Of all the recreational boating experiences Florida has to offer, kayaking seems to be the most popular and most convenient, since most paddlers choosing to rent their craft on location. Thousands of miles of intracoastal, shoreline and freshwater locations make the Sunshine State one of the top destinations for kayaking. We’ve put together a few incredible kayaking experiences you may want to try.
If you’re in the panhandle, the gorgeous beaches at Pensacola are a great place to take a kayak out for the day. But paddling out at night is even better at Glow Paddle, a new kayak rental company that uses colorful LED lighting to make your kayaking experience magical. With two locations on Pensacola Beach and one on the secluded Navarre Beach, you can choose your own level of tranquility.
One of the most unique kayaking excursions is located in Central Florida at Blue Spring State Park. Located just north of Orlando off I-4, and on the way to Daytona Beach, Blue Spring is a natural warm water spring that draws hundreds of manatees year-round, but especially in the cooler months. The small waterway known as the “spring run” is a wake-free zone with crystal clear water, making it easy to see and photograph manatees drifting below.
The best time to encounter these endangered mammals is November through March. Book ahead of time, arrive early and if possible on a chilly morning, to see hundreds of manatees crowding into the spring to enjoy the year round 72 degree water temperature.
Another of Florida’s truly unique kayak experiences is a bioluminescence tour, and some of the best can be found in Titusville near Cocoa Beach. A Day Away Kayak Tours offers excursions for two different bioluminescent species:
- Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence is best viewed in the warmer months of May through November. Paddling through this glowing plankton creates a magical swirling blue light. Sometimes dolphins, manatees and small fish swim past, leaving blue glowing trails all around you.
- Comb Jelly Bioluminescence is best viewed in the cooler months of November through May. Comb jellyfish are clear orbs with blue-green dots of iridescent light inside. They are harmless, so you can hold them in your hand.
Booking a night tour to check out this natural phenomenon means you’ll avoid the heat of the Florida daytime. Not only is this a fun tour for the whole family, it’s a fascinating science lesson for adults and children alike.
Famous for its underwater mermaid show that began in 1947, Weeki Wachee has been a natural tourist attraction for many years. Some of the clearest and most picturesque water in Florida bubbles up from Weeki Wachee Springs, the deepest freshwater caverns in the country. Kayaking along the glassy surface of the spring run is not difficult, as the current moves at a steady 5 mph for 12 miles before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the most serene places to paddle within the intracoastal waterways is at Fort Pierce, where you can rent a clear (see-through) kayak that lets you observe nature below as well as above. Explore the maze of shady mangroves along the inlet and the sandbars for sea life like conch, rays and starfish.
There’s no better ecotour experience than within the protected habitat of Everglades National Park. Kayaking on the Turner River through mangrove tunnels while encountering real wildlife in undeveloped habitat is one of Florida’s most unique excursions. For a truly immersive experience, Everglades Adventures offers a Kayak Stay & Play experience package, a tour that includes a stay at their Ivey House accommodations on property. There’s no better way to visit the largest subtropical wilderness in the country.
If you find yourself in the Florida Keys, you’ll want to paddle out to Indian Key near Islamorada. Indian Key is a small island a half mile off Matecumbe Key that’s easily accessible by sea kayak at high tide. This 11-acre historic state park is a local favorite for those who crave seclusion, and features a ghost town with 19th century foundations and monuments. If you’re looking for more to do, continue paddling to Lignumviatae Key, a botanical state park on the north side of Matecumbe Key.
And Many More
Of course, there are many more opportunities for incredible kayaking in Florida. We’ve only listed a few, and hopefully given you some ideas for your next excursion.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there are always new experiences to try in Florida. If you’d like to stay informed about new attractions, events and travel tips, enter your email below to subscribe to Enjoy Florida Online.