The home of Disney World has more to offer than just theme parks. With so many lakes, springs and rivers nearby and with the best spot in Florida for bioluminescent paddling being within driving distance, it’s no wonder kayaking is such a popular past-time for locals and vacationers alike in Orlando.
Colorful wildlife, warm temperatures, and your choice of technical or relaxing paddling is all on offer here. If you’re looking to do some kayaking in Orlando, check out our guide for the best spots to paddle and trusted outfitters in the area to get you on the water.
Where to kayak in Orlando
There are dozens of first magnitude springs within a 2.5-hour drive of Orlando. Florida boasts the most freshwater springs in not only the United States, but the entire world! Some nearby springs that are popular for paddling include Silver Springs State Park, Three Sisters Spring and Alexander Spring. All of these provide easy kayaking that is perfect for first-timers. You can find rental and launch site information at the links above.
Located about an hour north of Orlando, De Leon Springs State Park is another great place to launch your kayak. Beginning at the springs, head out for an easy four-mile paddle down Spring Garden Creek to Lake Woodruff. The park itself is full of rich cultural history and hosts a well-loved swimming area you can take a dip in before heading down the creek.
A mere 24 minutes away, the gorgeous emerald waters of Wekiwa Springs State Park offer a great place to view wildlife near the city. Wekiwa Springs feeds the Wekiva River, where there are plenty of kayaking trip lengths to choose from, ranging from an easy one-mile float to an all-day 10-mile trip to Katie’s Landing. (It should be noted that a significant number of portages will be required if beginning from the springs.) For more details, you can check out the paddling section on the park’s website.
Kayak rentals are available within the park as well as at nearby Paddleboard Orlando, located at Wekiva Island. Prices begin at $30 per four hours for single kayaks.
As you may have gathered from above, the nearby Wekiva River is a popular paddling destination, with Wekiva Island providing a good launch point. Enjoy some quiet time away from the city on this calm waterway that’s perfect for beginners or those just looking to relax. The tree-lined shores and marshy, water lily-filled areas will have you feeling rejuvenated in no time.
There are several outfitters to choose from if you need to borrow a kayak for the afternoon, including Wekiva Outfitters ($30 for a half-day, single rental; $40 for a full-day, single rental) and Wekiva Island ($30 for a half-day, single rental; $35 for a full-day, single rental). Renting from King’s Landing ($50 per single kayak, shuttle included) will allow you to paddle their River Run Adventure route—8.5 miles spanning Kings Landing to the marina at Wekiva Island.
The Econlockhatchee River
Located a short half-hour drive from downtown Orlando, the Econ River is another paddler’s dream. Suitable for beginner and intermediate yakkers, the 19-mile-long designated paddling trail offers tons of wildlife viewing opportunities, including sandhill cranes, roseate spoonbills, deer, and possibly even some black bears along its cypress and sabal palm-lined shores.
Check out Econ Outfitters‘ page for some great information on the river, trip ideas (including put-in and take-out locations), and maps of the paddling trail.
Bioluminescent kayaking in Orlando
The “Space Coast,” located about an hour east of Orlando, is the best area in the state for doing some nighttime bioluminescent kayaking. Watch as the water lights up bluish-white (thanks to the bioluminescent microorganisms dinoflagellates) as you paddle across the calm bays and inlets of the Indian River near Canaveral National Seashore.
There are plenty of local outfitters that will guide you to the best spots for viewing the bioluminescence. (You could try finding an outfitter that offers overnight rentals and go out on your own, but this is only a good idea if you are familiar with the areas during the day that you plan to paddle.)
- $45 per person
- Open seven nights week, May through October (peak season)
- $55 per person
- Trips are available in clear kayaks
- $50 per person
- Single and tandem kayaks available
Manatee kayak tours in Orlando
Getting up close and personal with manatees is another popular Florida activity. Whether you want to take a guided tour or go out on your own, there are a few options in the Orlando area.
Head down the Haulover Canal (part of the Indian River where many of the bioluminescence tours above are held) near Titusville with BK Adventure. Their Kayaking with Florida Manatees tour is perfect for novice paddlers and families alike (ages 6+ welcome) who want to get a firsthand look at (and possible splash from) these gentle giants. Prices are $48 per person and tour times depend on the season, so be sure to check ahead.
Planning a trip during winter, but still want to see some manatees? Not a problem! These mammals love swimming up rivers and hanging out in the warm spring waters during winter, including nearby Blue Springs State Park. Take a sightseeing tour with The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek here to view not only manateesin their natural habitat, but also otters, gators, wading birds and more. Prices start at $65 for a single kayak.
Clear kayaks in Orlando
Unfortunately, clear kayak rentals have not yet gained the same popularity in the Orlando area as they have down in the Keys. However, there are a couple of interesting tours nearby that you can enjoy from a see-through kayak.
For a really cool way to experience the crystal-clear waters of a local spring, head to Rock Springs (34 minutes from downtown Orlando) near Kelly Park with Get Up and Go Kayaking. Although you won’t find any manatees here, you may spot some alligators and sea turtles as you paddle the surreally beautiful waters of the spring. Tours start at $59 per person.
For another once-in-a-lifetime experience, head out with A Day Away Kayak Tours for a bioluminescence paddle in a clear-bottom kayak. Bioluminescent kayaking is cool enough on its own, but you’ll be awestruck when you see the ripples of color right underneath you as the dinoflagellates light up the night. You might even spy a manatee or dolphin along the way! Tours are $65 per person.
Kayak rentals Orlando
With so many waterways to explore, you can rest assured there are plenty of kayak rentals in the Orlando area.
If you’re looking for an extended rental, Peace of Mind Kayak Tours & Rentals has you covered. They offer free delivery and pick-up in the Winter Park area. Prices begin at $35 for a single half-day rental and go up to $215 for a weekly rental.
Never been kayaking and want to stick close to town? Head out on BV Watersports‘ private Lake Bryan for an introduction to kayaking on their spring-fed waters. Rentals start at $25 for one hour.
If you want to spend more time on a lake, check out Lake Conway in nearby Belle Isle. Spend a few hours in one of Lake Life Paddle‘s sit-in kayaks and do some wildlife viewing near the shore, or just get the hang of kayaking on calm waters. Prices start at $25 for three hours. If you are paddling with a buddy, they do offer tandem clear kayaks as well for only $10 extra.
Whether you’re a vacationer looking for a unique Florida experience or a local wanting a relaxing way to explore all of the lakes, springs and rivers you frequently drive by, you’re sure to have a memorable time kayaking in Orlando.