Fun In Florida 6 Paddling And Outdoor Adventures For Nature Lovers

Kayaks and Paddle Florida

Kayaks and Paddle Florida

Abigail Scott

Abigail Scott
Mother, Professional Kayaker, and Software Engineer

Updated on 12/6/2022

When the winter weather is wearing thin, people daydream of warmer climates. Florida is one of the top spring break destinations in the country, and spring break is just around the corner.

Make sure you allow some time for thrill-seeking in Florida's paddling hot spots while planning your sunny getaway. Take a look at Florida's best paddle trails and other outdoor adventures you can enjoy (don't forget the fishing rod for one excursion).

Justin Henry

Justin Henry

Since Florida is a peninsula, beach life is a big draw for its residents and visitors. However, Florida is also home to many unique geological features often overlooked: spring-fed creeks and rivers, underwater caves, inland swamps, and a diverse ecosystem full of birds, fish, gators, panthers, and black bears.

You can have plenty of fun at the beach (and one of our activities is at the beach), but while you're having fun, don't forget to experience some of these other exciting excursions and adventures!

Paddle And Play With The Manatee

Crystal River is a spectacular spring-fed river about an hour and a half north of Tampa. Flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, it is a seven-mile-long waterway. Twenty-eight springs form the river in King's Bay.

Florida's endangered manatees can be seen in Crystal River and King's Bay, both popular tourist destinations. Manatees travel up the river in winter to escape the colder Gulf waters, and King's Bay has spring-fed, warmer waters where they congregate.

You can kayak around the Bay and get close to some of the manatees by launching from one of several launch points.

In addition to paddling with manatees, some outfitters take you on excursions to swim with manatees and play with them!

Snorkeling With Seals

Snorkeling With Seals

The only place in Florida where you can get up close and personal with these friendly and curious animals is Crystal River. Even though it is illegal to approach the animals yourself, their natural curiosity will often cause them to come up to you for a closer look. Rather than letting the other person dictate the encounter, it would help if you let them do so.

It's best to witness one of these encounters in the winter months from November through April, though Crystal River, one of the best places to see manatees year round, is one area where the sightings can happen throughout the year.

Paddle And Dive Florida’s Underwater Caves

Florida has one of the world's most extensive underwater cave systems, making it a popular destination for technical cave divers. Near Marianna lies such a cave system at the very north end of Florida's panhandle. There are two hours of driving between Marianna and Pensacola and one hour between Marianna and Tallahassee.

The Merritt's Mill Pond is a beautiful spring-fed reservoir in this area. Crystal clear water makes this an excellent spot for kayaking in serenity. All types of wildlife are also visible above and below the water.

Kayaks and paddle boards can be launched from the northern end of the waterway near Blue Springs Park. The majority of the pond's springs are concentrated here, with the other half about halfway down the pond. The waters are pretty calm, and you can paddle in a leisurely manner while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick

For experienced cave divers (emphasis on the word experienced! ), it is worth sticking around and exploring some of the underwater caves below the pond.

The Jackson Blue dive site is the most accessible and easiest to access. This cave system does not require a boat to access, but it requires a check-in with the local sheriff's office. The other cave entrances at the pond can only be reached by boat, and they also need much more technical diving skills.

There are thousands of caves to explore at the Jackson Blue site, but some of its most fascinating features are found within just the first 200 feet. Some other caves in north-central Florida are popular with cave divers.

Come paddle at Merritt's Mill Pond, and stay for diving!

Paddle And Surf Florida’s Space Coast

Sunshine State is not exactly known for its surf scene, even though the world's best surfer, Kelly Slater, hails from the fantastic beaches of Cocoa Beach. Many surfers look forward to the tropical storm systems that affect Florida's waters because they offer better surfing opportunities!

SUP surfing, however, allows paddlers to catch waves in even the most mediocre paddling conditions.

Paddle And Surf Florida

The vertical nature of SUP surfing enables SUP surfers to succeed even in less than spectacular waves. As opposed to lying prone on their boards, SUP riders see the waves forming well before a regular surfer. SUP surfers gain speed faster than regular surfers, catching the waves sooner.

Thus, SUP surfers can take advantage of even the mushiest waves that would leave traditional surfers waiting for the next set. Because of this, SUP surfing is well suited to Florida's coast, where knee-high waves are the norm, for better or worse.

