While the beach may be the top draw in South Florida, the waterways further inland are just as, if not more, interesting. One of the best ways to enjoy this watery world is with paddle in hand, kayaking through the Intracoastal Waterway, Lake Worth Lagoon, Loxahatchee Estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
Minimally intrusive, kayaking allows for a more intimate experience with nature than scooting around on a powerboat. The leisurely, self-dictated pace of the kayak produces much less noise pollution, helping quell the disruption of wildlife’s daily routine, while the slower pace allows the paddler to take in more of their surroundings. Kayakers are also able to explore deeper into the mangrove and cypress jungles of South Florida, skimming through shallows with ease and squeezing into the narrowest of rivulets, taking the adventure far beyond where prop can lead.
Beyond enjoying nature, kayaking also offers paddlers a low-impact workout. The simple act of paddling is an all-inclusive upper-body workout, targeting the arms, back, shoulders and chest while rotating the torso, which also works out the legs. Meanwhile, to keep the kayak from tipping, your core is engaged to maintain balance throughout. Depending on conditions, kayaking can be carefree or strenuous, so check tides and weather before booking your rental.
Below, we offer a few of our favorite places to explore while paddling and some places to score a kayak rental or guided tour. Whether you’re traversing Riverbend and the Loxahatchee River in the north or cruising south along mangrove shores of Snook Islands, there is plenty to do and see.
Cruise along the Lake Worth Lagoon’s mid section with rentals from Kayak Lake Worth, a mobile kayak/stand-up paddleboard operation. Strategic launch points in Lake Worth give paddlers access to some unique kayaking experiences: exploring the manmade Snook Islands Natural Area, the bird sanctuary of Bingham Islands and Lake Osborne at John Prince Park.
Renters simply make a reservation, head to their launch location ready to paddle and get out on the water—Kayak Lake Worth takes care of the rest. Fees vary based on type of vessel and length of time on the water.
- For information on rental prices, visit kayaklakeworth.com.
- To make a reservation, 48 hours in advance, call 561-225-8250.
For those looking for a guided affair, Kayak Lake Worth offers lagoon tours scheduled for full moons throughout the summer as well as sunset tours, which are scheduled on a need basis—all it takes is four paddlers and proper tide conditions, and you’re off.
Full Moon tours explore Snook Islands, embarking at sunset and returning under the light of the moon. Cost is $40 per person, which includes all gear.
- For the complete summer schedule, visit kayaklakeworth.com/full-moon-on-the-lagoon.
- Reservations are required; call 561-225-8250 to book a spot.
Where To Go
Bingham and John's Islands
Just south of bustling downtown West Palm Beach, on the Southern Boulevard bridge, Bingham Islands is a peaceful paddle and an ideal locale for birders. Designated an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the collection of densely packed mangrove islands and mudflats attract birds of all feathers, including osprey, herons, egrets and waders. Best paddled at high tide (it is largely impassable between islands at low tide), he Bingham Islands grouping offers plenty to see and explore; however, just to south, two additional sets of islands are just a paddle away: Hunters Island and its surrounding islets sits just under a mile from Bingham, while John’s Island, an intertidal and submerged shallow water habitat, sits roughly a mile and a half away.
Part of Palm Beach County’s Environmental Restoration Project program, John’s Island (pictured above) was transformed from a dredge spoil island rife with invasive and exotic vegetation into a dynamic island habitat with mangrove forest, tropical maritime hammock, oyster reefs, tidal flats and sea grass meadows. Now, it's a great place to observe different bird species as they forage for food. To fully enjoy Bingham Islands and these southern outcroppings, schedule at least four hours out on the water—and be sure to bring some sunscreen and plenty of water.
Snook Islands Natural Area
Located just north of the Lake Worth Bridge, Snook Islands was actually created with the dredge spoil from John’s Island and Peanut Island and is one of the most intensive restoration projects Palm Beach County’s ERM has undertaken. Completed in 2005, the project restored 100 acres of wetland habitat, including the creation of 1.2 miles of natural shoreline, the removal of exotic vegetation and planting of 11 acres of mangroves, 2.2 acres of oyster reefs, the restoration of 40 acres of sea grass meadow and the creation of boardwalks and fishing piers for bipeds to enjoy.
For birders and kayak fishermen, this is an ideal kayaking locale, with numerous bird and fish species flocking to the area.
John Prince Park
Lake Osborne at John Prince Park gives kayakers a chance to explore South Florida’s fresh water offerings. The lake itself runs more than three miles and is a popular place for landing big largemouth bass. John Prince Park is the perfect spot for beginners to get their feet wet, with minimal boat wake on the lake and plenty of shoreline to explore.
Go to page two for info on North Palm Beach, Jupiter, and some tips for beginners.