Florida kayaking destinations?

By late January we figure we will need a break from the Pennsylvania winter and are thinking we would like to try a kayaking trip down in Florida for a week to 10 days. We’d bring our own boats (15’ and 16’ folding kayaks) and lightweight camping gear (are both very experienced paddlers and backpackers).

My beau has been to the Everglades once (hiking only) and has been itching to get back there, but he also likes the idea of paddling around the Crystal River area and has friends there who would put us up. We probably would not want to fish nor do any extensive expeditions, just some nature-watching and day or overnight outings exploring inland waterways, maybe an occasional venture out into coastal waters. We both like to SCUBA dive and snorkel too, but that would be secondary to paddling on this trip.

Having no experience with Florida at all myself (beyond mandatory business conventions in Orlando a couple of times), I’m hoping for recommendations and suggestions from paddlers who live there or are familiar with the state’s wilderness water trails. Thanks in advance!

Florida in January
The manatees will be ganged up in the Crystal River in January and since the water stays 72 you can snorkel, dive (a few small caverns) or paddle but don’t touch the manatees. Big fine$$$

Silver River, Rainbow River are nearby fresh water spring fed rivers that stay at 72. That’s cold in summer but warm in the winter.

Cedar Keys would be good for day paddles in the gulf and not to far away.

East coast the Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River are both great.

NE Florida and SE Georgia you have Mantanzas Inlet, St. Augustine, the Guana River Preserve, Fort George Island and inlet, Little Talbot Island, Amelia Island, Fernandina, Cumberland, Crooked River State Park.

Check Jax Kayak Meetup Group for NE Florida paddles or FSKA, Florida Sea Kayaking Club, for coastal and open water paddles.

You may never go home!

Cedar Key, among others
Florida’s clear, warm, spring-fed rivers are a must, even without seeing manatees. Rainbow River, Crystal River, Homosassa River, and more are all in one area.

Homosassa Springs State Park is worth checking out, and they have an excellent bird exhibit. I’ve never seen so many different native birds in one place before (they rehab injured ones). Doubt I will ever get that close to a wood stork or sandhill crane again. Their enclosure is large and beautiful, too.

Back to the paddling…

Cedar Key boosters are trying to get paddlers to recognize its quiet paddling possibilities. One thing I would warn is that you’ll want navigation skills, since (to me, at least) flat islands and mangrove areas tend to look alike, not to mention there are few landmarks of real height to stay oriented to.

I’ve been told that for kayak camping, bug suits and/or spray are required all year-round.

JackL will probably have lots better info to provide!

Rock Creek, Juniper Run
and all those Ocala NF rivers beckon. But beware January… In North Florida a freeze is normal. Bring your usual fall spring clothing. I had a brrr overnight in Ocala…more than once.

The Everglades is full of day trips. Take JackL suggestions. He sent me a bunch of day trips. I do like the Turner River from the Tamiami Trail to Chockoloskee.

Also just daytripping in the 10000 islands near Everglades City is wonderful

The winds can be a big factor in January. If a cold front comes in from the North, it can be sub 40 degrees at night in the Glades and never get up to 60.

You need at least a month! I like to tell people that Florida probably has more paddling opportunities than any other of the lower 48 states.

You might get a guidebook. I use Canoeing and Kayaking Florida. There are some others like Paddling the Sunshine State but I find I go to the first most often.

There is also a guide to paddling the Everglades…A Paddlers Guide to Everglades National Park

If you choose central Florida…
and want some company, Deb and I could help guide you to what you’d like to see. Keep us posted.


Florida destinations
The Crystal River area is an excellant place to kayak, especially in the winter. Lots of manatees, and since the Crytal River is spring fed, it is all fresh water. Not too far from Crystal River is a town called Yankeetown, and through it out to the Gulf of Mexico is a slow river called the Withlacoochee. You can paddle up stream to Lake Rousseau or paddle to the Gulf and explore the many hidden areas in the “flats”. Lots of places to paddle and explore in this area, not including the many springs in the area. Take a camera.

Everglades & northern Keys
We did Flamingo & Key Largo in February. We, too, got great suggestions from Jack L. Flamingo was outstanding. We flew in so we rented kayaks. In Key Largo we used Fla Bay Outfitters and had a great selection of quality sea kayaks. We were able to explore the ocean and baysides as well as the mangroves. Great trip!

Crystal River! Gotta go out to Pecks Restaurant in Ozzelo. Not far away is Rainbow River in Dunnelon. Crystal River - paddle out from the park on 1st ? street to Three Rivers and then out to the mouth of Crystal River. Ardvark Kayak shop is a good place to visit and they know the area well. Be sure to check out Weeki Watchee (sp). Great value fot the money. Decent mermaid show where they perform underwater in the actual spring. At Crystal River, go to Three Sister Spring and pet the manatee. You can’t grab 'em/hold on to them (use one hand) but they are curious and the young ones enjoy contact. You will have a great time. If camping, check out the Hillsborough State Park near Tampa and then there is Fort Desoto State Park in southern Saint Petersburg. But if you are looking for warm waters, you may have to go down to the Keys… Have fun!

