Posted on February 21, 2019 by
The results are in – Florida is the stand up paddle boarding mecca of the United States. Its amazing year-round weather, crystal clear tropical waters and diverse ecosystems make Florida the most desirable state to go paddle boarding in. Residents and vacationers alike are joining the latest paddle board craze to explore Florida’s stunning bodies of water.
In Florida you can paddle board in national parks, islands, bays, harbors, creeks, tributaries, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. But it begs the question – what are the best places to stand up paddle board in Florida? We sifted through every single paddle board spot in Florida and found you the 10 best destinations. You’re welcome.
Coastal Dune Lakes is a group of 15 lakes located on South Walton’s 26-mile coastline that are said to be over 10,000-years-old. These lakes are a natural phenomenon that only occur in a few other places across the world. What makes the Coastal Dune Lakes so unique is that they are fed by freshwater streams but sit only 50 to a couple hundred feet away from the Gulf of Mexico’s saltwater. This closeness creates a special environment because saltwater species traverse back and forth into these lakes creating a super unique ecosystem.
All 15 of Coastal Dune Lakes are big enough to paddle board in. We recommend paddle boarding the largest lake, Western Lake because of its tranquil beauty. This is the best lake to enjoy a leisure paddle or do SUP yoga – paddleboard yoga – on because of its calm waters, quietness and frequent sightings of wildlife. After you finished paddle boarding Western Lake, you have 11 other lakes to go explore.
St. Augustine is Florida’s oldest city and claims to be the oldest city in the United States. What better way to explore the nation’s oldest coastal city than by stand up paddle board? Exploring the rich history of St. Augustine with no crowds from the Atlantic Ocean will be quite the treat. Cruise by the Castilla de San Marcos and listen for the firing cannons and muskets. For a more exhilarating paddle board experience, paddle to each local hot spot for the most delicious food and drinks in the area.
Out of the 58 national parks in the United States, there are some that people have surprisingly never heard of before. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of these great places. Dry Tortugas is a cluster of seven, tiny remote islands located 70 miles west of Key West. Nearly 99% of this 100-square mile park is open water. Imagine picturesque turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs and thriving marine life. Is this a paddle board paradise?
A paddle board tour is an amazing way to explore Dry Tortugas. From your paddle board, you can look down and witness the daily lives of marine life. Depending on your paddle board skill level, there are beginner paddle board routes to expert paddle board routes. There are quick routes near Garden Key and longer more experienced routes to Bush and Long Key which generally take a few hours.
Before you start planning your paddle board adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park, you need to know that the only way to get there is by public ferry or private boat. Since it is 70 miles west of Florida civilization, the ferry ride typically takes around two hours and 15 minutes. The Yankee Freedom Ferry only has room for three paddle boards/kayaks per trip, but if you have an inflatable paddle board, you don’t need to worry about that because inflatable SUPs are compact and fit into a backpack.
Since it’s a trek out to Dry Tortugas we suggest booking a multi-day camping trip at one of 11 total campsites in the park. Not only can you enjoy paddle boarding while camping, but you can also enjoy snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and exploring Fort Jefferson.
Located in Northwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico is Destin Harbor. Destin Harbor is home to an influx of tourists year-round because of it’s welcoming town and thriving nightlife. This is a paddle board destination to try SUP fishing because Destin is known for having the largest charter fishing fleet in the country. Along the harbor you can find an abundance of amazing spots to score the catch of the day.
Destin Harbor doesn’t only provide exceptional SUP fishing, but also some epic recreational paddle boarding with addition to wildlife viewing. Ride the calm Gulf waters and witness many species of sea turtles or go inland up the freshwater bayous where you can see alligators.
Holmes Creek runs 34-miles on the Choctawhatchee River. North to south, Holmes Creek offers various protected routes you can take your paddle board on. There’s no right or wrong route to choose from, every route will showcase Holmes Creek’s diverse plant and animal life around every twist and turn. The creeks steady pace will allow you to leisurely paddle while enjoying your surroundings.
