Kayaking In North Florida

Kayaking in North Florida can let you experience a different side to the Sunshine State. From vast wilderness areas to beautiful coastal expanses, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get out on the water.

Check out the famous Florida wildlife and enjoy lazy rivers away from the crowds of the theme parks at some of these awesome spots.

A view on a lazy river during a mild sunny autumn dayPin

17 Best Places To Kayak In North Florida

1: Suwannee River

Canoes along the banks of the Suwannee riverPin
Courtesy: Katy Warner on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Suwannee River can be one of the best places to paddle in the state. This designated wild river features a paddling trail that stretches for over 100 miles through old forests and alongside white sand beaches.

Wildlife can be viewed along the entire route, with alligators, snakes and various birds to be seen. You can rent kayaks and launch at the Suwannee Canoe Outpost near Live Oak.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
2461 95th Drive, Live Oak, FL 32060


2: Blackwater River

Summer light shines over the canoe on the bank of the swampPin
Courtesy: Echoroo on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Blackwater River features a 31-mile paddling trail that can be ideal for all skill levels, with various sections to be paddled if you don’t want to tackle the entire route. The slow-moving river winds through the scenic Blackwater River State Forest, where you can paddle under the tree canopies.

There are plenty of sandbars that are great for camping or picnicking. You can rent kayaks near Blackwater River State Park and arrange a shuttle to the launch.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Kennedy Bridge Road, Baker, FL 32531


3: St Johns River

As the longest river in Florida, the St Johns River offers hundreds of paddling miles, with abundant wildlife and wilderness areas. The river flows extremely slowly, so it’s easy to paddle in any direction. The closer you are to urban areas, however, the more likely you are to be sharing the water with motorized vessels, including river cruises.

From Palatka, you can paddle south through the Welaka State Forest and the Little Lake George Wilderness. You can rent kayaks at Silver Glen Springs.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
319 River Street, Palatka, FL 32177


4: Wakulla River

Fishing on a sunny spring day on the Wakulla riverPin
Courtesy: Anoldent on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Wakulla River features a picturesque four-mile paddling trail that runs from the bridge just south of Wakulla Springs State Park to the Highway 98 bridge. This can be a great spot to view manatees, which are often found in the river year-round, particularly around the Highway 98 bridge.

It can be an easy out and back paddle, with calm water letting you paddle in both directions.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
County Road 365, Crawfordville, FL 32327


5: Little Talbot Island State Park

Little Talbot Island offers great fishing and can be a great spot for exploring northern Florida’s saltwater marshes and estuaries. Simpson Creek can be a good spot to launch and rentals are available on-site.

You can paddle alongside sand bluff banks as you skirt the edges of Big Talbot Island. Myrtle Creek runs parallel with Simpson Creek and also offers excellent paddling.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
13030 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32226


6: Coastal Dune Lakes

The Coastal Dune Lakes are a rare geological occurrence. So rare that there are only three other countries in the world where this exists. There are fifteen named coastal dune lakes in Florida.

Western Lake, separated from the Gulf by dunes, features a boat ramp and a state park with camping and kayak rentals.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459


7: Big Lagoon State Park

Blue kayak ready to paddle over the Big LagoonPin
Courtesy: Patricia H. on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Big Lagoon State Park can be a great place for viewing coastal wildlife, especially birds (it’s the gateway to the Great Florida Birding Trail). Kayak rentals are available in the park and there’s a dedicated kayak launch.

