Good place to see wildlife?

A friend and I are thinking of taking a few days, flying somewhere, renting kayaks and having some fun on the water. Might happen in May, but if not we might have to wait until September. We are both probably at the “beginner” level, but I’m more toward the top of that level and she is more toward the bottom, so it can’t be anything terribly challenging in terms of skills needed. We do both have wetsuits and safety equipment.

We would especially like to see dolphins and other interesting wildlife (steer me away from gatorville, please) so that would mean coastal, but I have no idea where to start looking.

Having said that, we would also consider something inland (I understand, no dolphins); a lake or river that was really worth traveling to see. No whitewater please.

We’re in Ohio but since we’re flying, there is potential to go almost anywhere in the US depending on what deals we can get on airfare. If anyone has suggestions, that would at least give me a starting place. I’ve researched a few places but I really need the input of personal experience here.

Florida. Ok, you may see gators, but dolphins are a common sight at the Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic side, Caledesi Island State Park, Ft. Desoto Park, Sanibel Island, and on and on, on the Gulf, manatees at freshwater springs like Blue, Rainbow, DeLeon, and Manatee, (a winter trip is better for manatee viewing) deer, bear, bobcats, along the St. Johns, Suwannee, Wekiva, Withlacoochee. If you change your mind about gators- lots of them in the Myakka River. I lost count. Not to mention birds throught the State. Ducks, ergets, herons, ibis, hawks, vultures, eagles, spoonbills, ect. I saw a woodstork and snowy egret in a canal that crosses beneath a major throughfare in Maitland (surburb of Orlando) this morning- think of what can be seen in State Parks, National Seashores, ect. Check out the Florida State Parks website and the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails for information.

This time two years ago i did some easy paddling on Maui.

Swam and paddled with whales, dolphins, green sea turtles and thousands of fish!

Also just paddled in Mexico outside of Zihuatenajo and saw 50 new species of birds Ive never seen before.

early season paddling near yellowstone and the tetons. Upper Snake River ive seen eagles, ospray, moose, elk, deer and antelope all in a few hours.

Good spot for water, kayaks, wildlife
San Diego is easy to fly to and very easy to rent kayaks literally within walking distance of the airport. You can see dolphins, Garabaldi fish, leopard sharks, seals and sea lions in Lajolla cove. If you are more adventuresome you can head down the coast of Baja. I see Dophins usually every time I go surfing in the early morning in my own backyard.

Sea of Cortez in Mexico is really a great place to see wildlife (mostly sealife and birds).

For information on renting kayaks and inexpesive guided trips see

(I just noticed a picture of my son on a Baja trip is the icon picture for social surfing on their webpage.)

Monterrey California
Lots of sea otters, seals, sea lions and have heard of Orca sightings. The Cal coast especially San Diego in January is a great place to meet and greet gray whales.

great ideas
Thanks for the ideas. I don’t really want to go out of the US right now, and as nice as Hawaii sounds, the long flight there would be really grueling. So I’m thinking the west coast of the US is about the furthest away I’d consider.

I’m also intrigued by the area up by Acadia (Maine). I have a sister in Tampa, so there’s incentive to visit her, but I don’t know how the paddling is there.

Monterey, CA, or Seattle, WA
You may want to call the folks at Monterey Bay Kayaks and the Northwest Outdoor Center to see what rental kayaks, paddling locations, and guide options (if you’re interested in guided trips) they recommend for your skill levels.

Another Vote For Monterey
We see several kinds of Seals and Sea Otters just about every trip out, and see Dolphins more often than not. Whales and even Orcas during certain times of year. Elk Horn Slough holds the record for most different species of birds in one place.

You can see Dolphins off Saint Petersburg, but not a lot of anything else.

The Hillsboro River …
…is awsome.

Put in at Sageants Park and do an out and back heading up river to start.

We have paddled a gazillion rivers all over the US and we saw the most wild life in one day that we have ever seen.

It is a birders paradise, and you can get up close and personal with Roseatte Spoonbills as well as wood storks, Limpkins, herons, bitterns and yellow crowned night herons.

On the other hand if you don’t like gators, you might want to pass. The only place in Florida in our many years of paddling there where we have seen more gators is the lower Myakka River

In many place there were several gators sharing a log with a half dozen dinner plate sized turtles.

If you do decide to go there, I can give you two other good put-ins and descriptions.



