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Kayaking Florida Keys Is
An Eco Adventure Trip 

Kayaking Florida Keys is one of the more natural things you can do - in two ways.

Natural as in mother nature, and there's no better place to get outdoors and explore, than the Florida Keys.

It's also natural in that the surroundings are so conducive for paddling, that it's as second nature as breathing, or at least it should be.

With some of the most spectacular water in the world mere steps away, it's impossible not to find a place you can go on a kayak trip that will accommodate your skill level.

If you're a novice, or a first timer, the calm shallow waters of the backcountry are the perfect place to go paddling and discover nature.

If you're a more experienced pro, you can test your paddling skills further out in the rougher water of the Atlantic Ocean. However, anyone can paddle the waters of the Florida Keys, even going the full distance from Key Largo to Key West.

Best Kayaking Trips Are On The
Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail

If you do decide to go the distance from Key Largo to Key West Florida, you'll have several adventure trip options.

You can explore the waters of the Gulf of Mexico which will always be calmer as it's protected by land. However, the distance on this side of the chain of islands will be greater as there are more inlets and curves, with pieces of land to weave in and explore on your kayak adventures.

Florida Keys Kayaking

Florida Keys Kayaking Trips To the Backcountry
Photo Courtesy of Teresa Smith

You can go paddling on the Atlantic side, which is the more direct route. This Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail is the highlighted route on the following 7 maps provided by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.

These canoeing and kayaking Florida maps do a great job of detailing the different segments of the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail. The Trail covers approximately 111 statute miles and allows for approximately 9 to 10 days of paddling. Also identified on these paddling maps are points of interest, plus places where you can get water, eat and sleep.

It is strongly recommended that you treat these maps as a guideline only and that you include a GPS system in your gear so you can easily pinpoint the various locations you'll be looking for.

These maps do have GPS coordinates highlighted for some of the more important stops along the way, such as rest areas and campgrounds. In general, GPS coordinates have a history of sometimes been slightly inaccurate. However, between the maps and the GPS coordinates you should be on top or very close to where you want to go on your kayak trip.

This overview map of the Florida Keys Paddling Trail gives you an opportunity to view it's entire length.

This map is of the leg that includes MM 104 - MM 89, which is the area from Key Largo to Plantation Key.

This map is of the portion that includes MM 91 - MM 70 going from Plantation Key, south of Indian Key almost as far down as Long Key.

This map includes the leg of the Trail from MM 71 - 48 which is from Long Key just north of Long Key State Park to Sombrero Beach.

This map is an overview of MM 50 - MM 27 which includes the Marathon Florida to Ramrod Key portion of the Trail.

This overview section covers MM 27 - MM 7 which includes the area from Ramrod Key south to Boca Chica Key which is just north of Key West.

This last segment of the overview map includes MM 8 - MM 0 which clearly identifies Boyd's Campground and Fort Zachary Taylor.

The Florida Keys Paddling Trail is also the route of 115 mile Keys Challenge. Entrants paddle from Key Largo to Key West to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Henry Flagler's Railroad.

In the past, as a paddler, The Keys Challenge was an event you wouldn't want to miss. However, in light of COVID-19 restrictions, resorts going up and damage from hurricanes, the ability for a large number of people tenting has become minimal to none.

To keep abreast of this paddling challenge, or to find out about other paddling challenges held throughout Florida, you can routinely visit the following link which gives you additional Paddling Adventures information.

Florida Keys Paddling Tips

There are several important Florida Keys paddling tips that need to be addressed here as well.

First, even though you'll enjoy the freshness of a breeze coming off the salt water, you're still directly in the hot Florida sun. Even in winter, Florida weather is warm in the Keys.

Make sure you have enough drinking water along so you stay hydrated. 1 gallon per person per day is recommended for an overnight trip when kayaking Florida Keys.

Also, don't forget to wear a kayak helmet or at very least a hat, and make sure you've applied an appropriate amount of sunscreen to any exposed skin.

You'll need to have mosquito repellant, with you because even in the winter, mosquitoes are around and the no-see-ums can be fierce even in December and January.

You'll also want to ensure that you're wearing a very good pair of polarized sunglasses since you'll experience glare which can damage your eyes.

Florida regulations also specify that you must have a life vest of some description with you, and that it has a whistle attached.

You're better off to wear the life jacket, because you never know when an accident will happen, causing you to tip or flip. If you're kayaking Florida Keys with children, the law stipulates that anyone younger than 6, must wear their life vest at all times.

