Kayaking, canoeing + paddleboarding are great ways to explore Tampa Bay. These water sports also offer both physical and mental health benefits that extend far beyond a day on the water.
But before we dive in, let’s get a lay of the land (er, water). Check out these unique facts about our region:
- With 12,132.93 square miles of water, Florida ranks third in the US for water area.
- The National Forests in Florida have over 600 lakes and rivers.
- Florida has the second largest freshwater lake wholly contained within the United States
Next, we should talk about paddling safety, so you don’t capsize:
- Always wear a PFD or personal flotation device.
- Start small. Water, especially flowing water, can be intimidating. First-timers should opt for a small lake, pond, or city canal. You don’t want to get in over your head.
- Consider a guided adventure from Tampa Kayaking Company before heading out on your own.
- For a fully detailed list of do’s + don’ts, check out this paddling safety guide.
And finally, here are a few local options for getting your feet wet:
- Shell Key Preserve, 2187 Oceanview Dr., Tierra Verde | 15-minute drive from Downtown St. Pete | That’s right, you don’t have to leave Pinellas for this one. Get Up and Go Kayaking even offers clear kayak tours.
- Clam Bayou Nature Preserve, 4099 34th Ave S., St. Petersburg | 15-minute drive from Downtown St. Pete | Head down to Clam Bayou to push off from this nature preserve’s kayak launch. Once you’ve explored the mangroves, scoped out crabs, birds, and maybe a dolphin or two, head over to Gulfport’s laid back O’ Maddy’s Bar & Grille or Neptune Grill for a quick bite and beer.
- Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill | 1-hour drive from Downtown Tampa | Paddle through 2.8 miles of fresh spring water mostly under the shade of oak and cypress trees + stop by to watch the park’s famous mermaids perform their underwater dance.
- Hillsborough River, Urban Kai, Armature Works dock, 1910 N Ola Ave | Downtown Tampa | Paddle along the River on a guided tour from Urban Kai + stop at one of the fantastic rooftop bars along the Riverwalk for a post paddle sip.