Best time to visit Jacksonville, FL

Kayaking in Jacksonville, FL

Enjoy a paddling adventure in Northeast Florida

Best time: all year round (best in October–April)

Kayaking in the Okefenokee Swamp
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Jacksonville boasts access to a huge Atlantic coastline, St. Johns River, and several national and state parks within city limits. That makes it a perfect destination for kayaking or canoeing. Kayaking is a great way to stay close to nature and explore Northeast Florida away from the crowds.

As summer is the busiest and hottest season, many experts consider fall the best time for kayaking. Temperatures start to cool down in October and stay moderate through April. At this time, there are also thinner crowds in the state parks, so the experience could be more enjoyable.

Best places for kayaking near Jacksonville

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located in a 1.5-hour drive from Jacksonville. The gentle, slow current of the Ichetucknee River is perfect for beginner kayakers. The river is surrounded by amazing nature, which makes it one of Florida’s premier places for kayaking and canoeing. You can rent your equipment at the park and choose between a short 2-hour or longer 4 to 6-hour trip. Transportation on the way back is provided by shuttle to the north entrance of the park. If you would like a more challenging adventure, opt for High Springs to paddle on the Santa Fe River, one of the best kayaking destinations in Florida. A 15 mi (24 km) trip on the river can be completed in six hours. There are several springs along the way and plenty of places to stop and rest. There are also plenty of locations closer to the city. The most popular of them is Amelia Island on Florida's Atlantic Coast. You can choose between saltwater and freshwater kayaking, exploring numerous creeks and swamps in the area. Guided 2-hour, 3-hour, and 5-hour tours are available as well as overnight excursions, which is a good option in the summer. Another popular kayaking destination is located on the border between Georgia and FloridaOkefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. You can see rich wildlife within the vast refuge area, one of the best-preserved swamp regions in America.

Practical info

When is the best time to go kayaking in Jacksonville?

From October to April, it's the best time to enjoy kayaking in Jacksonville. The summer months are not a good choice due to high temperature and touristic attraction. You can enjoy this recreational activity in state parks, with milder climate and moderate crowds. This period is also safe from hurricanes and rainy season. Show more

Where can I rent kayaking equipment in Ichetucknee Springs State Park?

Kayaking equipment, including kayaks or canoes, are available at the south entrance of Ichetucknee Springs State Park for rental. The park has two trips that you may select which are a shorter 2-hour trip or a longer 4-6 hour trip, which provides a complete tour across the park to the north entrance. It is advised to reserve in advance for rental equipment during peak season. Show more

What is the difference between kayaking in saltwater and freshwater in Amelia Island?

Amelia Island provides two different kayaking experiences, saltwater and freshwater. Saltwater kayaking will allow you to explore the swamps and creeks while witnessing the island's magnificent fauna and flora. For freshwater kayaking, you can visit the saltmarsh estuaries and observe migratory birds. Sea conditions can be challenging for kayaking in saltwater, unlike freshwater which is calmer. This type of kayaking may require experience and skill to navigate especially for beginners. Show more

Where can I spot wildlife during kayaking in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge?

Kayaking in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge offers numerous opportunities for spotting the native wildlife. It is home to over 400 vertebrates, fish and invertebrate species. Some animals you can witness include blue herons and alligators. If you're lucky, you might spot migratory birds from Canada during winter. The red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered bird species, also inhabits the swamp area. Show more

How long does it take to complete the 15 mi trip on the Santa Fe River in High Springs?

Kayaking across the Santa Fe River in High Springs to complete the 15-mile distance can take up to six hours depending on the pace. If you want to visit the river's freshwater springs, you may also add more time. To enjoy an advanced kayaking experience, intermediate paddling skills and experience are recommended due to the river's fast flow and significant elevation changes. This scenic trip offers an exciting adventure for skillful kayakers. Show more

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