People often taken their pets paddling with them too. Don't forget to protect Fido, because your best friend can quickly and easily fall in the water, and hurt himself. If that happens he can't dog paddle to keep his head above water and could drown before you are able to pull him to safety.

Even if you're traveling in a group, it's wise to provide someone on land with your float plan so they know your approximate whereabouts. Also carry your cell phone in a water proof case, even though you may only get coverage occasionally, it's important to still have it with you.

If your Florida Keys paddling vacation takes you out on the water during the summer months, or from June 1 through to November 30, you'll be in the rainy season and then also the Florida hurricane season. Thunderstorms pop up just about every afternoon during the rainy season and this is dangerous if you're out on the water.

Kayaking Florida Keys

Always Take Safety Precautions When Kayaking Florida Keys

Waterspouts are also common, and on long kayaking trips you'll need to monitor the Florida weather to find out about any incoming tropical storms or hurricanes.

If you have the room, you'll want to bring along a waterproof camera and binoculars because one of the biggest perks kayaking Florida Keys has, is all the wildlife you'll see. The water around you will be very shallow in many places so it will be easy to spot manatee, dolphin, sea turtles, shark, tropical fish, and other wonderful creatures of the sea.

In fact kayak eco tours are extremely popular for paddling enthusiasts who are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna that surrounds them. The Florida Keys have a number of eco adventure tours available for anyone planning sea kayaking trips.

Florida Keys Things To See And
Do On Your Kayak Adventure

Since you're kayaking Florida Keys, you're also in an area rife with coral reefs and shipwrecks, old and new. Many of the patch reefs and wrecks you'll be passing near or over, are just a few feet beneath you.

If you enjoy Florida Keys snorkeling, you'll want to bring along some gear so you can spend a few hours exploring some of the more interesting wrecks you'll encounter on your Florida Keys paddle vacation.

For GPS coordinates and information on the different wrecks and reefs scattered throughout the Florida Keys, this primary Florida Keys diving page provides links to all the main diving pages which divide the region down by wrecks and reefs, as well as by locale. You'll also find a worthwhile video showing the spectacular underwater beauty of Sombrero Reef on this main diving page.

In particular, some of the Florida Keys snorkeling sites you may want to explore include Looe Key Reef, and several of the close in shipwrecks from the 1733 Spanish Treasure Fleet. These include the Flagship the Capitana El Rubi Segundo, the Herrera also referred to as the Figurine Wreck, and the Tres Puentes.

While kayaking Florida Keys, you'll also pass by areas that include Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve, and Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve which are rich with bird, animal and marine life.

While kayaking Florida Keys, it's quite likely that you'll even encounter the tiny key deer as they migrate from one small island to another, in search of food.

Kayaking Florida Keys Takes You Past the Old Bahia Honda Bridge
Courtesy of My Key West Photograph

Without question, one of the most exciting features of kayaking Florida Keys is that you can loop around and go full circle. If you follow the overview map of the Trail, you'll travel southwest from Key Largo at John Pennekamp, ending at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West. 

However, your kayak adventures don't have to stop here. Once you're rested up and have perhaps spent some time in Key West exploring Duval Street, you can then continue around the bottom of the Truman Annex, paddling over to the Gulf side. From here you'll begin your return journey via the calmer, slightly longer Gulf side, for a change of scenery.

Kayaking Florida Keys, if you don't have the time or energy to paddle the full distance from Key Largo to Key West, you can make your own paddling trails, by creating smaller loops.

Whether you choose to go around the Lower Keys or the Middle Keys it's possible to make a full circle around the different regions in just a few days or less.

Other kayaking Florida Keys options include selecting smaller Keys and making short paddling trails around them.

From north to south, several possibilities include Windley Key, Craig Key, Conch Key, Duck Key, Bahia Honda Key, Ramrod Key, Summerland Key, and Sugarloaf Key.

You can also leave the Middle Keys south of Marathon and parallel the Seven Mile Bridge down to the Lower Keys, then turn around and paddle back for an enjoyable 14 mile round trip.

Potential Trip Hazards When
Kayaking Florida Keys 

When you're on the Florida Keys Paddling Trail, there are a few trip hazards you'll need to be aware of.

First, boaters are typically out and about in vast numbers. They're often in a hurry, and they're definitely larger than you are. When they go by, they'll leave a wake that can easily tip you, plus they may not even see you, and may be aimed directly at you.

