By Lauren Tjaden

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 and promises an utterly unique way to experience the natural beauty of the Sunshine State.

You can paddle leisurely through mysterious mangrove tunnels, watch dolphins frolic on an eco-tour or even carve a turn in the surf -- markedly different experiences when you’re atop a paddleboard, with a unique vantage point to spot wildlife on shore as well as peer into the waters below.

Read on to discover some favorite Florida paddleboarding experiences and destinations.

Stand Up Paddleboarding Basics

Here’s what first timers should know about stand up paddleboarding, aka SUP.

Who Can Paddleboard

Almost anybody can paddleboard, no matter their age or fitness level, but it’s usually recommended that kids under five years of age sit on an older paddler’s board with them. You should know how to swim.

Gear Up

A stand up paddleboard is a thicker, wider version of a surfboard, with different styles that are ideal for different types of SUP, like recreational, surfing, touring, racing, yoga and even fishing. The paddle looks similar to a stretched-out canoe paddle with a tear-drop-shaped blade.

Your rental or tour company will get you set up with the appropriate board for your expedition, as well as a personal floatation device (a life jacket), a whistle to warn other boaters, and a leash tethering you to your board.

What to Wear

Swimsuits, board shorts and rash guards are all good choices for your paddleboarding adventure. Expect whatever you’re wearing to get wet, even if you don’t fall in. For your feet, barefoot is best, though water shoes are fine as well. Sunglasses secured on a cord are recommended, as is sunscreen and a hat.

Where to Go

Beginner tours take you on waterways with less current, making it easier to paddle. First-timer sessions usually start with a basic tutorial on paddling. Guides paddle along with you to make sure you’re standing correctly, holding the paddle the right way and not getting swept off course by the current.

How Much it Costs

Paddleboarders can expect to pay $35 to $60 per person, depending on the length of the trip. Some have standing trips on the weekends but accept special weekday appointments. In the summers, many Saturday morning rides are filled to capacity, so make sure to make reservations at least a couple of days in advance.

 Located in Northwest Florida, the tranquil, gin-clear waters of Destin and nearby areas are perfect for learning SUP—plus they’re gorgeous and brimming with wildlife.

 

Great Florida Paddleboarding Destinations, Tours and Experiences
 

North Florida

Play Two Ways the Same Day in South Walton

Would you love to paddle the clear, magnificent waters of the Gulf and see rays and turtles? Or would you prefer to explore a pristine lake filled with bass and adorned with water lilies? Accomplish both in a trip to South Walton, nestled against the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida. You can explore one of their 15 named coastal dune lakes, rare natural wonders you’ll find in only a few locations on the entire planet, discovering a multitude of wildlife and plant species. When you’re done gliding across the lake, carry your board across 50 feet of sand, and voilà!, you’re in saltwater. 
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Discover SUP in Destin

Located in Northwest Florida, the tranquil, gin-clear waters of Destin and nearby areas are perfect for learning SUP—plus they’re gorgeous and brimming with wildlife. Classes, tours and rentals abound in this paddling hotspot: The Destin Paddle company offers a tasty escape, with a package that includes a one-hour guided paddleboard tour followed by a sumptuous dinner at LuLu's; while SUP Express promises free delivery with their rentals as well as sunrise and sunset tours; and WET Inc ups the serenity in the sun with yoga atop a paddleboard.
Check out more area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Never Bored on a Board in St. Augustine

The coolest way to explore the historic city of St. Augustine, heralded as the "Nation’s Oldest City," is via paddleboard. Hugged close to the Atlantic Ocean in Northeast Florida, it features miles of waterways, beaches and parks where you can try once-in-a-lifetime experiences like cruising by the massive, solemn  Castillo de San Marcos fort while listening for the firing of cannons and muskets; taking part in a haunting full moon tour with Anastasia Watersports  or V-Star Fitness Group in Anastasia State Park, where you’ll witness the fiery sunset followed by the moon rising over the rolling dunes; and breathe deep in a SUP yoga session in Salt Run with The Salty Paddle, where you’ll find balance with the towering St. Augustine Lighthouse as a backdrop.
Check out more area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Good Tidings at Little Talbot Island State Park

Kayak Amelia, conveniently situated on Simpson Creek in Little Talbot Island State Park, invites you to paddle the tidal creeks and salt marshes of this untouched barrier island, home to diverse wildlife and birds. Multiple route options mean there’s something for everyone, whether you’re an experienced paddleboarder or a never-ever. Options include birding paddles, tai-chi paddles, stand up paddleboard yoga, sunset and full-moon paddles, and special focus paddles. The folks there will even help you create your own adventure on a rental, planning the best route based on weather and tide.

Go with the Flow on the Wakulla River

Just south of Tallahassee, the 10-mile Wakulla River Paddling Trail serves up an easy, gentle trip down a clear, spring-fed waterway brimming with wildlife, including manatees, wading birds, alligators, turtles, and an abundance of fish. TnT Hideaway has paddleboards for rent and everything you need for a Wakulla River adventure, and guided tours as well as a shuttle are available.

