Kayaking in and Around Florida: 10 of the Best Places To Paddle and Canoe

The Sunshine State is a paddler’s paradise from the Florida panhandle to the Keys and everywhere in between. Florida has dozens of designated paddling trails, over a thousand miles of coastline, and 1700 miles of rivers, lakes, and streams offering diverse experiences for kayakers. Whether you’re looking for a quiet, picturesque paddle over calm, flat water or whitewater thrills, you’ll find it in Florida.

Explore saltwater ecosystems where cypress trees are draped with Spanish moss. Or paddle to a deserted tropical island with unspoiled beaches and remnants of a ghost town. Let this guide to 10 of the best places to kayak in Florida help find the one for you.

1. Coastal Dune Lakes, FL

Stalworth Lake, Florida

Walton County in Northwest Florida has 15 named dune lakes, a unique geographical phenomenon you’ll only find here or in Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and Oregon. The lakes are bodies of fresh water adjacent to the ocean. You’ll be amidst diverse wildlife and sand dunes with views of the turquoise water of the calm Gulf of Mexico.

The lakes offer kayakers an easy pace over placid waters with stunning scenery. Lake Powell in Camp Helen State Park is the largest of these coastal dune lakes. And if you don’t have your own kayak, rentals are available in the park.

2. Blackwater River, FL

Blackwater River in Florida
Blackwater River, FL by Judy Gallagher (CC BY 2.0)

Kayakers looking for a swifter waterway in Northwest Florida will find it at Blackwater River. The water is a dark tan color and contrasts with the white-sand beaches along the riverbanks for a visually stunning effect. The river is 56 miles long, and 31 of them are a sheltered, designated paddling trail.

The beginning of the designated trail is in Okaloosa County, and several launch points along the river help you customize your trip by length and experience. The trail ends in the Blackwater River State Forest. Rent equipment for everything from a two-hour paddle to an overnight camping trip at Blackwater Joe’s on Bryant Bridge Cutoff Rd.

3. Myakka River, FL

Myakka River in Florida
Myakka River Florida

For the best kayaking along Florida’s popular Gulf Coast, head to the Myakka River, a part of the Myakka River State Park. Huge live oaks line the river’s shores, and at some points, grassy marshes come into view. Be prepared to share the water with countless huge alligators, and you’ll spot pretty pink spoonbills, black-necked stilts, and wood storks.

Paddlers can combine camping in the park with kayaking and also paddle on one of the adjoining lakes. The park offers 80 shady camping sites, 39 miles of hiking trails, and paved bike trails to enhance your kayaking trip.

4. Indian River Lagoon, FL

Indian River Lagoon, FL by Michael Seeley (CC BY 2.0)

Central Florida’s Indian River Lagoon offers kayakers a unique nighttime experience like no other. From June to October, during Florida’s warmer months, you can take a bioluminescent paddling tour to witness an amazing phenomenon. Natural occurring algae in the water give off a neon blue underwater light show.

The river is also home to glowing comb jellies you’ll see once October ends and all the way through March. They’re similar to jellyfish but have no stingers. The lagoon is also a good place for a romantic sunset paddling trip. The lagoon is about 1.5 hours southeast of Orlando along the Atlantic Coast.

5. Suwannee River, FL

Suwannee River, FL by Andy Montgomery (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This scenic water trail in North Florida is one of the best-known and well-loved in the state. The trail is part of the 171-mile-long Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. It begins in White Springs west of Jacksonville at Big Shoals State Park. Kayakers looking for an exciting ride will find the state’s largest whitewater rapids here.

The Suwannee River Trail ends at the Gulf of Mexico, and kayaking along the way ranges from easy to difficult. Be sure to check the water conditions and pick the paddling route appropriate for you. A number of outfitters in the area offer day rentals and overnight trips.

6. Crystal River, FL

The Crystal River, FL by Paul Clark (CC BY 2.0)

Next, we have the incredible Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida is one of the most beautiful places to kayak in the whole state. Being right next to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s famous for its incredible watercolor and natural springs that have one of the most unique creatures you’ll see on a kayak in all the US – Manatees. These wonderful creatures, also known as sea cows, love the warm water and flock to the river as a sort of spa.

We’d recommend a trip over to Kings Bay Manatee Refuge to see them up close.

7. Long Key State Park, FL

Beginning paddlers looking to practice their new skill will find the best water trail for novices at the Long Key State Park. There are two launch points for the 1.5 mile-long trail, a beach launch, and a kayak/canoe launch just past the ranger station. This relaxing easy-to-moderate paddle takes you past a pretty residential area and mango-lined canals.

The park is perfect for those looking for an idyllic stay in the Florida Keys. The 965-acre park offers camping, fishing, hiking, and more. You can also park for free. Bring your own kayak or rent one at the ranger station.

8. Turner River, FL

Turner River, FL by Chauncey Davis (CC BY 2.0)

Every kayaker dreams of paddling through Florida’s mysterious everglades. Make your first Everglades excursion be the Turner River’s kayak trail. It’s a favorite for paddlers because it has all the Everglades has to offer in one trip.

Other Everglade water trails are either through cypress swamps, sawgrass, or mango environments. The Turner River Kayak Trail has all of this along with plenty of wildlife to spot. The trail is eight miles from Everglade city and you can get there from Miami in just over an hour.

9. Indian Key off Islamorada, FL

Indian Key, FL

A favorite kayak spot in the Florida Keys is the Indian Key State Park. Explore jungly ruins and park along the rocky shoreline for some snorkeling. If you’ve ever wanted to paddle out to a deserted island, you’ll have the chance.

It’s a short paddle across open water to a small green island that can be seen from the Overseas Highway. The island is a historic area that is undeveloped and uninhabited with the ruins of an original village.

10. Fisheating Creek, FL

Fisheating Creek, FL by David Moynahan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Fisheating Creek is just west of Lake Okeechobee in Southeast Florida. The water trail has been somewhat elusive over the years and is on many kayaker’s bucket lists. The area was privately owned for many years, and the state purchased the land in 1998.

Outdoor enthusiasts were thrilled but soon realized the water fluctuated with the seasons. The water level is highest in the heat of summer, but for a brief period in the fall, you can beat the heat and wind through cypress knees and stunning scenery. Be sure to take a camera.

Summing Up Kayaking In Florida

Florida is blessed with sunshine and a comfortable climate for year-round kayaking excursions. The diverse terrain, lakes, and waterways provide a different experience in every region.

Get deep in the wilderness or kayak near popular points of interest and recreation. Surrounding state parks, camping facilities, hiking trails, and more are accessible from the water trails in Florida. Plan anything from a half-day paddle to a full-blown camping trip at Florida’s best kayaking spots.