If you wondering what national parks and state parks offer the best kayaking in Florida, you are in the right place! Florida is considered a vacation paradise and a Dream Destination for adventure lovers for a reason.
These gorgeous landscapes attract tourists from all over the world. Some of the best places to see are in its national parks, where you can find coral reefs, pristine wetlands, mangroves, and other jaw-dropping landscapes.
Florida is famous for its island beaches, swamps, lazy rivers, and other beautiful bodies of water. Offering more than 1,260 miles of coastline; 1,700 rivers and creeks; over 700 springs; and 7,700 lakes. Therefore, it boasts plenty of options for your kayaking adventure in Florida! What better way to trek through these preserves than on a kayak? Once you try it, you’ll find out how unique the experience is!
Paddling gives you a more personal experience of the wilderness, getting you close to the water and flora without the noise of motors. Here are ten of the best Florida national and state parks to go kayaking!
- 1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
- 2. Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka
- 3. Hillsborough River State Park, Tampa
- 4. Cayo Costa State Park, Lee County
- 5. Anastasia State Park, St. Johns County
- 6. Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida
- 7. Silver Springs State Park, Marion County
- 8. Honeymoon Island State Park, Pinellas County
- 9. Bahia Honda State Park, Monroe County
- 10. Collier-Seminole State Park, Collier County
10 National and State Parks that offer the Best Kayaking in FloridaParks
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
Let’s start this amazing list of National and State Parks in Florida that offer the best kayaking in Florida with this stunning place. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is the first underwater park in the United States. The coral reef here in the Florida Keys and the Flower Garden Banks in Texas are the only living coral reefs in the United States!
The whole park stretches for 70 nautical square miles. The mangroves in the park are also gorgeous. Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities here. Riding a clear-bottom kayak is a great way to see the coral reefs! If you want to get even closer to the coral reefs, you can always include snorkeling or scuba diving in your kayak trip.
If you’re already starting your travel planning, take note that the park is open from 8 am until sunset all year round.
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2. Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka
Wekiwa Springs State Park is the home of the Wekiva River in Apopka, and it offers one of the best spots for kayaking in Florida. The trails in the park are great for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding.
The most popular landmark in the park is the springs, which is a great swimming and picnic spot. Kayaks and canoes are for rent at the park, allowing you to leisurely go through the undeveloped wilderness. Here, you can find coyotes, bobcats, alligators, limpkins, and other wildlife!
Kayak camping is also an option. Four camps in the park can be reached only by kayak. Pets are also allowed at campsites, but you need to keep them on a leash!
3. Hillsborough River State Park, Tampa
Hillsborough River State Park is a well-known park near Tampa and Zephyrhills. Its proximity to Tampa, a major tourist destination and the largest city in Tampa Bay, makes the park convenient to visit for both city residents and tourists!
Visitors will be able to explore different habitats such as pine Flatwoods, floodplains and cypress swamps, and grass ponds. The park has picnicking, fishing, and bicycling areas. It also has some award-winning campsites, being part of ReserveAmerica’s America’s Top Campgrounds in 2010.
The main attraction here for kayakers is the Hillsborough River. What makes this place one of the best for kayaking in Florida? The river has some Class II river rapids, a rarity in Florida! You will need to bring your kayak, and a good quality dry bag to keep your belongings dry and safe!
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4. Cayo Costa State Park, Lee County
Cayo Costa State Park is part of a chain of barrier islands in Lee County, sitting south of the city of Boca Grande. The only way to access this hidden gem in Florida is by boat, ferry, or helicopter. Cayo Costa is the perfect park to visit if you love sea turtles. Turtles such as loggerhead, hawksbill, green, and Kemp’s ridley turtles reside on the island.
The entire nine-mile beach is a potential nesting spot for turtles! The park is also one of the best places for beachcombing. Kayaks are available for rent, so you can easily paddle the clear, clean waters. The marine life here is thriving, with bottlenose dolphins, manatees, ospreys, egrets, and endless fish!
The island is one of the best kayaking and camping in Florida camping because of its remoteness. The island also supports tent and boat camping and has some primitive cabins for rent.
5. Anastasia State Park, St. Johns County
Anastasia State Park is a haven of white sand beaches and tidal marshes established in 1949. It is located near the city of St. Augustine in St. Johns County. Tidal marshes, beaches, and sand dunes await those who visit the wonderful park.
Over 195 species of birds also reside here, including ospreys, eagles, painted buntings, and warblers, to name a few. The park is on the Atlantic Flyway, which migrating birds use as a rest stop in the fall and spring.
Kayaks are available for rent in the park, where you can paddle through the Salt Run, an estuarine tidal marsh. You can find great blue and tricolor herons wading through the Salt Run! There are over 139 campsites with water and electricity to choose from in the maritime hammock, making Anastacia State Park belong to the list of the best kayaking spots in Florida.
6. Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida
Big Cypress National Preserve is a marine estuary swamp near Everglades City with over 729,000 acres of swampland to explore! The preserve is home to the endangered Florida panther. Florida black bears, Florida Manatees, and Big Cypress Fox Squirrels also reside here!
There are multiple paddling trails in Big Cypress, ranging from 3.6 to 10 miles that can be tackled in three to seven hours of paddling time.
However, these paddling trails are known as one of the best kayaking sites in Florida and are for experienced kayakers only, and are not recommended for beginners. November to March is the best time to kayak to avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures and bugs.
7. Silver Springs State Park, Marion County
Silver Springs State Park is my personal favorite spot for kayaking in Florida. It is most famous for its glass-bottom boats. If you want to see Manatees, this is the best park to visit in Florida. It rivals the Blue Spring State Park near Orlando.
The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center are great places to explore while resting up. Glass-bottom boat tours give a unique view of the river’s ecosystem and vegetation. Kayaks are also available for rent at the park. The kayaking routes that you can take are the 1.1-mile loop around Ross Allen Island or the 5-mile trip to Ray Wayside County Park.
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8. Honeymoon Island State Park, Pinellas County
Honeymoon Island State Park is a barrier island and one of Florida’s most visited state parks. It’s close to Dunedin City in Pinellas County. The island has four miles of beach and a rare virgin slash pine forest to explore! You can rent kayaks here or bring your own.
From here, you can explore the gorgeous Pelican Cove. You can also jump islands and kayaks to Caladesi Island State Park! Caladesi Island is only accessible by boat, and kayaking is a perfect way to get there.
Reaching the white sand beach and exploring the mangrove tunnels of Caladesi Island will be a trip you’ll never forget. You will need to cross a marked channel on the Hurricane Pass, the area of water that separates the two islands. Just be careful of the winds and heavy water traffic on the channel. Maybe you can even try using a kayak sail to get there!
9. Bahia Honda State Park, Monroe County
Bahia Honda State Park is on an island of palm-lined beaches near the city of Marathon, Florida. The island is the only known natural place where a colony of Miami Blue butterflies resides.
Kayaks are available for rent, but you can also launch your kayaks at the Loggerhead parking lot or the boat ramp on the Gulf side. Going around the entire island on a kayak is a fun, peaceful experience. Snorkeling is also very popular there.
The marine life is lush and diverse and you can find tropical fish, queen conchs, nurse sharks, and spiny lobsters as you snorkel. Beginners will have a good time here, as it’s very shallow!
10. Collier-Seminole State Park, Collier County
Last, but not least, one of the most unique places in the Sunshine State completes this list of the 10 best-kayaking destinations in Florida. Collier-Seminole State Park is a 6,430-acre park of swamps, marshes, Flatwoods, and estuaries near Naples. The park lies partially in the great mangrove swamp of South Florida.
Once you’re ready to paddle, you can rent one at the park or bring your own! Paddling the Blackwater River through a mangrove forest is a breathtaking experience, culminating in reaching the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The trip is very beginner-friendly.
If you’re an experienced kayaker looking for a challenge, you can try the 13.6-mile paddling trail through Blackwater and Mud Bay. Due to the length of the paddling course, you can turn your trip into a kayak camping experience.
Don’t forget to bring your favorite kayak cup holder for easy access to your thirst-quenching drink as you take this long trek!
Best Kayaking in Florida: Packing Essentials
- Kayak: This inflatable kayak is a great option for portability and it weighs only 20 lbs.
- Sunscreen: While you are out exploring, make sure to protect yourself from the sun. I recommend the Stream 2 Sea Sunscream and they are reef-safe
- Sunglasses and hat: Don’t forget to pack your pair of sunglasses, you will need them!
- Swimsuit: The water may be chilly, but I recommend planning at least a half-day at the beach, so pack your swimsuit in that travel beach bag!
- Beach Towel: This travel towel can be used at the beach, on a picnic, or even as a blanket.
- Dry Bag: This dry bag is a must on your packing list if you are planning to go kayaking and keep your belongings safe and dry.
- Reusable water bottle: Never travel anywhere without a reusable water bottle. Remain hydrated without wasting single-use plastic bottles!
Best Kayaking in Florida Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best kayaking spots in Florida. By now you already know, that if you’re looking for a place to paddle in Florida, there is no shortage of gorgeous parks to explore. Each park has its unique touch, and no experience will be the same.
The islands are all perfect for that warm, paddling vacation! The next time you check out the kayaking near me location map, consider giving Florida a try. You’d be surprised by what you can find. There’s so much more than these ten national parks and state parks!
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- 23 Amazing Things to Do in Anna Maria Island, FL
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- A complete guide to visiting Honeymoon Island State Park, FL
- A complete guide to visiting Caladesi Island State Park, FL
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