In Florida, waves are usually found along the Space Coast. The Space Coast includes the roughly 100-mile stretch of shoreline stretching from Melbourne to Daytona Beach.

The Eastern SUP Surf Circuit's three competitions in this area highlight the popularity of these beaches for SUP surfing: one at Jensen Beach, one at Melbourne Beach, and another just north of the Space Coast in St. Augustine.

SUP surfing is a lot of fun and a great workout. In the end, it probably suits more experienced surfers or paddleboarders better. Before learning how to surf on your own, it is highly recommended that beginners take some lessons. Beginners should also practice at less crowded beaches as they pose a minor threat to surfers and other beachgoers.

Take up this great sport if you are willing to devote the time and effort to excel at it, but read this page for information on SUP surf etiquette before you get started.

Paddle And Camp The Florida Keys

People who aren't native to Florida think the Florida Keys are just Key West - but that couldn't be further from the truth!

In Key West, Spring Breakers revel in the evil, but the rest of the Keys remains a natural wonderland for those who prefer to enjoy their splendor instead!

Enjoy a camping and paddling trip down the Florida Keys with your kayak or canoe. An itinerary for paddling through the Keys is provided by the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails in a handy guide.

Among the information in the guide are where to launch from, where to camp, the distance between destinations, accommodations, places to explore along the way, and phone numbers of services you may need when you arrive.

Bring a fishing rod to partake in some of the famed Keys fishing if you have the space. Also, keep a good pair of civvies on board if you wish to go ashore and eat at one of the many cafés and restaurants that dot the Keys' cities.

Florida Keys paddle

Florida Keys paddle

One of the best parts of going on a Florida Keys paddling and camping trip is seeing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

You also have access to services and restaurants in case of an emergency or simply to get away from the weather. It's a win-win situation!

After a long day of paddling, a cocktail wouldn't hurt. After all, it's the Keys.

Paddle And Fish The Florida Everglades

What sort of adventure guide would we be if we didn't include a trip to the world-famous Florida Everglades? Wrestle some alligators, dive into the dark waters, and frolic in the sawgrass while, haha!

You may schedule a kayak fishing expedition with one of the many tour providers in the Everglades area. Fishing in the Florida Everglades is fantastic since it allows you to capture a variety of prized fish such as snook, tarpon, pompano, jack, redfish, and a plethora of others.

Yak anglers can explore the canopied mangrove habitats inaccessible to most motorized boats. These calm regions give serene beauty, but they also provide sufficient opportunities to hook up with fish that are usually only seen lurking in the shadows.

Everglades kayaking Excursion

Everglades kayaking Excursion

Because the Everglades cover such a large region — nearly the entire southern tip of Florida! — there are various places to start an Everglades kayaking trip, and Chokoloskee, just south of Naples, is one of the most common launching locations.

You're right on the doorstep of the incredible 10,000 Islands, a must-see location for any paddler, whether or not they want to fish. Dart in and out of any of the 10,000 islands, a barrier between the sea and the Florida coastline.

It is feasible to camp overnight on several islands with sufficient planning. However, the high "misery factor" from all the bugs and the humidity is not suggested during the summer months. However, this post from Florida Rambler provides excellent advice for a pleasant exploration day paddle to one of the group's more accessible islands.

Exploring the islands is a little more enjoyable; many have crude bathroom facilities, boardwalks, and tiny picnic spaces.

You may experience natural, untamed Florida in the magnificent Florida Everglades while landing a big one!

Paddle And Sightsee Florida’s Historic Cities

Let's face it, traffic in Florida can be a nightmare at times, and I-4 in Orlando has recently been rated the most deadly route in the country. So why not take a sightseeing trip to Florida's most historic cities by boat instead of driving?

Almost every city in Florida with access to water offers a SUP trip where you may see different parts of the city or rural areas. It's a win-win-win situation where you get a scenic and historical view of the area while also getting some exercise (and a tan!).

You also benefit from possible wildlife encounters when on the water, something you won't get in a car. Unless you count some of the notoriously weird citizens of Florida as "fauna."

Everglades kayaking Excursion

Everglades kayaking Excursion

There you go! Paddle and adventure activities keep you coming back to Florida for years to come.

In the comments below, let us know about your favorite paddle spots or other Florida adventures.