Paddling the Florida Keys

Hey All!!

My wife and i are avid wilderness LNT paddlers… Being fed up with the long Canadian winter, we’re heading down south to Florida for a couple weeks. Besides a small day trip through the Everglades, we were hoping on renting a canoe somewhere in the keys, parking the car somewhere, portaging the gear and canoe to the Gulf, then paddling WAY out to one of the small islands for a few days of utter seclusion…

While i understand that this is probably not allowed, is it even at all POSSIBLE? We’re total leave no trace trippers and quite ecological and all that, but we’re wondering if anyone has ever done this. Are all those small islands you see on islands deserted or are they inhabited by gun toting owners who will shoot on site!

Thanks for any help or suggestions!!

Be aware that Florida is the icebox…
of the nation. Expect rain, snow, freezing rain, cold temps, and strong winds. Especially in south Florida. I suggest you try Yellow Knife in the Canadian north.

If your looking on Google earth and seeing island you need to know that a cluster of Mangrove will look like an island on the map and even in person from a distance, but when you get to them you will find a cluster of Mangrove, but they are not land, they have no bottom, just roots into the water. You will want to check more into the 10.000 islands area of the Everglades. Google earth the Marco island area and then look south.

permits are a must.

For the Keys…

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Check in with Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo, they will give you all the information on the Keys and the park. Better is Everglades Nat Park out of Everglades City or Flamingo (permits needed). For no permits needed, south of Marco Island and west of the park. If you are on a restricted island you may be fined and told to leave in the middle of the night.

A great Keys Guide Book.

Good luck, GH

Ninty nine percent of the Keys are

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now owned by the government.
Some points to ponder:

1. yes you can paddle to hundreds of them
2. there are only a couple that you can legelly camp on and you need a permit from the NPS. and that one is North Nest Key. The problem with it is after you paddle the eight miles out to it, you are liable to find power boaters there with their rap music blaring
3. If you want to share one with other boaters and traffic going by all night, Mollasses Keys right beside the seven mile bridge is available, (not wilderness though.
4 A good choice is Tarpon Belly Key which is a old abandoned shrimp Farm. It is off Cudjoe Key.
5 A canoe is not the paddle craft of choice for the Keys. You would have to watch the weather closely and be prepaired to wait out several days as the fronts go through. Most of the off shore ones with nice small beaches are six or more miles off shore with a lot of open water crossing to get to them.
6. there are a few awesome places that you can camp such as out in the Mudd Keys, about eight miles off the main chain of Keys, and they are like you see and dream about in pictures. If you want my trip description on it and how to get there, e-mail me and I'll attach it. It is too long to attach it and reformat it here.

I have been to most of the off shore Keys, and a hand full of them have beautiful sandy beaches, while others have just gravel and most of them are just mangroves.

You are much better off doing day trips.

Today we are heading for West Bahia Honda Key wiich is one of the few that I haven't been to yet.


Forgot to add:
there are lots of places where you could camp -Need to pull the boats up into the mangroves and make sure the tent is out of sight though.



Wow… that is a wealth of information! I guess we’ll give it a shot (weather permitting) and keep a close eye on weather patterns.

Motorboaters and rap music would most definitely cramp our style a little…

Or maybe this:
What about doing like many people do around here: Just driving the car to an abandoned area in the late evening, hiking down to the beach, and pitching a tent for the night. We do it all the time up here in Quebec as many areas are quite deserted, but i imagine that the Keys in winter are not the case!

Long Johns Needed

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We were in Everglades City yesterday. Bring your long woolen underwear. The red ones with the trap door. We are freezing in South Florida right now. 'Gators frozen solid with permanent toothy grins. It may warm up next week after we leave of course.

of course…
Wouldn’t that be the luck! Get back home and hear on the radio that the Everglades are battling record high temperatures… thanks for the tip! being Canadian, i have quite a few of those trap door long johns! hahaha

commando camping
ie, trespassing…mixed feelings but leave no trace.

i’ve done that trip twice and had to commando a couple times…a hennessy hammock was good…not lots open ground on some of those mangrove islands.

little tide, little current…lotsa place to stay legally - fbo up in key largo a great resource.

get out to the marvins if you get a chance…beautiful…hard to get lost in the lower keys really - you almost always have a tethered blimp in sight - i think it’s a listening post and it’s quite high.

“Hiking down to the beach” ???
You are visuaslizing the expansive beaches on the east coast of Florida.

The Keys are very narrow, with very few public beaches.

In most places from the low water line to the high water line is less than a 100 feet, and the high water line either ends at the mangroves or their might be ten feet between it and the mangroves.

Many places it is right next to the road, and there are signs all up and down the highway stating no overnight camping. -they enforce it too!

I know many places in the mangroves that you could share a spot with some of the street people that winter down here, but you might be awakened by someone in the middle of the night looking for a swig or two.

If you knew your way around you could find a place here or there off the beaten path, but I wouldn’t advise it.



Dry Tortugas! I’m going out there on the 26th to camp for 3 days. They have day trips too. Only accessable by plane or ferry. I’m lugging my Old Town 12 footer kayak out there with me.