Places to Paddle in Florida

Recently, paddling friends from the great northeast planning a several week long road trip to Florida, asked me to identify some paddling locations that were interesting and also rented kayaks and equipment.  It turned into a fun activity.  (I have not included any venues around my home town of Sebastian as I will escort the visitors in that area.  Perhaps I will add these later.)  After the list was done it occurred to me that it might be useful for others.  It is shown below for your edification.

St Sebastian River

St. Sebastian River


Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is southwest of Gainesville, and northwest of Orlando.  While a visit to this park does not qualify as a paddling experience, it is one of my favorite venues in the state.  The wildlife viewing (especially of manatees) and park events are just outstanding.  And there is a fair amount of hiking for the hikers out there.

Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest: 

Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest is a lovely park that is south southeast of Gainesville and due north of Orlando.  I have paddled the spring run down to Lake George and on to the St. Johns River.  I believe they only rent canoes at this park.  If you paddle, turn around at Lake George and paddle back to the spring.

Kings Landing:

Kings landing in Apopka, just north of Orlando, offers a unique service.  Paddlers can rent kayaks and canoes for the 8.5 mile run down the crystal clear Rock Springs Run, to the Wakiva River, finally ending at a marina on the St. Johns River, where a shuttle will bring you and your boat back to your car.  Rental prices include the shuttle service.  

Sweetwater Kayaks:

Sweetwater rents kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at Weedon Island Preserve, St. Petersburg.  Explore one of Saint Petersburg’s best kept paddling secrets. To make a reservation, call 727-570-4844.  I have taken training with this outfit.  They are very professional and really know what they are doing.

Naples Outfitters:

Naples Outfitters in southwest Florida offers a menu of day tours.  I have taken training with this outfit also, and know the area they paddle in, which is mostly mangrove areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ivey House, Everglades City:

The Ivey House B&B rents canoes and kayaks.  For a simple day trip, I would recommend paddling to Sandfly Key (about 7.0 miles RT).  The key is an old Calusa Indian shell mound island, part of Everglades National Park.  There is a maintained hiking trail on the key and a Porta-John.  

Ranger Training at Von Mizelle State Park


Lake Kissimmee State Park:  Paddling information:

I have not visited this park, but I want to.  It lies in the middle of the state, east of Tampa/St. Pete, south of Orlando, and west of Sebastian.  The park features an 1876 era Florida cowboy camp with reinactors.  Florida Cowboys are the original “Crackers”.  There are kayak rentals in the park and an eleven mile circular paddling trail, though you do not have to paddle the whole trail.  

Jonathan Dickenson State Park and the Loxahatchee River:  Kayak Rentals:

This park is about an hour south of Sebastian.  I have paddled from the park to the Jensen Beach Lighthouse on the Loxahatchee River.  There are kayak rentals in the park and I would recommend paddling up river into the forest, as it is reputed to be a wonderful experience.  There was a shuttle that would bring you and your boat back to the camp, but that is not currently available.  The good news is that you would be paddling downstream to get back to your launch point.

Dr Von D. Mizelle - Eula Johnson State Park:  Kayak Rentals:

This park has a special place in the history of Florida’s fight for civil rights, as African-American’s sought to end of segregation through wade-ins at white only segregated beaches.  Kayaks are available at the Whisky Creek Hideout location (I certified park rangers to lead kayaking trips at this location).  The venue is also a good place to relax and enjoy a cold drink and a snack.  Lying in the shadow of the cruise ships at Port Everglades, the park is a little more than two hours south of Sebastian, about an hour south of Dickenson State Park.

Florida Bay Outfitters:

If you want to travel as far as the Florida Keys, I would recommend Florida Bay Outfitters on Key Largo.  They rent quality kayaks, offer guided tours, and can direct you on self-guided excursions.  I know one of the owners, Monica Woll.  Key Largo is almost four driving hours from Sebastian, two hours from Von Mizelle State Park.

 © Don Yackel 2020