Pensacola Paddling?

I may have the chance to stay in Pensacola Beach for a week next month, and am considering taking my kayak. I recall from a previous visit that the weather can be quite decent that time of year (at least compared to here in Wisconsin), and am looking for ideas on places to paddle.

I’m thinking Pensacola Bay, Big Lagoon, any of the sounds behind the barrier islands. I believe Fort Pickens is accessible only by foot (and kayak!) now, so could be a good day trip.

Anyone know how urbanized these areas are, and what the pleasure boat traffic might be like this time of year?

Any other, more natural areas you can recommend?

How about nearby rental outfitters who can offer decent SINKs?

Appreciate any advice!


Big Lagoon State Park
We are staying here December and would also like any information from someone who has been there – especially fishing, crabbing late December.

Delphinus you can also call Big Lagoon State park – they usually have vendors who rent kayaks or canoes at State parks – usually.

Phone: 850-492-1595

Pensacola Kayak and Sail
Pensacola Kayak and Sail, although mainly a retailer, does rent a wide variety of boats, usually from their demo fleet. They are located on Bayou Chicot, just off of Pensacola Bay, and are accesible from Barrancas Blvd (as best I recall). There are other rentals at Pensacola Beach on on the Gulf Breeze side of Pensacola Bay but I don’t recall their names.

My wife is from Pensacola, and we visit there almost every summer. Kayaking is great in the sound inshore from Santa Rosa Island (Pensacola Beach). Weather that time of year could be variable – either very nice or windy and cold. Some of the bayous around the city could be nice to explore.

Be forewarned that many of the roads on Santa Rosa Island remain closed due to damage from several hurricanes over the past 4-5 years. You cannot drive out to Fort Pickens anymore, and couldn’t drive all the way between Navarre and Pensacola Beach when we were there last summer. The road closures shouldn’t prevent you from paddling, but could affect your plans for putting in and taking out.

Big Lagoon State Park???
This park might be a good place to base yourself. I have never paddled big lagoon but have taken my sailboat there many times. There is boat traffic always but more in the summer. The big barges and fast sportboats can throw up some pretty big wakes. The Fort near the eastern end of big lagoon is where we try to anchor but it is often full. I don’t know the rules on camping but we have seen tents in the area. Wind is very important. If it is out of the north or south there is no poroblem but east and west winds can raise a pretty good chop. Crossing Pensacola pass in a kayak could be an adventure. When the tide is against the wind the waves get pretty large and steep. Then you have the current and boat and ship traffic. I would be carefull. But if you put in at the state park it should be easy to avoid most traffic and paddle in protected water.

Thanks for all the tips!
I was aware of the closed road to Fort Pickens, as our friends’ condo is just outside the park entrance, but it’s good to know about the other ones too!

Thanks also for the mention of the tides. I do extended trips on the Great Lakes, so I’m accustomed to big water, but we don’t have to deal with tides (or sharks!), so I appreciate the reminder.

Anyone know anything about Blackwater River State Park? Our friends mentioned something about cypress swamps there, but the park website doesn’t say anything about it, and a trip report mentions very low water in a dry July. Anyone have any updates for next month?


Blackwater River & Florida Caverns
I’ve been there camping. It’s a nice State Park. Didn’t paddle, but enjoyed camping there over the weekend.

Also, there is the Florida Caverns State Park. This is a great location. We kayaked the Chipola River and found three wonderful springs. You can also explore the caverns while your there.

Paddling the area
While I haven’t paddled the area I have sailed it.

Out around Ft. Pickens you have the ICW to paddle in, but there can be some strong currents in some locations.

If the tide is going out, do not get near the inlet leading to the Gulf. It’s stronger than you will be able to paddle against.

Most of the area would be very nice paddling, lots of shallow areas, all sand. You will just have to find good launch points.

Blackwater Paddling
This outfitter (Adventures Unlimited) offers trips on the Blackwater and several other creeks in the area…they are pretty close to the state park as I recall: