Most of Florida is in a drought and the temperature is flying over ninety degrees almost everyday. And it’s only May. While light coastal winds are making temperatures a little lower of Florida beaches, it is still hot.
Last weekend I took a trip along Florida’s Nature Coast and stopped for lunch at the Upper Deck restaurant which delightfully overhangs the Weeki Wachee River at the US19A Bridge. Adjacent is a large kayak rental spot and across the clear cool river is a county park. The river was packed with kayaks, some canoes, fishing boats, and even some friendly manatees.
Upper Deck Restaurant on Weeki Washee
I noticed that kayakers who stayed on the sides of the river were in the shade of the riverbank trees. You’re not only staying away from the motorized craft, but you are in a cooler breeze. It convinced me that a kayak or canoe ride makes a perfect weekend trip. Here are some of the top places to kayak.
People in Palm Beach County are fortunate to have the Loxahatchee River, one of Florida’s two Federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. The narrow, twisting river is lined with tall cypress trees and thick air plants and ferns which seem to muffle all sound. Spending several hours along this jungle river so close to huge populations should lower your blood pressure.
Please note that the kayak trail at nearby Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is great in the cooler months but when you kayak along wet prairies and sawgrass marshes, you are out in the sunny open. So remember I am talking river not refuge with Loxahatchee.
People in Miami-Dade County have a kayaking treasure in Oleta River State Park, the largest urban park in the United States. You can rent a kayak and even get supplies at the park. You might want a good park map for Oleta River has numerous inlets and coves filled with lusty mangrove forests. There is even a 200-foot sandy beach in the middle of the area.
You Are Actually Minutes From Downtown Miami
There are dozens of good kayaking spots in the Florida Keys, but ocean kayaking is a rougher sport when the lightning season starts. Two kayaking spots where you can hung a coastline of forested inlets and see lots of wildlife are the mangrove trails at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the shoreline of Big Pine Key. The latter is the home of the cute and tiny Key deer, but as a refuge the shoreline is swarming with birds and animals.
Central Florida has lots of lakes and coastal islands, but if you want a scenic route along crystal clear waters, you should head to Blue Springs State Park near DeLand. The kayak and canoe trail passes a huge manatee refuge area along Hontoon Island. The river heads to the huge St Johns River. The park has rentals as well as neat swimming and picnic facilities.
Kayaks and Manatees At Blue Springs
Tampa Bay is open waters but the area has several neat padding areas. The Little Manatee River has a great Canoe Outpost that rents boats and has maps. This river can get very rough if there is a huge storm. The nine mile Upper Manatee River from Fort Hamer County Park to the Manatee Dam has taller vegetation and less steep banks.
The Little Manatee River Gets Narrow And Quiet
Jacque Cousteau called Ichetucknee Springs “the clearest water in the world” and the crystalline, quite cold river is open year round for kayaking and canoeing. The Ichetucknee Springs State Park is where all the fun is. It is often crowded on the weekends when the tubing and swimming crowds pile in.
Rainbow Springs was once a tourist attraction complete with glass bottom boats, but today you can kayak along the clear waters for six miles until it flows into the Withlachoochee River. The wildlife and the flora along the banks of this protected wilderness area are outstanding. The park has rentals, picnic areas, and restroom facilities.
Rainbow Springs: Clear and Cool
Coldwater Creek, outside Milton in the Panhandle, calls itself the “Canoe Capital of Florida” and in the summer it seems everyone owns a canoe or kayak. The latter can be rented at the Coldwater Recreation Area. The river has sandy river rock bottoms and dozens of sand bars for swimming dips. The river is so relaxing with its skyline of ancient pine and hardwood forests you might not realize that at 3 mph this is one of Florida’s fastest rivers. It does require some arm power to go upstream past
Hope these places give you some ideas for a future kayak or canoe trip in Florida.