Florida, popularly known as “The Sunshine State”, has the longest coastline in the Continental United States, approximately 1,350 miles. Florida beaches have won various awards. The most recent went to Clearwater Beach which was ranked as the #1 Beach in the United States in the 2016 TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards. Florida provides a beautiful backdrop for an array of watersports which can be enjoyed in the ocean, on rivers and lakes, or in one of the myriad of crystal clear springs. Inflatable SUPs are a great option, you can read about the best inflatable SUPs here. Don’t forget a lightweight SUP paddle, the paddles that come with SUP are usually not that good.
The Florida Keys
Standup paddleboards (SUPs) can be launched from virtually anywhere along the side of US 1, the highway connecting Key West, and the islands in-between, to the Florida mainland; however, if you’d like to explore somewhere off the beaten path with your SUP, check out Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. This tiny island park which is accessible only by boat, is located near Islamorada. The short jaunt across clear Gulf waters offers the standup paddle boarder a spectacular view of marine life. The Matheson House, which was built in 1919, gives a glimpse what life was like in the Keys in the early 1900’s.
This unique ecosystem is a must-see and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for any adventure-seeking standup paddleboarder. The 10,000 Islands located in the Everglades National Park is a maze of islands which is home to an extensive variety of wildlife. Don’t forget your insect repellant!
Weedon Island Preserve
Located on Tampa Bay, Weedon Island Preserve is accessible from land. This preserve consists of a network of mangrove islands, which offers an innumerable number trails to explore. It’s the perfect place for beginners to try on their skill because of the relatively calm waters. Visibility is excellent, allowing standup paddlers to appreciate the wildlife that calls the sandy bottom and tangle of mangrove roots their home.
The Florida Panhandle
- Crab Island – Situated in the Destin Pass and surrounded by emerald-green waters, this popular sandbar offers the stand up paddle boarder an area to enjoy paddling while mingling with fun-loving partygoers.
- Holmes Creek – Located in a remote area of the Panhandle, this spring fed trail begins near Vernon, Florida and has eight access separate points. This stream winds through cypress swamp, hardwood pine forests, and through crystal-clear springs. This paddling environment is ideal for nature lovers who insist on being among unspoiled nature.
- Coastal Dune Lakes – This unique area of Florida is the subject of the award-winning documentary “Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast”. Dune lakes are rare, found in only 3 States within the US and only 4 countries worldwide. The Panhandle has at least 15 individual dune lakes, each offering SUP paddlers distinct qualities such as flora, fauna, vistas, and environs.
Weeki Wachee State Park
For those paddlers who would like to see the gentle, slow-moving manatee up close, this area is ideal. You can rent or bring your own SUP, and transportation is available that will return you to the launch. In other areas of the state, officials have had to limit visitor traffic due to manatees being stressed by excessive human contact. Though manatees have been known to curiously approach paddlers, it’s best for humans to admire them from a distance. With access to the ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, rivers, springs, lakes, and wetlands, Florida is one of the most interesting states in which to break out your SUP. One thing paddlers can count on for sure throughout most of the year is sunshine!