We’re planning a family (2 adults and 2 teens) trip this spring that may include northeastern Florida. I will be able to squeeze in a short paddle trip (1 day or less). I am asking for your destination suggestions. The ideal trip will include lots of wildlife and scenery that we can’t see in Michigan. We’ll be there the first week of April, is there any possibility of seeing Manatees? We won’t have our own boats so the destination will require a livery. Any suggestions? Thanks.
Here you go
You can paddle the Mosquito and Indian River lagoons. There are plenty of porpoise as well as Manatee, especially at the Haulover Canal bridge (don’t go to the Manatee “overlook” - go over to the canal on the other side of the parking lot - that’s where most of them hang out). Lots of bird life too.
You can also paddle the St. Johns, but for a one-day trip your best bet might be the Wekiva River noth of Orlando. Beautiful, protected from wind, all sorts of wildlife (though you won’t see Manatees), and you can rent kayaks/canoes at the State Park right on the river.
Not sure what you mean by North
Florida. Amelia Island is right up there by the Georgia border.
Wekiva is more central, but wonderful if you can get to it on a weekday. The canoes and kayaks available for rental are not wonderful, but will do.
In High Springs, near the Santa Fe and the Ichetucknee, there is Adventure Outpost, which has rentals and also guided tours, and they have a good rental fleet.
Thank you for the advice. It will simplify my research.
The Suwannee River is one of my
favorites and there is an outfitter in White Springs. I love that little town.
Wish you were more specific about the area, We live in Jacksonville and consider it north FL. Not many outfitters who will rent and shuttle in our area. There is a local one who rents and delivers to the Dutton Island Preserve, a very scenic tidal creek/Intracoastal Waterway paddle. Also a good outfitter in Kingsland Ga. who guides the Crooked River area. Kayak Amelia are great folks and the shop is on Simpsons Creek, no need for a shuttle but can be busy on weekends.
If you want the prettiest paddle in our region I would recommend Haw Creek. There is an outfitter in nearby Palm Coast but I’m not sure if they will shuttle.
Here is a link to our trips, if you see something you like or want help getting outfitter #'s just let us know. All the trips I mentioned are in the link.
Thanks again for your suggestions. I’m sorry to be so vague about our destination, but we don’t have any concrete plans in Florida. We’re wandering down the coast and may come as far as St. Augustine. The right paddle trip might draw us to the Ocala area and then back north on I-75.
There are great paddling opportunities
Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest is a good one, and you can rent canoes right there along with a shuttle.
The Rainbow River is another and also there are canoe and kayak rentals.
The Silver River and it's bands of Wild Monkeys is another.
If you want to see Manatees, your best bet is "Three Sisters Springs" at Crystal River on the west coast. You can rent kayaks there.
The following is about "three Sisters Springs" from my collection of trips.
CRYSTAL RIVER-KINGS BAY
KAYAK/ CANOE TRIP
(Florida, West coast -Half way down)
Trip Length: 5 to 10 miles
Short Description: Leave from a public park
-Explore a few springs.
-Look for Manatee as you make a circle around
Kings Bay and return
Best weather conditions: Wind less than 15 mph
Comments: Recommended for all level paddlers
-Watch for manatees during the winter months, (You'll meet and greet some at "Three Sisters
-Water clarity is poor except at the launch area
where it is fair, and at the springs area where
it is excellent
-The water is salt except where it comes out of
Directions: Heading north on US 19, from Homosassa Springs at Crystal River turn left at a set of lights just after the junction of route 44.
-The road will be N.E. Third Ave.
-It is across from "Fancy Pet" store
-Follow the signs that say "Beach Access" to the park
-There is ample parking, rest rooms and a little
sandy beach to launch from.
The trip: After launching turn left and paddle a few hundred yards straight across to the first
-Then return and exit the little bay past where you launched bearing around to the left as you
go.(make notes of some landmarks so you can find your way back at the end of your paddle)
-Follow the tour/dive boats and continuing, bearing left under a bridge.
-In a short distance you will come to where some empty tour/dive boats will be anchored waiting for
their passengers who are at the "Three Sisters Springs"
-As you approach these tour/dive boats keep looking in the woods on the left hand side and you will see a narrow opening with white posts that prevent the larger boats from entering, but allow canoes, kayaks and swimmers to pass through.
-Paddle on though to the "Three Sisters Springs".
-As you enter one will be to your left, and the
other two will be up at the far right end.
-After you play around there for a while you can
take the second exit, which is similar to the
one you came in through, but up farther on the
-After exiting, turn right and go back out into
Kings Bay the way you came in, and then head
slightly left and cross to Buzzards Island,
which you can circle counter clockwise
-When you get about three quarters of the way
around once again watch for the tour/dive boats,
which will be off to the right.
-Head in their direction and to the left of where
they are all anchored and in between the area
marked off with the white buoys will be under
water caves with springs.
-The island to the left will be Banana Island.
-Continue bearing to the left and you will come
back out into Kings Bay again where you can
either head for home, or go a little way down
the Crystal River and then return back
I also have similar discriptions of the trips above and one for St Augustine if you are interesteed, e-mail me, and I'll attach them
Thanks, Jack. That’s a tremendously helpful response. I think this trip will sail through the family’s destination negotiations. Thanks very much.
You are more than welcome
We love to share what we have gleaned !
North Florida Day Trip
I went to Crystal River last spring and the only issue I see is your timeframe. As the weather warms up the manatees migrate back out into the Gulf. We stayed at the Port Hotel and Marina, which was pretty decent. They are located on King’s Bay, and are just a short paddle to Three Sister’s Springs. They also rent 'yaks, pontoon boats, have a restuarant and a pool. There was also a store called Crystal River Kayaks (I believe) that rents yaks and is located right on the canal leading to Three Sisters Springs. My girls didn’t want to paddle across King’s Bay so we drove about a mile to Pete’s Pier and put-in there (we brought our own yaks). There’s a small parking fee ($5) per car. The canals are pretty interesting to paddle on, as it’s right in people’s backyards. You can paddle right into the springs. There was only 1 manatee when we were there but it was plenty friendly (when my daughters petted it, it would roll over on it’s back like a very large dog). We also took masks, fins & snorkels with us and tied the yaks off to trees and swam around in the springs with the other fish that were in there. It was very awesome!
Don’t pet the manatees
Someone mentioned to me that you’re not supposed to be touching the manatees so keep that in mind. I didn’t realize that, and they will swim right up to you, but you’re not supposed to be touching them.