can paddle around the beautiful shores of this historic island and take in the magnificent views of the Miami skyline. Kayak rentals are available at the historic beach park.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, shallow coastal water

Where to Launch & How to get there:
4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149

9: Peanut Island

Peanut Island can be an ideal place for a kayak trip and is just a short paddle across the water from Riviera Beach where you can launch and rent kayaks. The man-made island features white sand beaches, restrooms and JFK’s nuclear bunker (now a museum).

There are campsites and picnic areas, as well as a paved path that lets you explore the island on foot. But if you want to discover the world under the water, there’s also a snorkeling lagoon.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, calm inland waterway

Where to Launch & How to get there:
200 E 13th Street, Riviera Beach, FL 33404

10: Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park can be an exciting place for a multi-day trip, launching at the visitor center and paddling seven miles across the bay. With calm, clear water you can view various species of wildlife beneath the surface, including stingrays and sharks.

Above the water, the park is home to many different birds that you can spot as you paddle through the mangroves and along the shorelines of the many keys.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy on calm water but with potential long distances

Where to Launch & How to get there:
9700 SW 328th Street, Homestead, FL 33033

11: Saddlebunch Keys

If you’re looking for a quiet place to paddle surrounded by wild Florida, the Saddlebunch Keys could fit the bill. There are lots of uninhabited islands (keys) with mangrove shorelines and the water is so clear that you can see the marine life below.

Launch at several access points on the Overseas Highway or at Geiger Key Marina, where you can also rent a kayak.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, shallow water

Where to Launch & How to get there:
5 Geiger Road, Key West, FL 33040

Kayak Rentals, Tours And Laws Around South Florida

US Coast GuardPin

You’ll find some fantastic outfitters near some of South Florida’s best kayaking locations, with many of them offering guided tours so you can experience the area from a local’s perspective. Or if you want to explore at your own pace, rent a kayak and head off on your own.

●    Robbie’s of Islamorada (Indian Key - rentals and tours)
●    Paddle Naples (Great Calusa Blueway - rentals and tours)
●    Everglades Florida Adventures (Everglades - rentals)
●    Florida Outdoor Adventures (Everglades - tours)
●    Florida Bay Outfitters (Key Largo Mangroves - rentals and tours)
●    Tarpon Bay Explorers (Sanibel Island - rentals and tours)
●    Manatee Kayaking Company (Orange River - rentals and tours)
●    Jupiter Outdoor Center (Loxahatchee River - rentals)
●    The Paddle House (Virginia Key - rentals)

Laws

There are a few laws that you should keep in mind before taking to Florida’s waters. An important one is that you’re required to have a PFD on board for each person on your kayak. Children under the age of six must wear a PFD at all times.

Registration is not required for kayaks and canoes unless your vessel has a motor attached. Boating while intoxicated is against the law. For an in-depth look at some of Florida’s kayaking laws, check out our guide here.

Remember, it’s hot out there, so pack enough sunscreen and water for your trip. You might also need bug spray if you’re heading into remote areas, particularly the Everglades.

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