Kayaking In Florida

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Do you love kayaking in unique locations?

Have you ever considered kayaking in Florida?

Is Florida well-known as a place to go kayaking, or is it a little lesser-known?

Florida is a popular kayaking destination for those who enjoy paddling as a hobby. The weather is nice most of the year, and there are plenty of excellent bodies of water to paddle through and experience in Florida, too.

If you’re looking for a unique and exciting vacation destination in which you can enjoy your favorite form of water adventures, you should have no trouble finding just what you’re looking for among the many kayaking locations available in Florida.

Learn all about the best kayaking in Florida by checking out the article below.

Option #1. Blackwater River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Milton
Trip Duration: Full-day
Notable Landmarks: Last remaining unpolluted sand river in the US

Blackwater River is part of a State Forest and features a unique, beautiful sand river with clear waters. Enjoy a day-long kayak trip or a shorter inner tube float to relax in nature.

Pros

  • Children are welcome on these tours.
  • There are plenty of options to help guests find just what they’re looking for on this river.

Cons

  • Guests must be off the water by 6:00 pm every day.
  • This river is a longer drive from major towns and cities than some others.

Option #2. Calusa Blueway

Difficulty: Intermediate
Location: Bonita Springs
Trip Duration: Multi-day
Notable Landmarks: Mangroves, dolphins, manatees

The Calusa Blueway is a lengthy kayaking trail that stretches 190 miles in the area surrounding Fort Myers. There are many put-ins and take-out points, and this long trip is a kayaking dream.

Pros

  • There is a lot of beautiful nature to be seen on this trip.
  • The trip can be as long or as short as you like.

Cons

  • There are no tour guides available for the Blueway.
  • You will encounter alligators.

Option #3. Cedar Key

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Cedar Key
Trip Duration: Half-day
Notable Landmarks: Atsena Otie island, eagle nests

Paddle through a wildlife refuge and see some historic sights as well when you kayak Cedar Key. Kayak rentals are available on this waterway year-round unless there is inclement weather in the area.

Pros

  • Kayak rentals run through 4:00 pm daily at Cedar Key.
  • Paddlers can rent several styles of kayak and upgrade their seats as well.

Cons

  • There are no tour guides available for Cedar Key trips.
  • There are no overnight trips available here, either.

Option #4. Ichetucknee River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Fort White
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Manatees, cypress forests

The water on this river is clear, fresh, and beautiful. In fact, it’s so clear that paddlers can easily spot manatees just under the surface, making this a great wildlife viewing trip.

Pros

  • This offer is an easy paddle for all ages.
  • There are both guided tours and rentals available for this river.

Cons

  • There may not be tours available every day, so you will need to call ahead.
  • Depending on the time of year, you may not spot any manatees.

Option #5. Indian River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Vero Beach
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Bioluminescent algae

Paddlers can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes when touring the Indian River. Join a tour to try to spot some bioluminescent algae, or take your own trip through the waters of this tourist-friendly river.

Pros

  • There’s plenty of wildlife to see on this river.
  • The river is easy to access from nearby cities and towns.

Cons

  • This choice is a tourist-heavy location that may be busy during certain times of the year.
  • Reservations are almost always required.

Option #6. Juniper Run

Difficulty: Intermediate
Location: Astor
Trip Duration: Half-Day
Notable Landmarks: Juniper Prairie Wilderness

This off-the-beaten-path kayaking tour takes paddlers through very old forests into the depths of the real Florida. Get far away from it all on this trip, which is not often frequented by tourists, for a quiet escape.

Pros

  • Paddlers can rent canoes, kayaks, or tandem kayaks on-site.
  • It is also possible to bring your own kayak for this river.

Cons

  • There are no inflatable boats allowed, including kayaks.
  • This river may be too challenging for kids.

Option #7. Key Largo

Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Location: Key Largo
Trip Duration: Half-Day, Full-Day, short excursions
Notable Landmarks: Everglades

Get out in nature and see the heart of Florida when you kayak in Key Largo. Many trips explore the Everglades and allow paddlers to get far away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby cities.

Pros

  • Key Largo trips focus on eco-friendliness and try not to disturb local nature whenever possible.
  • Tours are customizable depending on your preferences.

Cons

  • Kids don’t ride free, unlike many other kayaking tours in Florida.
  • Other excursions, such as fishing, cost quite a lot more.

Option #8. Manatee River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Polk County
Trip Duration: Half-Day
Notable Landmarks: Little Manatee River State Park, manatees

Paddle through quiet waters and keep an eye out for local manatee residents on the Manatee River. Many tour lengths are available and allow paddlers to explore the riverbanks on their own time before returning for the evening.

