Planning to paddle in the upcoming holiday season in and around Tampa Bay? Well, you don’t have to spend hours to find the perfect spot. Tampa Bay has got numerous places where seasoned kayakers can explore and find new challenges while beginners can enjoy a leisurely paddle. Here are our top 10 picks –
Terra Ceia Preserve
Located in Manatee County, the Terra Ceia Preserve is kind of an underrated gem for kayaking hotspots. You get a long coastline to explore. There are vast wetlands as well as saltwater pools. The marine wildlife species are a joy to watch. Paddling alongside the playful dolphins and curious manatees is an experience you will remember for long. The Terra Ceia Preserve spans over 2000 acres. You will love exploring the Frog Creek- more so if you are new to paddling.
Address: 130 Terra Ceia Rd, Terra Ceia, FL 34250, United States
More Information: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/terra-ceia-preserve-state-park
Fred Howard Park
Fred Howard Park is ideal for those who want serene and lesser–known paddling destinations. The park offers a small but satisfying paddling zone. You get to enjoy stunning views of White sand beaches. The paddling route stretching through mangrove forests is just a mile long. The other route is longer and located around the Lake Avoca. Both the routes are not much crowded. Its proximity to the Tarpon Springs village attracts many families to the park. There are provisions for renting paddling gears and kayaks as well.
Address: 1700 Sunset Dr, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689, United States
More Information: https://www.pinellascounty.org/park/06_howard.htm
Weedon Island Preserve
Located in St. Petersburg, The beautiful and serene Weedon Island Preserve is ideal for paddling and also for indulging in activities like hiking. Check out the 4-mile-long South Paddling Trail that stretches through beautiful mangrove forests. The wildlife and variety of birds in this section will leave you amazed. The waterways in the Weedon Island Preserve are suited for paddlers with varying skill levels. The flat water is safe even for kids who love to paddle. The youngsters will also love exploring the preserve’s archaeology center.
Address: 1800 Weedon Dr NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702, United States
More Information: https://www.weedonislandpreserve.org/
Silver Springs State Park
Located in Marion County, the Silver Springs State Park is known for its gorgeous waterways and camping options. The water is mostly calm and you get 5 miles to explore. It flows into the Ocklawaha River. When kayaking along the stretch, you will love watching the scenery around but beware of the alligators on the shores through dense mangrove forests. No wonder the park has been used for shooting many Hollywood flicks. At the park, you can rent stunning glass bottom kayaks.
Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488, United States
More Information: https://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings
Have you been looking for a family-friendly canoeing and kayaking destination in Tampa Bay. Then head to Robinson preserve. Located at Bradenton, the coastal shoreline spans over 600 acres. You will come across wildlife species like dolphins and manatees while exploring the vast saltwater waterway. There are plenty of mangrove and cypress forests to explore as well. You will get enough interconnected waterways. After you are done with paddling, climb up the 53-foot-tall watch tower to get a stunning view of the landscape.
Address: 1704 99th St NW, Bradenton, FL 34209, United States
More Information: https://floridahikes.com/robinson-preserve
Located at Sarasota Bay, Lido Key is a nice water trail for beginners in paddling and families that enjoy kayaking. The protected waterway meanders through scenic saltwater lagoons and mangrove forests. While paddling, be prepared to witness dolphins or manatees-and they are quite friendly in nature. Ted Sperling Park is ideal for launching your boat.
More Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lido_Key
The Rainbow River flows around the town of Dunnellon. The historic town and the river made of crystal-clear spring waters lure tourists all over the year. Rainbow River is perfect for kayaking and canoeing.
The water is crystal clear. The park has many ramps to launch kayaks. Keep in mind that you cannot carry plastics and alcoholic beverages. Evade the weekends as the place remains quite crowded.
More Information: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/rainbow-springs-state-park
Lettuce Lake Park
The Lettuce Lake Park is situated just outside Tampa Bay. The Park is at the northern side of the Hillsborough River. This is where you can experience serenity and natural bliss while enjoying paddling. As you sail through the tree-lined shores, alligators and turtles soaking in the sun can be spotted. The landscape is swamp-like. After paddling is over, climb the observation deck to enjoy the view.
A scenic and wild river of Florida, the Myakka River is well suited for paddling lovers seeking adventure and lengthy trips. The stretch is 58 miles long. The landscapes are diverse. The area is home to more than 100 species of birds. The gentle current and smooth water is a joy to cruise along. However, in some sections of the river you will find Class I and II rapids. Those with a penchant for additional thrills can opt for the guided alligator kayaking tour. You can rent paddling gears from the Myakka River State Park.
Fort DeSoto Park
Fort DeSoto was set up during the famous Spanish-American War to safeguard the Tampa Bay region. The park later turned into a tourist hotspot and the water body spanning over 1,100 acres is a kayaking lover’s haven. Fort DeSoto is suited both for those new in paddling and veteran kayaking lovers. The Mullet Key Bayou- a two-mile loop water trail is ideal for beginners in kayaking and it has trees that block rough winds. Try paddling around Egmont Key if your kayaking skills are better- it is exposed to strong gusts of winds. The mangrove forests and bike paths are added attractions and bird watchers can have a gala time. You can rent a kayak and gears at the location if you do not bring your kayak.
Looking for a kayaking destination in Tampa Bay where the crowd is going to be less? Your best choice is Caladesi Island, located at Dunedin. It is just a mile away from the Clearwater Beach and so you may just paddle to reach the beautiful spot. The northern section of the island is well-suited for veteran paddlers. The experience of paddling with dolphins swimming and jumping around is unforgettable. The shallow pools of water are replete with several marine wildlife species. The more challenging area is the water trail flowing through the mangrove forests of the island. It is 3 mile-long. You may kayak to the adjacent Honeymoon Island as well.
For a thrilling kayaking experience in the Tampa region, you should head to the Hillsborough River. There are plenty of flat water stretches but veteran paddlers will find a few Class II rapids in this river. Hillsborough River is known for its beautiful landscape, dotted with lush greenery. There are wild turkeys and hogs but you should keep eyes open for the alligators that are found near the banks. There are several ramps along the river from where you can start your paddling tour.
More Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_River_(Florida)
Tarpon Springs is known for its large manatee population and its pristine waters are ideal for kayaking. The water is usually calm and there are large mangrove trees. This small Greek town has an open and friendly environment. There are options for guided kayak tours as well. You can rent the crystal clear kayaks for an amazing experience.
Weeki Wachee Springs
Here you get clear, 70-degree water. The spring is also the habitat of marine wildlife species like manatees. You can use Rogers Park to enter the region if using your own kayak is what you want. Evade the weekend if you want to paddle without the chaos and crowd around.