You can paddle around the lagoon or you can set off on an epic adventure following the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail that takes you around the entire state.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Big Lagoon Lookout Tower Trail, Pensacola, FL 32507


8: Wacissa River

The Wacissa River features some of the clearest water in Florida and the 15-mile paddling trail lets you experience the beauty of this designated Wild and Scenic River. The last five miles of the trail are difficult to paddle, with lots of portages, but the first ten are ideal for all levels.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy but with difficult portages for the last section of the trail

Where to Launch & How to get there:
433 Wacissa Springs Road, Greenville, FL 3233

9: Econfina Creek

If you’re looking for a wild Florida experience, Econfina Creek can be the ideal paddling destination, with clear water and lots of wildlife. The 24-mile paddling trail takes you through some of the most scenic landscapes in Florida. However, the first 11 miles (from Scott’s bridge) should only be attempted by experienced paddlers.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, slow-moving water (dangerous currents/log jams in the upper section)

Where to Launch & How to get there:
6418 FL-20, Youngstown, FL 32466

10: Steinhatchee River

The Steinhatchee River features several springs along the six-mile paddling trail that runs into the Gulf of Mexico. This can be an easy paddle for beginners and a relaxing one for experts. Launch just below the falls and end at the Steinhatchee boat ramp.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
Steinhatchee Falls, Steinhatchee, FL32359

11: Santa Fe River

The Santa Fe River features a picturesque 26-mile paddling trail that passes through woods filled with wildlife, as well as several parks and conservation areas. There are also many springs along the route, adding clear water into the tea-colored river before it flows into the Suwannee River.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
US-27, High Springs, FL 32643

12: Guana River

The Guana River can be an excellent spot for wildlife viewing, with many different species to be found, including ospreys and bald eagles. The river forms Lake Ponte Vedra where you can paddle along to the dam, through wetland habitats, from the launch at the North Guana Outpost.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
4415 Mickler Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082

13: Ochlockonee River

The Ochlockonee River is a scenic river with white sand beaches and wilderness landscapes. It flows through the Apalachicola National Forest and can offer a remote paddling experience with campsites along the way. The 62-mile trail may require some portaging, so it’s probably better suited to experienced paddlers.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, slow-moving but with long distances and some portages

Where to Launch & How to get there:
FL-20, Tallahassee, FL 32310

14. Anastasia State Park

Wildlife is abundant in Anastasia State Park, with roseate spoonbills, ospreys and eagles to be seen, as well as dolphins. There’s a kayak launch and rentals in the park, giving you direct access to the calm tidal marsh, Salt Run. You can also paddle along for views of the Spanish fort in St. Augustine.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy, flatwater

Where to Launch & How to get there:
850 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080

15: St George Island

St George Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico that stretches for 22 miles. There are plenty of quiet coves and calm bays to explore, with great fishing and good wildlife viewing. The state park has a launch and several camping spots, as well as beautiful white-sand beaches.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
E Gulf Beach Drive, St George Island, FL 32328

16: Choctawhatchee River

The Choctawhatchee River offers around 88 miles of designated blueway trails. For a relaxed paddling trip, you can launch at Morrison Spring and paddle along the clear water until you reach the main river, where you can experience the Florida wilderness, surrounded by native forests and wildlife.

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

Where to Launch & How to get there:
874 Morrison Springs Road, Ponce De Leon, FL 32455

17: Apalachicola River

The Apalachicola River is a great place for a wilderness trip with almost a hundred miles of trails to suit various skill levels. There are several rivers and creeks within the trail system, allowing you to customize your trip, with primitive campsites along the various routes.

Class of Rapids rating:
Class I - easy but through remote wilderness

Where to Launch & How to get there:
2649 Bluff Road, Apalachicola, FL 32320

Kayak Rentals, Tours And Laws Around North Florida

US Coast GuardPin

●    Suwannee Canoe Outpost (Suwannee River - rentals)
●    Blackwater Canoe (Blackwater River - rentals)
●    Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area (St Johns River - rentals)
●    TnT Hideaway (Wakulla River - rentals and tours)
●    Kayak Amelia (Little Talbot Island - rentals and tours)
●    Friends of Grayton (Coastal Dune Lakes - rentals)
●    Sunshine State Concessions (Big Lagoon State Park - rentals)

Laws

Kayaks do not need to be registered in Florida unless they are motorized. Florida law requires you to have a PFD for each person on your vessel. All children under 6 are required to wear a PFD while boating. Boating while intoxicated is illegal.

Check out our full guide to Florida kayak laws here.

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