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. 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. Click here to learn more.
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.
For the novice kayaker, here are a few tips to make the most out of the paddle.
- What you wear can weigh you down. Avoid cotton, as it can be heavy when wet and it takes a long time to dry. Instead, opt for clothing made from synthetic fabrics such as Lycra and polyester, which dry quickly and keep you comfortable. Of course, you want to make sure you’ve loaded up on sunscreen—and remember a hat and sunglasses.
- Consider the seasonal habits of wildlife. The time of year matters when it comes to what you can expect to see from the kayak. From April through October, South Florida experiences an uptick in a number of marine life species, including sea turtles, stingrays, manatees, adolescent sharks and bottlenose dolphins. Depending on where you paddle, keep your eyes peeled; you never know what you might spy.
- Watch the weather beyond the sun or rain. Obviously, it is important to check weather forecasts before heading anywhere outdoors, but also check the wind speed and tidal currents, which can affect your kayaking. Paddling against strong incoming or outgoing tides can be exhausting and possibly a recipe for trouble. Check saltwatertides.com for tide information (Florida Atlantic Coast).
North Palm Beach
For those wanting to explore the northern tracks of the Lake Worth Lagoon or make a trek to Peanut Island, Nautical Ventures has two locations for your paddling pleasure. The main location and shop, situated on the Earman River in North Palm Beach, offers both kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, giving paddlers direct access to Munyon Island, Little Munyon Island and the estuary at MacArthur Beach State Park. At just less than a mile from Munyon Island, paddlers of all skill levels can easily make the trek to the quiet island, while the estuary offers a great, secluded spot to explore.