Kayak in Tampa Bay [Best Places for Kayaking]

Tampa, Florida, has an impressive number of places to kayak. Whether you kayak during the daytime or at sunset, you will have a memorable experience. What are the best places to kayak in Tampa Bay?

The 20 best places to kayak in Tampa Bay are as follows:

  1. Fort De Soto Park
  2. Lowry Park
  3. Robinson Preserve
  4. Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve
  5. Weedon Island Preserve
  6. Alafia River
  7. Lettuce Lake Park
  8. Upper Tampa Bay Park
  9. Chassahowitzka River
  10. Trout Creek Park
  11. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
  12. Rivercrest Park
  13. Lido Key
  14. Myakka River
  15. Caladesi Island State Park
  16. Rainbow Springs
  17. WaterWorks Park
  18. Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve
  19. Tarpon Springs
  20. Shell Key Preserve

Read on to learn more about these best places to kayak in Tampa, Florida, and what makes them distinct from one another.

Best Places to Kayak in Tampa, Florida [Kayaking Florida]

There are quite a number of ideal kayaking destinations in Tampa.

To help you decide which ones you should visit, let’s talk about each one of them, most especially their key features:

1. Fort De Soto Park

kayak in tampa

Fort De Soto Park forms part of the park system of Pinellas County. It features a recreational canoe trail that is 2.25 miles long and embodies five interconnected islands.

These islands include the Mullet Key, the Bonne Fortune Key, the St. Christopher Key, the St. Jean Key, and the Madelaine Key. Either a causeway or a bridge interconnects them.

You can rent kayaks at the Topwater Kayak Outpost or in any other stores on the park road.

2. Lowry Park

kayaking tampa bay

Next on our list of the best places to go kayaking in Tampa, Florida, is Lowry Park.

Lowry Park is probably one of the most convenient places to go kayaking, if not the most convenient place. It forms part of the Hillsborough River and has a specific kayak launch area.

It also has a canoe launch area, a playground, and a picnic area. It’s definitely an ideal venue to bond with family and friends.

This is an ideal venue to reach the heart of Downtown Tampa. All you need to do is to kayak for roughly 5 miles downstream.

And since this is a convenient location not just for kayakers but for everyone, do not be surprised to experience weekend or holiday boating traffic.

3. Robinson Preserve

If you plan to go Tampa kayaking and if you want to witness jumping mullets, other fish species, and other marine life, the Robinson Preserve is a perfect venue. This preserve is also home to manatees, dolphins, and other wildlife not seen in other areas.

Located in northwestern Bradenton, it is a complete package for relaxation. It features mangrove forests, picnic spots, bridges, canoe, and kayak waterways. It also features a 53-foot tall tower with an amazing and breathtaking wide-open view of the Tampa Bay area.

If you plan on kayaking Tampa Bay, I highly recommend you visit Robinson Preserve. You will see some beautiful scenery as you paddle through this nature park. Make sure your camera is ready.

4. Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve

Next on our list where you can go kayaking in Tampa Bay is Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. This place may not exactly form part of Tampa, but it is located in Manatee County, which has access to Tampa Bay.

It measures 1,932 acres and co-owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).

This preserve offers several kayaking trails, which amazingly vary in difficulty. The trails include the Terra Ceia Paddling Trail, the Frog Creek, and the Bishop Harbor Blueway Trail. They are mostly shallow and mangrove-filled.

5. Weedon Island Preserve

Another one of the best places to kayak in Tampa is the Weedon Island Preserve. The Weedon Island Preserve has been included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since June 1972. It measures 3,190 acres of a natural area composed of maritime hammock, scrubby or pine Flatwoods, and mangrove forests. It is also home to various native wildlife.

There are kayak rentals in the area that charge an hourly fee. The launch site is situated near the Weedon Drive fishing pier and features a wash station and restrooms.

The South Paddling Trail is a four-mile loop that can be ideally accessed at the launch site. This trail traverses through seagrass flats and mangroves and in between islands.

6. Alafia River

If you’re looking for a place to experience Tampa bay kayaking, then look no further. The Alafia River features a watershed from Hillsborough County and flows all the way into Tampa Bay. This watershed consists of ten named ponds and lakes. It also encompasses 29 named canals, streams, and rivers.

As you traverse this 12-mile canoe path, you will see labeled canoe stops. Each of these stops has picnic tables, so don’t forget to bring some food and drinks.

7. Lettuce Lake Park

kayaking in tampa florida

Next on our list of the best places for kayaking near Tamp is Lettuce Lake Park. The Lettuce Lake Park is right outside the city boundaries of Tampa. It is known not only for its wide variety of aquatic birds but also for other wildlife such as many alligators.

The park’s entry station has canoes and kayaks that can be rented on an hourly basis. But if you have one, you might as well bring it. An entry fee of US$2 is charged at the park per vehicle.

8. Upper Tampa Bay Park

The Upper Tampa Bay Park forms part of the Hillsborough County Park situated on the Double Branch Peninsula. This park is sensitive and fragile and, therefore, can only be minimally developed. Nonetheless, it has breathtaking views and an ideal place for kayaking.

Only an entrance fee of US$2 per vehicle is required to access this park. It features canoe and kayak rentals and a launch site that will allow you to access the nearby bay and creek. 

This park is an easy paddle, making it ideal for beginners. Among spotted in this park are manatees, bottlenose dolphins, otters, and ospreys.

9. Chassahowitzka River

The Chassahowitzka Campground has always been recognized as an ideal launch spot for kayakers. Expect paddling down the clear, blue waters as you enjoy watching otters, dolphins, manatees, and even birds.

