Almost every SUPer has Florida on their bucket list. And why wouldn’t they? The views are breathtaking, the weather friendly and the paddle boarding spots countless. You have seen the stunning photos—you should know, they don’t do the place justice. All paddlers dream of a Florida SUP adventure. Even locals can’t get enough of it.
To make sure that you have an epic experience, we consulted local experts for you. They know the area like the back of their hands. So they are the right people to ask about the best places to paddleboard in Florida. Take a look at their recommendations.
1. Indian River Lagoon
Did you know that the Indian River is not a single lagoon but a collection of three lagoons? It is home to 600+ fish species, 300+ bird species, diverse vegetation, and 2000+ animal species. Some of the animal species are endangered.
You will love spending time with dolphins and manatees. Or going for a long, relaxing paddle. There are tons of launch sites and routes that will take you to mind-blowing spots.
Chris Woodruff, from Paddle By The Sea, says, “we paddle on the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach. We have several mangrove trails near our launch and usually have bottlenose dolphins nearby.”
Dan Smith from Paddling Paradise adds, “we have a very nice protected area on most days. We also are next to the Indian River Lagoon, this can be a great place to do some down winding or just some real distance paddling.”
2. Fort Lauderdale
The city boasts of many paddling canals and dreamy beaches. The network of waterways has earned it the nickname “Venice of America”, with tropical mangroves, palm trees, a rich variety of marine life. It is a perfect destination for the paddler who would love a fancy experience.
Other than magnificent canals, Fort Lauderdale is known for its multi million dollar mansions and mega yachts, in which you can take a tour. You will have interesting pictures to share with your Instagram followers.
Brian Galton of Sunrise Paddleboards especially advises “their Glow in the Dark Full Moon Paddle created over 10 years ago that has become popular all over the USA, but the original started right here.”
Tim Knight, Las Olas Paddle Boards recommends the beautiful Victoria Park neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. “Paddlers will enjoy the yachts, mansions and tropical scenery throughout the canals along Las Olas Boulevard.”
3. North Lake
Located in Marion County, North Lake offers a unique paddling experience.
According to Sean Collins from Waterway Adventures, there is a lot to see and many places to paddle board. He says, “you can explore the mangrove trails, travel to beautiful West Lake where boats are not allowed to go, sightsee along the Intracoastal or paddle along the shoreline in North Lake admiring the gorgeous homes and anchored boats. Be on the lookout for manatees, dolphins and sea turtles as you soak up the sun and the fresh air.”
4. Oleta River State Park
Dane White from Oleta River Outdoors says, “The Oleta River State Park, known as one of the largest urban parks in South Florida, is a 1,043-acre Florida State Park on Biscayne Bay in the municipal suburb of North Miami.
The park is home to some of the best paddling waterways to paddle board through mangrove forests with a variety of birds and animals that lead out onto the intracoastal waterway. Dolphins are often found around the area and with the option of paddling out to Sandspur Island, it’s easy to spend an entire day on the water here.
Additionally, there are 15 miles of mountain bike trails for both novice and experienced riders. Walkers and joggers can also enjoy three miles of paved trails that offer scenic views of the waterways through mangrove forests with a variety of birds and animals.”
The Oleta River Outdoor Center is the official operator of outdoor recreation and hospitality at Oleta River State Park. Check out their site for more information.
5. Key Biscayne
Less than an hour from the Oleta River State Park is Key Biscayne. You have heard all about the exquisite beaches and clear waters in Florida. Key Biscayne is the place to go for that with mangroves and tropical-like islands in the bay filled with coco trees. Christophe Ribot of Morningside Watersports says “encounters with local wildlife are expected at any time: manatees, dolphins, ray, and all Floridian birds! A great adventure at each stop.”
The beautiful island has beaches that look like something out of fantasy land. It is located between Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and Crandon Park.