Take a detour on Holmes Creek and you’ll wind up in cold spring, Cyprus Springs. Compared to Holmes Creek, Cyprus Springs will have crystal clear water. Don’t forget to look down when paddle boarding the springs to see turtles and colorful fish. If it’s a scorcher out, go for a swim and enjoy the lush nature surrounding you.
Be aware that paddle boarding in a creek does have hazards above and below the water’s surface. While paddling in shallow water, make sure to pay close attention to underwater tree trunks that will catch your board or low hanging branches that will make you get low on your paddle board. Always be aware and you’ll be fine. For creek paddling, inflatable paddle boards will be your go-to option because if you do hit anything beneath the creek it will not damage your paddle board.
This wouldn’t be a list of the best places to paddle board in Florida without mentioning the mangroves. Just off Florida’s southwest coast is a chain of magnificent mangrove islets. Despite the name Ten Thousand Islands, there are just over a couple hundred islands (still plenty!). Exploring these islands by paddle board is an epic experience. If you’re looking for a paddle board destination with no crowds in Florida, this is the place to be.
Getting to Ten Thousand Islands can be a bit of a journey. From the Visitor’s Center, it’s about a two- and half-mile paddle if you take the Sandfly Loop. This should take you about one and a half hours to get to Sandfly Island, one of the larger and most-visited islands of chain because of its rich history and beautiful vintage homes. There are plenty of camping options at Ten Thousand Islands if paddling back to the Visitors Center sounds like too much in one day. Tiger Key and Picinc Key are popular campgrounds to look into.
Ten Thousand Islands is great for recreational paddle boarding, SUP fishing, SUP yoga and SUP touring. Meandering through Florida’s mangroves while enjoying the sounds of the water and Osprey will create a memorable experience.
The southern section of Ten Thousand Islands is Everglades National Park. What separates the Everglades from Ten Thousand Islands is its unique ecosystem. Compared to Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the nation. This diverse tropical wonderland makes the Everglades a paddle boarding wonderland.
If you’re going to do the Everglades right, you will camp at one of its 48 campsites with your paddle board. However, please understand that out of all the destinations listed in this blog, this is the one destination that you will need to be self-sufficient. There is no cell service in the park and there are no supply stores for food and water. You will need to bring all those supplies in a pack.
According to the National Parks Service, there are over thirty threatened species living in the Everglades, along with 350 species of birds, 300 species of fish, 50 species of reptiles and 40 species of mammals.
Islamorada is a group of six islands in the Florida Keys archipelago known for its booming coral reefs. This is the ideal paddle board destination for those to see some amazing saltwater creatures like sharks, sting rays, dolphins and trunkfish. Paddle board to the tiny island where Indian Key Historic Park is to witness ancient ruins from centuries ago or take a ride down Snake Creek to enjoy a calm, beautiful paddle. Windley Harbor is an ideal spot to launch your paddle boards in Islamorada.
If you were to continue to drive deeper into Florida Key’s (around 44 more miles) you will end up at Bahia Honda State Park. This is another incredible paddle board destination like Islamorada. Enjoy the crystal-clear waters of Florida Keys with no risk of strong tides. We recommend paddle boarding here for sunset to catch a glimpse of a quintessential Florida Key’s sunset.
Just off Florida’s Atlantic coast is Jupiter Island where you can find Blowing Rocks Preserve. Paddle boarding around the waters of this preserve allows you to view Jupiter Island from a variety of angles making from some excellent photo-ops. Make sure to bring a dry bag along for the ride so you can bring your phone or camera to take photos. Like most paddle board destinations in Florida, you have a chance of seeing turtles, sharks and an assorted selection of tropical birds. The beautiful scenery will blow you away!
Posted in TravelPaddle Boarding Tips & Tricks
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