I am a national lifeguard service lifeguard. Yes, even when I was in my forties, I re-certified my lifeguard qualifications. I taught thousands of kids to swim. I showed kids how to rescue people and how to perform first aid. I am not afraid of swimming or diving or water for the most part … unless I am in a boat. I’m not 100% sure when this phobia started, although, I suspect when I was 16 and tipped my friend’s laser sailboat over. I also know that no amount of assurance that I know how to handle an aquatic emergency makes me feel good about being in a boat. I’m good with saving other people but not so good for myself. Size really doesn’t matter either. It could be a large boat (like a ferry or a sailboat) or a small boat like a pontoon, kayak or canoe. If it floats on water, it makes me a tad nervous.
So you can imagine my surprise when the last four visits to destinations (all in Florida I might add) were keen on having kayak excursions for us to try. These are trying times. The last time I was on water was in a large Voyageur canoe paddling away with 15 other people on Lake Ontario. Early in the spring, I was in Alabama on a stand-up paddle board (SUP) in the afternoon and a sunset sail on a catamaran in the evening so it’s not like I haven’t been on water recently. I was determined to overcome my fear of being on a boat. I had some successes and some setbacks but all were lessons learned in determination.
At the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral: This type of surfing/SUP/Kayaking is more my speed
All the kayak outfitters we visited explained the safety rules to us: (1) wear a life jacket (with a whistle attached – in case you need help); (2) stay close to the shoreline in choppy waters; (3) hold the paddle correctly to avoid strain; (4) don’t panic if you tip; (5) follow the instructions given by the guide to navigate the current and wind effectively; and (6) look around and enjoy the scenery. I know I was not the only inexperienced paddler on those waters and it is safe to say, I was not the only one dealing with trepidation but I heeded the advice.
Our first stop was in Melbourne, Florida on the Atlantic coast. On this particular trip, I found myself with a group of travel bloggers and journalist at Sebastian Inlet Florida State Park where we went on a group kayak trip. We went to Inlet Marina where you can rent a SUP (stand-up paddle board), canoes or kayaks. Once suited up with lifejackets a quick paddling lesson and a guide, we paddled to smaller islands and along the mangrove-fringed shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon. Kayaking in the lagoon (as opposed to open water) can give you a false sense security in calm waters. The afternoon began in pretty calm waters with the sun beaming down on us but we soon had our share of mini-whitecaps which challenged some of the novice kayakers and paddlers. A good tip is to paddle with a professional guide if you are unfamiliar with the area, weather patterns or are a novice paddler. We are all progressing at different speeds because of a variety of skill levels and vessels. As our excursion progressed the water began to get choppier and I was a bit more concerned about pitching over. Luckily, I was safe as I was in a tandem kayak with our guide. Others had a tougher time. Big lessons here is to know your limits and communicate your comfort level. After a while I knew I wanted to head back to shore and she quickly complied. It was great that our guides helped us get back to shore safely.
We were kayaking in a sheltered inlet. Located in Sebastian Inlet Florida State Park, you can rent equipment from Inlet Marina. You must pay for entry into the State park in addition to rental costs. Make sure to drop by BG’s Surfside Grill and Adventures for some lunch and a cold brew after all that paddling. The beach here is also pretty spectacular but beware of the riptide when the ocean is churning. The view is spectacular!
$8.00 per vehicle with multiple occupants. Limit 8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
Rentals are available from Inlet Marina; call 321-724-5424 for inquiries or visit their website at Inlet Marina.
Rental Rates for Kayaks and SUP
Full Day Single Kayak Rental – $75
Full Day Tandem Kayak Rental – $85
Full Day Stand Up Paddleboard Rental – $85
Just 20 minutes from St. Pete’s Beach the drive to Fort De Soto State Park is a scenic tour of South Tierra Verde. Fort De Soto Park is 1,100-plus acres made up of five interconnected islands. This park has mangroves and inlets that are calm and easy to navigate in our kayak. You can see all sorts of interesting birds and wildlife (manatee and dolphins are common) as you paddle along peacefully. If you choose, you can camp and park your kayak or canoe right on site. Many of the campsites have direct access to the water (see pictures above). If you don’t have your own, you can rent from Topwater Kayak Outpost located just pass the check-in. Across the road you will find a beach, one of two long piers in the park, where you can fish or watch the waves coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. There are seven miles of paved trails and of course the iconic North Beach. You can also visit the batteries at historic Fort De Soto. Walk inside the bunkers or climb on to the large guns that are tucked away hidden behind the dunes. There is a lot to see and explore while you are in the park so be sure to set aside a good half day for the tour.