One of the things that make it attractive is how quiet and peaceful it is. If you are looking to do SUP yoga at a place that looks and feels like paradise, with pristine-clear water with plenty of sandbars to hop from and chill, this is it.
According to Andres Avello, from PADL, “Key Biscayne is an amazing area with mangroves and seagrass beds which bring a biodiversity which can all be seen on SUP. Combined with the small wrecks off the beaches, we see everything from birds, manatees and dolphins, to giant tarpon and bonefish, amongst other fish, and even crocodiles (rarely). I highly recommend taking a mask with you if you’re going from the beach side, and a rod if going in the bay. After your paddle, be sure to bring whatever you need to pass the rest of the day on the beach or be pampered at the ritz close by!”
6. Naples Beach
There are so many things to do and see in Naples. But most tourists go there for the beach experience. White sand, turquoise water, golden sunsets, and a clear, blue skyline. What more could you ask for?
Enrique Giannello of Naples Paddleboard says, “some of the best places for paddle boarding in SouthWest Florida include Ten Thousand Islands. They are a group of islands, perfect for a quiet getaway. In 2012, I paddled from Naples to Key West and I will never forget the gorgeous everglades. The scenery made everything worth it.
In town, the best place to SUP is along the Gordon River Greenway, lined with mangrove trees.
Shell Island is a beautiful place as well. It is undeveloped and your experience will be pure and natural. You will also love paddle boarding in the Caxambas Pass, Dollar Bay and Keewaydin Island, all in Naples, Florida.”
7. Estero Island
This island in Lee County is surrounded by awesome beaches. It is part of Fort Myers Beach and a great place to get away and relax.
Sheree Lincoln from Sea Dog Eco Tours describes it as unique. “The Fort Myers Beach Area and Estero Island is unique because it is located on the Gulf of Mexico where a large bay and two natural waterway passes meet. It is also part of the Calusa Blueway Watertrail. You can paddle board on the gulf and launch from one of the beach water sports centers or your hotel, Airbnb or cottage. You can also take a guided tour by kayak or paddle board from several local water sports businesses that service San Carlos Bay and Matanzas Pass.
From here, you can view the largest shrimp boat fleet in Florida, explore a beautiful inner harbor sand bar (or secret island that arises only with the low tide), watch the boaters making the loop around the island, explore the mooring field, the dolphin and manatee nurseries of Hurricane Pass, check out the Bird Island Preserve, paddle the tide pools in search of sea creatures and paddle along the mangroves and into the mangrove tunnels over my Bunche Beach Preserve. And if you get up early you can even surf on the wave created by the Key West Express as she leaves for Key West.
One of our favorite, most beautiful and happy tours starts at Bonita Dog Beach located at the southern end of Lover’s Key just north of the New Pass Bridge in the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. Paddle the gulf inlet, the waterways among the mangroves, explore the beaches in search of sea shells and enjoy marine life as you interact with the dogs at play. This beach and paddle board option is dog friendly, of course. The water is clear and the beaches are beautiful. The view of the gulf through the pass by Big Hickory Island is gorgeous and exploring Lover’s Key is serene.”
8. San Carlos Bay
Tucked away somewhere, southwest of Fort Myers, this is an ideal SUP area for newbies.
Stefan Kuenzel of Kayak Excursions Inc. says that beginner paddlers will feel right at home here. You won’t have to deal with waves. This makes it great for SUP yoga as well.
He adds, “you can SUP shallow flats, mostly less than two feet deep. There are sandy beaches where you can stop for a quick break, and deeper parts of the bay, mostly less than ten feet deep.”
If you are looking for a reserved area where you can enjoy a quiet moment, look no further. A lot of wild animals have made their home there and you will see them as you paddle.
9. Sanibel Island
This is a small island with a population of less than 10,000. It has several wildlife refuges. Its shell beaches have made it an attractive tourist destination.