2nd nomination for FL
I’d second FL as a good option. Plenty of dolphins here in the Tampa Bay area. The Myakka River (haven’t paddled yet but I will) and Hillsborough river are very scenic and the gators are awesome to paddle by. Gators tend to leave you alone and get out of your way -I look forward to seeing them. (Big risk is idiots feeding them and causing them to associate humans with food) The spring feed rivers are very awesome to paddle with incredible water clairty. Oh, don’t forget the manatee too. Multiple outfitters to rent from as well with concessions on site at many places (mostly rec boats but some with performance boats too).


Hillsboro River

– Last Updated: Mar-23-05 8:18 PM EST –

I used to canoe that river on a regular basis about 20 year ago.

but I thought she didn't like gators? ;-)

I don't think I ever paddled the Hillsboro without seeing at least one big one..

Illinois-OF COURSE

– Last Updated: Mar-23-05 10:00 PM EST –

Cranes/egrets/turtles/herons/geese/ducks/fish jumping out of the water/cardinals/eastern bluebirds/woodpeckers/deer/racoons/skunk/occasionally coyotes and wolves/and most of all:

great pizza and hot dogs.

and Schizopak- don't say "nice try Bruce" :)

Texas for whooping cranes
Come right now to the Texas coast. I’ve seen more whooping and sandhill cranes this year than any other year in Galveston Bay, so I can’t imagine what they’re like in Aransas NWR. I think they are really recoveringin April they’ll be gone, so you’ll have to wait for the southern migration next fall.

Newfoundland!!! ITs a ways away :slight_smile:
However, in may, alot of our regular wildlife, is still far out to sea or somewhere down south ( on one of the states). June and july brings millions of Atlantic Puffins, murre, razorbills, and minke whales (also icebergs - not wildlife i know). In July, Humpback whales, minke whales, and fin whales start to make everyday appearances (in and along the east coast (especsially along Witless Bay)

woo hoo!
You guys have given me ideas for many trips to come!

Bruce, can you elaborate on “Illinois”? Sounds like lots of wildlife but wasn’t sure exactly what body of water you were referring to.

Sirius, I’d have to be a fool to paddle in Witless Bay (a little joke there). Probably won’t be going to Newfoundland this time, but will put it on the list for future excursions. Sounds awesome!

Thanks Jack, for the trip report you e-mailed me. Might get back to you with some questions. Right now we’re leaning toward Tampa or West Coast.

There is all the wildlife that I mentioned just about 20 miles north of Chicago in an area called the Skokie Lagoons. They are a grouping of very small (perhaps 5-7 miles of total paddling if you portage a few small dams) interconnected lakes with lots of wildlife. Paddling is extremely easy there:

Also check out:

for more locations for viewing wildlife in the area.


Monterey Bay
The combination of wildlife, top-quality outfitters, and paddling variety is unsurpassed.

I’ve had dolphins playing around my boat, swimming underneath it so they were no more than 6 inches below me. Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, otter on nearly every outing. The birdlife is astounding – as 'Cuda mentioned. Ever heard of Marbled Murrelet? They’re reliably seen just outside of Santa Cruz. Albatross visible from shore. Late summer, MILLIONS of Sooty Shearwaters fill the bay. The combination of a deep marine canyon and upwelling bring teeming hoards of pelagic seabirds close to shore.

Birdlife is so rich that in Monterey County, birders have a 400 club for those who have logged more than that many species, just within the county.

Affordable lodging can be found around Watsonville. Good outfitters are located in Santa Cruz, Moss Landing and Monterey. There’s an active paddling community as well.

Elkhorn Slough is protected. Conditions range from that to the exposed coastline of Point Lobos and Big Sur. If you haven’t visited the Big Sur coast, words are wasted describing it.

Book your tickets now and you’ll thank all of us who urged you to try Monterey Bay.

if youre going to florida in sept
be aware thats the peak of hurricane season

Wolves in the Skokie Lagoons?!?!
That one is a bit of a stretch.

Renting kayaks etc
If you are targeting downeast Maine, think about early Sept rather than May. The water is at its warmest and you won’t run into the problem of having to stay away from bird nesting areas.

But I don’t know what you’ll run into when it comes to renting a kayak, at least anything that can get out where the dolphins are. That’s significant open water, with big tides. You may want to make phone calls to outfitters and find out whether the options are guided tours or open ended rental.

If you haven’t had time on the ocean, the conservative course would be to spend the bucks for a guided tour. You’ll see more than you can find yourself and be safer.