Pros

  • Paddlers are encouraged to camp out overnight after their paddle if they choose to.
  • Swimming is available throughout the river.

Cons

  • No kids under six are allowed on this river.
  • You will see alligators on this trip.

Option #9. Rainbow River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Dunnellon
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Forests, pristine water

The Rainbow River is one of the clearest bodies of water in Florida, and is a popular destination for kayaking, tubing and more because of this. There are many ways to enjoy this river year-round.

Pros

  • Children under five can join an adult for free on this river.
  • Single and tandem kayaks are both available for trip rentals.

Cons

  • There are no places to safely stop on the river during a paddle.
  • No disposable food containers are allowed on this river at all.

Option #10. Santa Fe River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Gainesville
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Poe Spring, Rum Island, US-27 Bridge

Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle board and enjoy a float down the Santa Fe River. This is a peaceful, slow, and easygoing trip with a lot of scenery to enjoy along the way.

Pros

  • Children under 12 can paddle for free as long as an adult is with them.
  • Rentals include flotation devices and gear needed for use with kayaks or paddle boards.

Cons

  • This trip can be crowded at certain times of the year.
  • Trips will be canceled if there is lightning in the area.

Option #11. Silver Springs

Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Location: Silver Springs
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Silver Springs State Park

As part of the Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs provides a comfortable and relaxing place to paddle and explore. The State Park even offers a return shuttle service for those who want to paddle out and don’t want to paddle back again.

Pros

  • It is possible to rent clear-bottom kayaks for wildlife viewing here.
  • All kayaks include seatbacks for ergonomics and safety.

Cons

  • Clear-bottom kayaks are only available as tandems.
  • There are no rental paddleboards available here.

Option #12. Suwannee River

Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult
Location: White Springs
Trip Duration: Half-Day, Full-Day, Overnight
Notable Landmarks: Big Shoals, Stephen Foster State Park, White Springs

The Suwanne River provides a unique and different experience than many other Florida paddling options. The whole river stretches 240 miles and begins in Georgia, ending at the Gulf of Mexico. Portions of the river in Florida are open and available for paddling.

Pros

  • Depending on where you put in, this river can be an easy paddle or a very challenging one.
  • There are plenty of launch points to choose from.

Cons

  • With no guided tour options, the whitewater parts of this river are meant for experienced paddlers only.
  • You will need a Florida fishing license if you plan to fish here.

Option #13. Wakulla River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Tallahassee
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Manatees, Wacissa River, magnolia trees, cypress forests

Bring family members of all ages to enjoy a slow, calm paddle on the Wakulla. As part of Wakulla Springs State Park, this river is calm, clear, and simple to navigate.

Pros

  • It’s easy to see manatees from a manatee viewing paddle tour.
  • There are many other touring options available, including a moonlight paddle, on this river.

Cons

  • Tours require at least three paddlers or they will be canceled.
  • Reservations are strongly encouraged as this is a busy location.

Option #14. Weeki Wachee River

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Weeki Wachee
Trip Duration: Half-Day
Notable Landmarks: Cypress trees, palm trees, turtles, manatees

Weeki Wachee is a popular getaway that provides up-close encounters with natural wildlife. This beautiful river is often home to manatees as well as other popular animals, and it remains more or less unspoiled due to conservation efforts and strict usage rules. Note that walk-ins are never permitted on this popular river.

Pros

  • It doesn’t take long to reach Weeki Wachee from popular cities such as Orlando.
  • Self-guided options and tours are both available on this river.

Cons

  • This option is one of the most popular natural destinations in Florida and is always crowded.
  • There are no disposables permitted on the river—including soda cans and water bottles.

Option #15. Wekiwa Springs

Difficulty: Easy
Location: Longwood
Trip Duration: Half-Day or shorter
Notable Landmarks: Rock Springs Run, hiking trails

Rent a kayak and get out on the water without the restrictions of a tour group when you visit Wekiwa Springs. This easy paddle is great for the whole family to enjoy together.

Pros

  • There are options for horseback riding, hiking and more in the State Park.
  • There are food and drink options available within the park as well.

Cons

  • Kayak rentals are first-come, first-served at this very popular destination.
  • This location is often overcrowded with tourists.

Conclusion

What is the best time of year to go kayaking in Florida? In general, it’s a good idea to go during the spring or the fall. At these times, the weather is cooler but still generally warm and sunny, and tourists may not be as prominent as they are in the summer.

Are there any reasons to avoid the peak season? You may want to skip going during the late summer or early fall, as this is also hurricane season. Always pay attention to the weather when scheduling your Florida kayaking vacation.

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