Ask a kid what's so great about flying a kite and you'll get a simple answer, "It's so cool!"
"It's a Zen experience," said John Lutter, owner of kitestop.com. "It puts you in touch with nature and your inner child at the same time."
Kite flying is a growing sport, and with more than 800 miles of beaches in Florida, there's no shortage of places to fly. There's also no shortage of kite clubs, kite shops and kite festivals in the Sunshine State. Whether you fly your own parafoil or prefer to sit on the sand and watch someone else pull the strings, you'll be gone with the wind in no time with this Insider guide to all things kites.
1. Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine
With 1,600 acres and four miles of hard-packed shores, you'll have plenty of room and good footing to fly. Need a kite? The local pros at Extreme Kites have it all. They boast the largest selection in Northeast Florida, including recreational and stunt kites.
2. Cherie Down Park, Cocoa Beach
From kite surfing to kite flying, this seaside park is the place to be. Bring a picnic and spend the day. There are shelters, grills, bathrooms and boardwalks. Local kite guru Lutter frequents here. Want to join the local kite club? Log on to meetup.com.
3. Key West
Fly kites year-round in the southernmost city. Bring your own or buy one at the colorful cottage on Green Street: The Key West Kite Company.
"We carry everything from mega-foils for pros to recreational kites for kids," says owner Richard Burris. "I always recommend Fort Zachary Taylor."
4. Haulover Park, Miami
"We're the perfect place for kite flying with fabulous South Florida breezes," said Dan Ward, owner of Skyward Kites.
For 20 years, he's been helping folks master the art from this park. Their inventory, from diamonds to deltas, is impressive – as is their knowledge. Plus, kites start at just $5. Ward added, "Don't miss the Haulover Kite Festival each February; it's amazing!"
5. Okaloosa Island
This area on the Emerald Coast in northwest Florida has two annual kite festivals: the two-day Kitty Hawk Kite Festival in April and Flying High On The Harbor in August. The white-sand beaches really make these festivals sparkle.
Petra Anquila, manager of Kitty Hawk Kites at the Destin HarborWalk, says, "We've got all your pre-flight needs. Come on in and bring the family!"
6. Sanibel Causeway, Sanibel Island
This southwest Florida island's causeway beaches benefit from a stiff crosswind so it's ideal for lofty pursuits. You'll find kite-fliers, wind surfers and spectators here. Pull over and join the fun. You can even see dolphins jumping the waves.
7. Treasure Island, St. Petersburg
Thousands of kites fill the sky each January at Florida's largest kite-flying event: the Treasure Island Kite Fest. Some kites are as big as a school bus! Competitors here vie for a spot in the Grand Nationals, so just watching is exciting.
Plus, every Sunday, you'll find the Treasure Island Sport Kite Klub behind the Bilmar Beach Resort.
If You Go
What kite is right for you? For relaxation, Lutter suggests a single-line kite. For sport, get a two- or four-line stunt kite that can do loops and spins. Power kites are the answer for adrenaline junkies; they can pull you around on a buggy or take you kite-surfing.
3930 A1A South, St. Augustine
Kitestop by John Lutter
224 Cheney Highway, Titusville, FL 32780
Central Florida Kite Club:
Key West Kite Company
408 Greene St., Key West
Skyward Kites at Haulover Park
10800 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Kitty Hawk Kites, Destin
34 Harbour Blvd., Destin
Kitty Hawk Kites, Fort Walton Beach
1450 Miracle Strip Parkway #101, Fort Walton Beach
Treasure Island Sport Kite Klub