In addition to the above . . .
Ichetucknee River, in White Springs - north of Gainesville and High Springs. My favorite, it is one of the most natural, unspoiled crystal-clear rivers.

Silver River
in Ocala is a must see. Lots of wildlife!

About a year’s worth of suggestions
already, for your week or 10 days.

If that’s all the time you have, I would suggest that you make Silver River State Park near Ocala your base camp. It is one of our prettiest campgrounds, and conveniently located to paddle the Silver River, the Ocklawaha River, Juniper Creek, Alexander Creek, Salt Springs Run—all without having to drive more than a few minutes. Not too long a drive over to Crystal River. For real luxury, rent one of the cabins at the state park.

If you’re in the Orlando area, Wekiwa Springs State Park has a great campground, and from there it would be convenient to paddle Rock Springs Run, Wekiva River, St. Johns River, Econlockhatchee River. An hour’s drive would put you at Mosquito Lagoon in Canaveral National Seashore.

Video of paddling Crystal, etc.
May help you to look at this cool weather paddling we did on a trip to Crystal River/Weeki Wachee/Rainbow/Homosassa area: http://tinyurl.com/3wxcb32

wow! terrific responses!
Now I’m starting to get excited about the trip. Maybe we’ll postpone it until later in February, per the suggestions on the weather. Would LOVE to spend a whole month in Florida but we are still a year or three from full retirement (depends on the economy) and 10 days is the most we can escape the hamster wheels for now. This would partly be a scouting mission for an extended trip down there in the future with the camping trailer, kayaks and bicycles.

We’ll be doing some brainstorming this weekend on time and more specific area, taking these recommendation into consideration – also talking to his friends who live near Homosassa.

Another thing I forgot to mention was astronomy. I notice that Shred Island, Cedar Key, La Belle and the 'Glades are all listed as “dark sky” zones. We like to bring a scope or high-powered binocs for star-spotting. Any particular month it is most likely to be clearer at night?

Many choices
For at leat 10 years we have taken our kayaks to the west coast. Some of our favorite spots include:

Cedar Key - great open water trips.

Yankee town

Crystal R



Anclote Key/Tarpon Spgs

Honeymoon Island

Caladesi St Park

Ft Desoto and out to Egmont Key

Lido Key

Bradenton Area

Cockroach Bay

to name a few of them. Have fun

I’d definitely recommend
The Sante Fe in High Springs has about 40 springs (if you scuba dive (cave dive), check out Ginnie Springs). Then only 7 miles away in Fort White is the Itchetucknee, a must.

80 miles south is the Silver River (with monkees), another must.

Rainbow River, Crystal River, Chassawitzka, Weeki Wachee, Homassassa Springs are all interesting.

If you make it down to Sarasota/Venice I’ll show you some pretty spots down here.

Crystal River
I live here in CR. It looks like you have a ton of places suggested to check out. Crystal River (kings bay) is dotted with homes. NOT nature. The home owners tend to NOT like kayakers. With the exception of seeing Manatee I would NOT plan this as a place of interest. So much better kayaking to be had in the area. Feel free to email me direct if you would like more options. I film and photo wildlife in the area and have several spots where you will see animals and very few people.

No see ums.
the no see um bugs can be a real pain in the butt. Hence the word no see um, they bite and you don’t know its coming. Plan on long pants and sleeves. Plenty of spray and maybe even a net for you head. They are bad near salt water. Putting in and taking out can be murder. You mentioned camping so… be advised.

No see ums.
the no see um bugs can be a real pain in the butt. Hence the word no see um, they bite and you don’t know its coming. Plan on long pants and sleeves. Plenty of spray and maybe even a net for you head. They are bad near salt water. Putting in and taking out can be murder. You mentioned camping so… be advised.

DEET resistant
they laugh at DEET. Even close to 100 percent DEET. My strategy is long sleeves and also a Susie Bug Net from Cooke Custom Sewing along with the Skin So Soft that Jackl advised.

Nature Coast Canoe Trail
If you go to Crystal River there is a lot of good paddling on the Nature Coast Canoe Trail. Google it and even a map comes up. It is a 20 mile canoe/kayak trail (also part of the florida birding trail) from Crystal River to Chaz through the salt marshes. Most of the way you will be the only people on the trail. Except crossing the Homo… and the Chaz… it is too shallow for power boats. There are several in/out points making for good day paddles. There are several places you can venture off the trail and explore more.

The only thing we have found works on No See Ums is Avon Skin So Soft. Leave your skin feeling moist and gooey and they will leave you alone.