Standing tall atop a brilliant purple paddleboard, I glide through the Intracoastal Waterway in Jupiter. This is my first time paddleboarding, and already I feel as though I’m walking on water. The board affords me a perfect view of the wildlife above and below my board. There’s a spotted stingray, a bald eagle, and, yes, four manatees!
The peaceful yet exhilarating sport of stand up paddleboarding is the latest craze to hit waterways across Florida. It’s easy to master, offers an amazing full-body workout (think: yoga on water) and is extremely versatile. You can paddle leisurely through the mangroves, embark on an eco-tour with friends or carve a turn in the surf.
“Paddleboarding is to Florida like skiing is to Colorado,” says Tom Losee, co-founder of YOLO (You Only Live Once) Board in Santa Rosa Beach.
Here are a handful of Florida’s premier paddleboarding destinations:
Coastal Dune Lakes
Want to paddle the Gulf and see sharks and turtles, or explore lakes with alligators and bass? Accomplish both in one trip at coastal dune lakes in South Walton. After gliding through lakes, carry your board across 50 feet of sand, and voilà!, you’re in saltwater. yoloboard.com
Tranquil waters make Destin Harbor and nearby canals perfect for learning the sport. It’s also alive with wildlife, including stingrays, flounder and pelicans. gusupaddlesports.com
The coolest way to explore this historic city is via paddleboard. Cruise by the Castillo de San Marcos and listen for the firing of cannons and muskets. For an epic water voyage, the Full Moon Pub Crawl visits local hot spots. learnstanduppaddle.com
For a heart-stopping adventure, hang ten paddleboard-style at the jetties. Compared to surfboards, paddleboards offer a superior view of incoming sets. mauib.com
Calm waters attract dolphins every day, making Naples an idyllic place for beginners to learn as well as capture an exceptional memory. naplespaddleboard.com
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Once you’re up at this Jupiter Island preserve, you’ll spot sea turtles, sharks and an amazing reef. Too windy for you? Cross the street to the Intracoastal Waterway. jupiterpaddleboarding.com
Push off at mile marker 77.5 and cruise into Indian Key Historic State Park to survey an old wrecking colony, then coast through mangroves and catch a glimpse of baby sharks and crocodiles. kayakthefloridakeys.com
Bahia Honda State Park
Circumnavigate the park; at times, you’ll find yourself blissfully alone. As the sun drops, perhaps you’ll witness the Green Flash. hawkscay.com
Find balance in picturesque Key West like never before. Paddle through a beautiful mangrove forest, where such creatures as crabs, sea stars and plenty of colorful tropical fish abound. lazydog.com