One of the highlights of living in Florida is access to water, no matter where you are. And, while there are many ways to enjoy that water, kayaking is perhaps the most exciting. Whether you’re a novice to the sport or a seasoned pro, you can enjoy going on a kayak in Florida at any of these top destinations.
1. Rainbow Springs
No, this isn’t first on this list because it has “rainbow” in the title. Rainbow Springs is one of the most scenic places for a kayak ride. Despite being a state park, the property was once a private park. As you travel along the crystal clear water, you can see gardens and waterfalls made by the previous owner. Everything is framed by mossy hammocks. The combination of natural and manmade beauty makes this park the perfect place for a kayak ride. To make your trip even more fun, bring a tent and spend a night camping or glamping in comfort.
2. Fort Pierce
Located south of Vero Beach, Fort Pierce isn’t on the radar for most tourists. But that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best places to kayak in Florida. Whether you rent or bring your own kayak, you should plan to check out the mangrove-lined canals in the dark. It’s not uncommon for bioluminescent jellyfish to brighten the waterways, which can be quite the sight.
3. Shell Key Preserve
If you want to see marine life, Shell Key Preserve should be on your list of places to go kayaking. The preserve is almost 2,000 acres of protected area, which includes a 195 acre barrier island. Typically, you can see manatees, dolphins, and herons as you paddle through the mangroves. As you peer into the water, you might see crabs and fish darting below. For even more fun, pack some binoculars and do a little bird watching.
4. Jupiter’s Indian River
The lengthy Indian River has a portion in Jupiter that’s great for kayaking. With a blue-green hue, the water is unlike anywhere else. Most of the wildlife in the area is friendly enough to come right up to your kayak. When you get tired, you can stop along any one of the isolated beaches or sandbars. The Indian River is worth exploring, and a kayak is the best way to do that.
5. Weeki Wachee Springs
A state park located in central Florida, Weeki Wachee has a popular mermaid show. But before you take in the show, be sure to make your way through the clear, fresh water. If you kayak for the full six miles of the section, you pass several bubbling springs. Although the surface of the water is blue, there’s a hidden cave system buried below.
6. Great Calusa Blueway
Although the Great Calusa Blueway spans 190 miles, you’ll want to launch your kayak from Pine Island. As you paddle the waters, you can make your way through Estero Bay and into the Caloosahatchee River. Signs mark the way and make it easy to navigate through the complex system of waterways. Tidal creeks, islands, and hidden beaches provide you with hours of exploration.
7. Silver Springs State Park
Yes, there are a few springs on this list already. But Silver Springs State Park has something to offer that no other place in Florida does – wild monkeys. Decades ago, the owner of a local attraction thought it was a good idea to bring monkeys to an island. Because he bought swimming monkeys, there was no way to contain them. Today, you can paddle through the clear water and see monkeys swinging from the trees.
8. Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge
Most people find themselves near Merrier Island because they plan to explore the Kennedy Space Center. However, there’s much more to explore than NASA attractions. The area is the largest barrier island in Florida, with over 140,000 of natural preserve. When you kayak the waters, you can see alligators, dolphins, and other marine life. At night, you get a chance to watch the water light up with bioluminescence.
9. Suwannee River
As one of the most famous rivers in Florida, this one is worth exploring. There are 246 miles of the Suwanee to check out, and there’s something for everyone. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you may want to try kayaking on the whitewater areas of the Suwanee. The Big Shoals area is particularly difficult to paddle through. For those with less experience or desire for an adrenaline rush, the rest of the river is rather calm. The blackwater river takes you through a variety of environments, including wetland and prairie.
10. Winter Park Chain of Lakes
What makes Winter Park a unique place to kayak in Florida is the fact that it’s manmade. To explore the estates, city, and occasional wildlife along the Chain of Lakes, paddle your way around. You won’t travel far before seeing something interesting, like wading birds or a piece of history. There are more than six lakes connected by canals, and you can explore them all without leaving Winter Park.
Tips to Know Before You Kayak in Florida
If you’re new to kayaking, there are a few things you should know before you get started. First, you’ll probably get wet. Even though you’re unlikely to fall in the water, the water from the paddles will drip on you. It’s essential to dress properly, especially when the winter rolls around. It’s also important to protect your personal belongings in a waterproof bag, or you could end up with a problem.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should always tell someone before you head out on your kayak. Some of the waterways are complex channel systems, and getting lost is a possibility. Before you go on the water, tell someone where you will be.
Finally, respect the wildlife. As a kayaker, you’re bound to have a few manatees come up to you. Resist the temptation to touch them, and do the same with other wildlife.
**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.