If you continue paddling for five more minutes, you will reach the Three Sisters Springs.

10. Trout Creek Park

Similar to other kayak venues, an entrance fee of US$2 is charged to access Trout Creek Park. Trout Creek Park forms part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

There are no available canoe and kayak rentals. Nonetheless, it offers a canoe and kayak launch area. Trout Creek Park offers some of the best kayaking near Tampa for you and the whole family.

11. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

The Weeki Wachee Springs State Park may not be located in Tampa but frequented by Tampa locals and tourists. Kayaking is only one of the many water activities that can be done here. You may also enjoy paddle boarding, riverboat rides, and swimming, among many others.

However, make sure you have a reservation to enter the area. They also have tour packages for guests, which can be accessed at the Weeki Freshwater Adventures website.

12. Rivercrest Park

Situated in Tampa’s northern area, the Rivercrest Park features water fountains, a picnic shelter, and, of course, a canoe and kayak launch area. However, there are no canoe and kayak rentals in the area. You have to bring your own to paddle and traverse the Hillsborough River.

13. Lido Key

Another top choice for kayaking Tampa is Lido Key. The Lido Key Mangrove Trail is a kayaking trail that will allow you to traverse the waterways of Sarasota Bay. Less than two hours long, the common sightings in this area include aquatic birds, dolphins, and manatees.

Its launching site is located at the Ted Sperling Park, situated at the southern end of Lido Key, a few minutes away from the public beach.

14. Myakka River

The entrance fee per vehicle of US$6 is noticeably higher than that of other parks. But this will give you access to one of the largest and oldest parks in Florida.

You don’t have to bring canoes or kayaks since you can rent one at the Myakka Outpost on an hourly basis. The area also has a restaurant as well as a souvenir shop.

This river is home to tons of alligators and other aquatic species. It is consistently ranked as one of the best places to kayak in Tampa Bay.

15. Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park is one of the most interesting parks in the state. Accessible only by boat, it is situated on Caladesi Island right in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a Florida State Park.

Paddling trails are offered to guests through the park’s bayside mangrove forest, which starts at the cafe and marina. This extends through several “tunnels” made of mangroves and other vegetation. It then leads through an exit of shallow seagrass flats.

There are no rentals in this area. Guests are advised to bring their own paddleboard, canoes, or kayaks.

16. Rainbow Springs

tampa kayaking

The Rainbow Springs State Park features the clear glass-looking waters of Rainbow Springs. This body of water does not come from only one large bubbling spring but several vents. It supports an ample variety of plants, wildlife, and fish.

From the park, paddlers are offered a shuttle service going to different paddling locations. A rental service for kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes of various sizes is available. They also provide life jackets for paddlers and guests.

17. Water Works Park

Next on our list of places to go kayaking in Tampa Bay, Florida, is Tampa’s Water Works Park. This park was redeveloped and launched for locals and tourists in 2014. It is a favorite kayak and canoe hotspot among paddlers.

At the same time, it is a favorite hotspot for children because of the playground and waterpark. Suffice it to say that it is one venue for family bonding.

The park offers free parking and restrooms. Its launch point for kayaking and canoeing offers access to the river. Other guests can enjoy watching the paddlers while on the riverwalk.

18. Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve

The Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve measures 4,800 acres of land located in Hillsborough County, south of Tampa. This state park encompasses islands situated in the Little Manatee River.

This park features two paddling trails ideal for kayaking and canoeing. These trails traverse through the preserve that mainly consists of a mangrove swamp.

While there may be existing trails, the islands don’t really have facilities for paddlers. Therefore, guests are recommended to plan their activities here accordingly.

19. Tarpon Springs

Famously described as the “sponge capital of the world,” Tarpon Springs sits on the Gulf of Mexico. Tampa locals and tourists who love kayaking never fail to visit Tarpon Springs due to the number of kayak and canoe launch spots in this city.

Guests don’t have to bring their own equipment and gear. Several rental spots offer everything kayakers and canoers need.

20. Shell Key Preserve

kayaking in tampa bay

Measuring 1,800 acres, this preserve encompasses a large undeveloped barrier island, several mangrove islands, and wide seagrass beds. It is well known for protecting sensitive marine habitats.

The Shell Key Preserve is loved by canoers and kayakers as there is a pitstop somewhere, allowing them to disembark on a sandbar. Expect to see dolphins, starfish, birds, and manatees too!

Conclusion – Best Places to Kayak in Tampa, Florida [Kayaking Florida]

If you’re looking for the best places to kayak in Tampa, Florida, here are 20 of them:

  1. Fort De Soto Park
  2. Lowry Park
  3. Robinson Preserve
  4. Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve
  5. Weedon Island Preserve
  6. Alafia River
  7. Lettuce Lake Park
  8. Upper Tampa Bay Park
  9. Chassahowitzka River
  10. Trout Creek Park
  11. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
  12. Rivercrest Park
  13. Lido Key
  14. Myakka River
  15. Caladesi Island State Park
  16. Rainbow Springs
  17. WaterWorks Park
  18. Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve
  19. Tarpon Springs
  20. Shell Key Preserve

Indeed, Tampa is an impressive tourist spot. Tampa and its neighboring cities have perfect kayaking locations. So, make sure to include all these 20 hotspots in your bucket list.

And if these are not enough, there are still quite several hotspots not mentioned in this article. There’s the Little Manatee River, the Longboat Key, the Suwannee River, and the list goes on.