Roy Massey, Ace Performer, says, “Sanibel has awesome beaches for SUP and the JN Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Motorboats are not allowed there so you’ll only see paddleboards and kayaks. Most of the animal species are exclusive to the area—you won’t see them anywhere else.
The county has its own trail marked out for kayaks and paddleboards in a downloadable app. There are many creeks and beautiful parks to SUP such as Telegraph Creek. Down south of Fort Myers Beach you’ll find Lovers Key. It is a group of hidden mini islands. Gorgeous is an understatement.”
10. Captiva Island
It neighbors Sanibel and you can easily travel from one area to the other.
There’s something special about Captiva Island. It feels like something out of a fairytale with its magical atmosphere.
As far as standup paddleboarding goes, you have amazing beaches to explore. Jimi Batchelor, of Sunny Island Adventures, recommended this one. They say, ”we are located on the northern tip of the island of Captiva. We launch in the bay and you can paddle on the edge of the mangrove in calm clear protected shallow waters. The aquatic life is abundant and spectacular with rays, snook, dolphins and manatees!”
11. Matlacha Island
This small island has a population of roughly 700. Paddlers and anglers love it.
Matlacha Island is like heaven for SUPers. It is reserved and the water is clear. Bryan Stockbridge of Gulf Coast Kayak swears by it. He says, “we are surrounded by mangroves and calm, shallow water. We often see manatees, dolphins, diving birds, and jumping mullet. Matlacha is part of an Aquatic Preserve, where you can paddle board all day and not have to worry about boats flying by you. It’s a great place for the whole family!”
12. Boca Grande and Placida
These two are less than 15 minutes apart. You can explore them as one area and get double the fun.
According to Katie Koher, Glass Bottom Rentals, this is where you find “some of the bluest, tropical water.”
And she’s right. The water here is blue and clean, just as you see in the photos. You will love the white sand that feels powdery under your feet. Placida and Boca Grande are among the finest areas for SUP, especially SUP yoga. The good thing about them is that they’re not crowded and are tranquil.
Katie says they, “launch from a shallow cove and have access to the very popular Boca Grande Sandbar and nearby islands. The area is known for dolphin and manatee, which makes for a fun and exciting paddle!”
13. Lido Key
You will find Lido Key on the coast of Sarasota. Since it is not very popular, it’s one of those places you go when you want to have time for yourself.
Lido Key Beach is characterized by clear skies and blue waters. The sunsets are heavenly here.
This SUP destination was recommended by Mitch Laugle of Liquid Blue Outfitters. He says that “the main attraction for our area is the mangrove tunnel on the south end of the island.” Other than the mangrove, there are lots of dolphins to see.
14. Anna Maria Island
This small island on the Florida Gulf Coast is famous for its beaches. It has an ancient vibe that makes it super cool.
Anna Maria comes highly recommended for SUP fly fishing by Steve Traves. He works with Anna Maria Island Outfitters.
The clear waters make the experience even more thrilling. And you never run out of options. Steve says, “SUP fly-fishing is a huge sport on Anna Maria Island. If the Gulf of Mexico is not glassy and calm enough to paddle, we SUP-fish in Manatee Bay. There is also Palma Sola Bay and Anna Maria Sound.”
The beaches here are spectacular with views that will take your breath away. It is a quiet and slow area, making it perfect for families or anyone looking to have a peaceful SUP adventure.
15. Crystal River
The name tells it all. This river is crystal clear and you are sure to get the experience of a lifetime. It is one of the most beautiful places for paddle boarding in Florida. It’s no surprise that it was recommended by two local paddleboard experts.
Christopher Brown, Paddles Outdoor Rentals, says, “Crystal River has the world-famous Three Sisters Springs. It attracts visitors from all over the world. The crystal-clear water is 72 degrees all year long and is home to manatees during the colder winter months.”