 Billed as the manatee capital of the world, the Crystal River area provides a diverse oasis for paddlers, encompassing seven rivers and an abundance of crystal-clear springs, open bays and freshwater lakes.
- Crystal River Preserve State Park

Central Florida

Meet Gentle Giants in Crystal River

Billed as the manatee capital of the world, the Crystal River area provides a diverse oasis for paddlers, encompassing seven rivers and an abundance of crystal-clear springs, open bays and freshwater lakes.
Remarkable memories await on a paddling eco-tour swim to Three Sisters Spring, where paddle-craft are permitted from April 1 to Nov. 14. Offered by multiple local guides, the tours teach you about the  thriving ecosystem and offer the chance to see bald eagles, owls, dolphins, pelicans, tarpon, turtles and otters—as well as the area’s beloved gentle giants, the manatees.
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Hang Ten or Light up the Night in New Smyrna Beach

For a heart-stopping adventure, hang ten paddleboard-style at the jetties. Compared to surfboards, paddleboards offer a superior view of incoming sets—but be forewarned, this escapade isn’t for beginners. Here’s a video of an expert showing how it’s done.
For a tamer but no less memorable jaunt, light up the darkness as you glide across the Indian River Lagoon on an unusual Pure Island Tours paddleboard that comes complete with a multi-colored LED lighting system. You’ll celebrate the sunset alongside curious dolphins, lumbering manatees and soaring ospreys before paddling back to shore.
Check out more area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

See a Natural, Neon Light Show in Titusville

BK Adventure invites you to experience a neon nighttime lagoon on a Bioluminescent Paddle tour.  Nature puts on a wondrous light show during the summer months on the Indian River when naturally occurring, glowing algae bioluminescent organisms --flicks of blue-green light -- scatter in every direction at the smallest disturbance in the water. A dip of your paddle, a fish flitting by and even dangling your fingers in the lagoon becomes a bit of magic. For a special treat, if the conditions are right, you’ll have the opportunity to swim in the bioluminescence.

Get your Glow on in Orlando

Epic Paddle Adventures’ Night Glow Paddle in Paradise welcomes you to explore Lake Ivanhoe on a leisurely night tour. The City Beautiful looks more enticing than ever with its lights reflecting in the water from your unique vantage point atop a paddleboard—one that comes complete with a dazzling underwater lighting system. Choose your favorite color, or if you can’t make up your mind, strobe through them all.

Attend a Board Meeting in Winter Haven

Explore the striking Winter Haven Chain of Lakes while learning paddleboard basics and immersing yourself in the splendor of the Florida outdoors. Paddleboard Winter Haven offers a plentiful selection of tours, including Sunday Funday, Come Explore, Pirate Paddle with a ski show, sunset tours, fit tours, yoga, plus ‘board meetings’ with your coworkers.

The picturesque Key West area is a paradise for paddlers, boasting flat, clear water; mysterious mangrove islands and forests; and diverse marine life that includes crabs, sea stars and spectacularly colored tropical fish.

South Florida

Beaches and Boards in Naples

Naples, a luxurious but kicked-back destination on Florida’s southwest coast, presents an idyllic place for beginners to learn as well as capture an exceptional memory, delivering generous beaches, calm water, easy access and ample parking. If you want to rent your own board or  arrange delivery you can SUP at almost any area beach, including the popular Naples Pier, a favorite for dolphins and pelicans; Barefoot Beach, an award-winning escape where you might well be the only paddler for miles; Delnor Wiggins, welcoming paddlers with a winding mangrove trail and offering access through Wiggins Pass into the shimmering Gulf of Mexico; and Tigertail Beach, calm, shallow and ideal for first-timers.
Check out more area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales and more here.

Blow Your Mind in Jupiter

When conditions are right-- during extreme high tides and after winter storms-- the Atlantic’s waves crash with gusto against the rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline of Blowing Rocks Preserve, a pristine barrier island in Jupiter. The resulting plumes of saltwater, rocketing up to 50 feet into the air, lend the preserve its name. But typically, calm, clear waters arrive along with the summer months, providing ideal conditions for SUP, when the preserve rewards paddleboarders with spectacular sights like ancient sea turtles and a colorful living reef. Too windy for you? Cross the street to the Intracoastal Waterway.
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales, and more options specific to Jupiter.

Fun on the Florida Keys Flats

Push off at mile marker 77.5, southwest of Islamorada, to cruise across the pristine Florida Keys flats into ever-so-tiny Indian Key Historic State Park. Accessible only by boat, the park welcomes paddlers to survey an 1800’s wrecking colony, wind through tangles of mangroves and glimpse sea life like manatees, dolphins, rays and sharks.
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Tropical Wonder at Bahia Honda State Park

Beaches adorned with palms; a broken, historic bridge; unbelievably transparent waters and blockbuster sunsets are the hallmarks of Bahia Honda State Park, a sliver of tropical wonder snuggled between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. Circumnavigate the park at dawn to find yourself blissfully alone.
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

Key West: a Paradise for Paddlers

The picturesque Key West area is a paradise for paddlers, boasting flat, clear water; mysterious mangrove islands and forests; and diverse marine life that includes crabs, sea stars and spectacularly colored tropical fish. You can launch your SUP from Smathers Beach, Higgs Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor and Simonton Street Beach as well as Sugar Loaf Key, some 17 miles northeast of Key West.  
Check out area rentals, tours, experiences, lessons and sales.

 

PADDLEBOARD FLORIDA

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