If you're kayaking Key West, you'll have to watch out for the shipping channel where large tankers and other ships pass through. Plus at the south end of Key West FL, along the Truman Annex and Mallory Square area, you'll encounter cruise liners coming in to Key West port and leaving again at 5:00 pm.

When you're kayaking Florida Keys, it's crucial for you to exercise extreme caution when you're in places experiencing heavy marine traffic.

Once you're out of these areas, you'll be treated to blissful silence. The only sounds you'll hear will be the rhythmic beat of your heart, and the soft sound of your paddle gently dipping into the aquamarine water as it glides you forward while kayaking Florida Keys. 

Even Best Kayaking Trips Need A Restful Place To Unwind 
Photo Courtesy of Teresa Smith

When you're kayaking Florida Keys, it's easy to mentally leave behind the congestion and noise that invigorates these islands. However, hustle and bustle is a big part of the Keys, and tourism is one of the main breadwinners of the area. This puts basic amenities at a premium during prime tourist season.

Even though you're Florida Keys paddling vacation is all about avoiding the stress of daily life and enjoying the solitude of nature, this won't happen without planning ahead.

First off, you should know what your physical capabilities are in terms of how far you can paddle in one day without overtaxing yourself. The rule of thumb is 2 miles per hour of paddling, but there are other considerations which can affect this. Wind and current can slow you down, or even speed up your progress.

If you take these factors into consideration, it will be easier for you to accurately plan each Florida travel day, and book reservations at Florida Keys campgrounds or lodging facilities in advance. If your kayaking Florida Keys vacation brings you here during late fall through to mid spring, planning ahead will be essential.

Where to Stay and Eat
On Your Sea Kayaking Trip

For your convenience our website includes detailed listings of all the lodging facilities throughout the Florida Keys. Each listing also includes a link to the individual TripAdvisor page for comments about that establishment so you can read real life reviews.

Each of these following three links will take you to the main page for each region. You can also use the helpful TripAdvisor widget to check for cheapest airline tickets and lodging reviews.

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The information we've provided on the Florida Keys lodging throughout the region is quite detailed. Many of the different Florida Keys accommodations are waterfront properties and some have their own marinas and private beaches. Once you find a place that's in your price range, don't forget to confirm how accessible they'll be for your arrival via kayak or canoe.

If your overnight plans include Florida Keys camping as an option, there are a number of different State Parks and campgrounds along the way that you call in advance to reserve. Their level of amenities vary, but at least there's a place you can pitch a tent if you're not going to stay in the various Florida Keys hotels or motels.

Please note that Boyd's West Campground in Key West does not accept reservations during Christmas week from December 25 through to January 1.

Atlantic side campgrounds with easy access for anyone traveling the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail are listed with GPS coordinates below. Remember there's always the possibility of a slight variation with GPS coordinates.

Paddling Florida Keys At Dusk

This link will take to you to additional campgrounds found throughout the Florida Keys.

Long Key State Park - 305-664-4815
GPS Coordinates: 24 49.01N - 80 49.12W

Curry Hammock State Park - 305-289-2690
GPS Coordinates: 24 44.33N - 80 59.5W

Knights Key Campground - 800-348-2267
GPS Coordinates: 24 71.58N - 81 08.25W

Bahia Honda State Park - 305-872-2353
GPS Coordinates: 24 39.34N - 81 15.42W

Sugarloaf KOA - 305-745-3549
GPS Coordinates: 24 39.600N - 81 31.068W

Geiger Key Marina - 305-296-3553
GPS Coordinates: 24 58.15N - 81 64.77W

Boyd's West Campground 305-294-1465
GPS Coordinates to Pass: 24 56.07N - 81 .723W

If you use the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail maps provided above, you'll see how the Trail has been broken down by mileage. This will help you plan out where you'll want to stay. It will also help you plan other activities such as where you'll eat, and fun Florida Keys things to do.

To find out where to eat, this link provides information on Key Largo and Islamorada restaurants. This link shares details on where to eat in the Marathon area, and this link provides listings on Key West restaurants.

If after a day of paddling you're looking for a little nighttime adventure, this link shares information on Florida Keys night spots and bars. Many of these venues feature live music and fantastic water views, so you can spend a few hours enjoying a favorite cocktail and some lively conversation.

Without a doubt, kayaking Florida Keys will be one of the most enjoyable and natural highs you'll experience while on your Florida Keys vacation. Once you try it, you'll find out how truly addictive it is.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040