And according to Dave Perry, from Hunter Springs Kayaks, “Crystal River sits on the Kings Bay. It is the perfect waterway for your next stand-up paddleboard adventure. Home to the world famous Three Sisters Springs, this natural wonder is open to paddlecraft from May to October. Even in the late spring and summertime, manatees can be found in small pockets in and around Kings Bay.”
Other than fancy golf courses, Destin is known for its phenomenal beaches. Their beauty will blow you away.
Joey Gates works with Destin Kayak Rentals. He says, “Destin, has the most elegant white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters that I have ever seen. From Hawaii to California to the Caribbean islands, Destin is my favorite place to “beach” and SUP. Lots of options for SUP excursions.”
These are some of the places he recommends:
“The Gulf: starting with the calm waters right in front of your beach house or condo can be the best place to start. On Green and Yellow Flag days, the Gulf water is very smooth and inviting to paddlers of all experience levels. Tidal pools can form along the shore and make a great place to teach newbies to stand up without any waves.
Tour the Harbor: when there’s a Red Flag or Double Red Flag day, I usually head over to Noriega Point to launch. This is the best place to launch and cruise the historic Destin Harbor area and spend part of the day paddling, fishing, or just site-seeing in the many canals of the Holiday Isle neighborhood. You can also beach or dock at some of the restaurants along the Harborwalk Village boardwalk and take a break, grab some lunch of local catch and refreshments.
Crab Island: it’s a bit of a paddle from the Noriega Point launch and the currents can be tricky to navigate depending on tide changes at the time you’re paddling out or back, but Crab Island can be a fun place to spend the day on an SUP.
Choctawhatchee Bay: inshore fishing or just trying to get away from the Destin crowds? The Bay and numerous Bayous may be the place you’re looking to go. Redfish, trout, and flounder are the most common target fish.”
17. The Dora Canal
Beaches are not the only places you can paddle board in Florida. The 1.25-mile Dora Canal connects Lake Dora and Lake Eustis. It is lined with stunning cypresses that give a unique experience.
Katrina Aho, Adventure Outdoor Paddle, has this to say about the majestic canal: “it is home to abundant wildlife including egrets, heron, osprey, limpkins, anhingas, gators, and the occasional otter sighting. Paddling this canal takes you back in time to experience the real Florida.”
While you won’t get much alone-time because of the boat traffic, the Dora Canal is worth exploring. There aren’t many places that will give you a similar paddling experience.
It may be a famous city, but not many people know it as a SUP destination. However, if you know where to paddle, you will have a fantastic time.
Uncle Ned from Paddleboard Orlando says, “Central Florida is like Swiss cheese with all the holes being water! From wild and scenic springs to urban lake paddling. In the center of the state, we have interconnected chains of lakes with mansions or gin-clear springs filled with amazing wildlife. A two-hour paddle to the west lands you in west coast emerald-colored water or, in the other direction, amazing east coast beaches with coastal estuaries. There is something for everyone all year round.”
Laura Villot, Buena Vista Watersports, agrees. With cypress trees swaying in the breeze, lush tropical vegetation soaking up the sunshine and white sandy beaches nearby, paddle boarding in Orlando is like setting foot on your own private island.
19. Winter Haven
If you have heard of the famous Chain of Lakes, this is where they are found. They are 50 lakes—some of them within the city of Winter Haven and others bordering it. The lakes are linked by canals making them ideal for paddling and other forms of entertainment.
Kami Rickert, Paddleboard Winter Haven, says, “our lakes are surrounded by amazing cypress trees and provide for incredible nature viewing as we travel the chain. We also have a tour that travels along the Historical Cypress Gardens lakeside. One big advantage of paddleboarding on a lake is the calm water that it typically provides for our beginners.”
Have you paddled in any of these places before? How was the experience? Which area would you like to go SUPing next?
Did we miss your favorite place to paddle board in Florida? Let us know in the comments.
Finally, check out the websites of the amazing companies above. Not only do they offer paddle boards or kayaks for rent, as local experts they can also tell you of the best places to explore.
Have fun on the water!