Located in Fort De Soto State Park (3500 Pinellas Bayway South Tierra Verde, FL 33715) Phone: 727.864.1991
You can rent the following equipment from Topwater Kayak Outpost: Sit-In Single, Double & Fishing Kayaks, Sit-On-Top Single, Double & Fishing Kayaks, Single, Double & Touring Canoes, Clear-Bottom Kayaks!
Rental Rates for Kayaks
Single Kayak / Canoe
1 Hour – $23
2 Hours – $29
4 Hours – $39
All Day – $55
DST: 9am – 6pm, last rental at 4:30pm
Winter: Last rental at 3:30, close at 5pm
Weather permitting – closed Christmas
Double Kayak / Canoe
1 Hour – $30
2 Hours – $40
4 Hours – $55
All Day – $70
Our very favourite kayaking experience in Florida was with Kayak Amelia. Our guide Buddy has years of experience and made the day memorable by pulling out home baked cookies halfway through the trip. We had a short stop on ‘Cookie Beach’ and then proceeded to paddle across the inlet in fairly choppy waters. We were able to do this with confidence because we had a fairly long discussion on how to paddle properly, a practice session on how to steer the kayak, navigate through the reeds and currents. Most importantly, he taught us how to work as a team in a tandem kayak. Communication, patience and a lot of laughter are the key!
The great thing about this outfitter is that it has two options: Kayaking and Segway tours. Although I would have love the Segway tour there is no doubt that the kayaking tour was well worth the price. Very reasonably priced a 3 hour tour has about 2 hours of kayaking. Which tour is done each day is determined by the tide that day. Reservations are required. Fee $65 adult, $55 child under 12 yr. The key here is to choose an experienced guided tour who is familiar with the area – I cannot stress that point enough.
Kayak Amelia also offers a Stand Up Paddle board yoga class. How cool is that? It would be relaxing just to paddle around but then you get to do yoga? I have to admit, I may even have tried paddleboarding again if that had been an option. You need to make reservations in advance so be sure to give the office a call. Note: Classes are most Sundays, fee $30/person
Located in the Timucuan Historic and Ecological Preserve. 13030 Heckscher Dr. Jacksonville, FL, 32226 Phone: 904.251.0016 or Contact via website.
Cost: hour tour: $65 for kayak SUP: $30-65 depending on class (intro or eco-tour or both)
Part of Florida’s beautiful Historic Coast, you are about 20 minutes away from St. Augustine. Located within the beautiful Anastasia State Park, Anastasia Watersports is another kayak Florida option. You are entering the state park so a nominal $8 fee is applicable. Once again, you have a choice of camping or day activities. The interesting part of this area is Anastasia State Park was established in 1949 and is deeply rooted in the history of the surrounding area. This park is home to the Coquina Quarry, an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to help construct the nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The park has many recreation options: perhaps hiking or simply enjoy the four miles of pristine beach.
Anastasia Watersports has a choice of kayaking, SUP or sailing on a Hobie Cat (when available). I also noticed that there are smaller kayaks for kids so this is a great choice for families.
Located at: 850 Anastasia Park Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080 Phone: 904.460.9111
Winter Hours: Open Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm Special Holiday Hours: Nov. 23-26 and Dec. Dec. 21-Jan. 1 10 am to 5 pm
Rates are price by the hour:
1hr. / 2 hr. / 4 hr. Kayak (single): $20 / $35 / $50 Kayak (double): $30 / $40 / $50
1hr. / 2 hr. / 4 hr. Stand Up Paddle Board: $20/ $30 / $60
Photo Credit: Anastasia Watersports
There are plenty of outfitters in this huge state that will be able to accommodate both your skills and level of interest. You will enjoy kayaking in Florida because there are so many mangroves, lagoons, estuaries and inlets that make it interesting. I am not 100% sure that this is a sport that I will take up on a regular basis but the gentle guiding instruction provided by the various guides has boasted my confidence in a boat.
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Want to read more about St. Augustine? Be sure and read about the beautiful Lightner Museum and Flagler College.
I was invited on a media trip to Florida for a girls getaway with Visit Jacksonville , Florida’s Historic Coast, Melbourne International Airport and Visit St. Petersburg & Clearwater and VisitFlorida. All opinions are our own.