West Key provides one of the best views in Florida, does it not? No wonder it is one of Florida’s best loved holiday destinations nestled in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands extending 120 miles off the southernmost tip of the State of Florida. Key West is an island city that’s part of this idyllic chain of island. Add to that the golden beaches and the energetic nightlife! But other than that, it also provides an excellent place for a tropical SUPing experience.
But West Key is quite expansive a place and ranges from harbors to mangroves topography wise and you might have trouble pinpointing the best places for paddle boarding. But don’t let a crease from in between your eyebrows, here’s our list to help you out.
- Scenic paddle board locations:
- Fort Zachary Taylor: With its aquamarine waters, pristine lookouts and superb snorkeling sites, it is almost a tropical paradise. Located at the most southern tip of Key West, you can carefully navigate your SUP in between boats traveling from the Key West Channel to the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline at Fort Zach is rocky and more exposed to oceanic swells, so it’s best to have some basic paddle boarding skills under your belt first.
There are excellent opportunities to explore under the surface, so consider taking a snorkel and mask with you while out SUP touring. Oh, keep your eyes wide open for turtles and dolphins and aquatic birds.
In case you have not got a board with you just check out one of the rental stations dotting the coast.
- Big Pine Key: In addition to all those attractions mentioned above, this site also contains an inland deer refuge center. The beaches are sandier in between the incredible mangroves, making this a great place for beginners to get on a stand up paddle board.
Head over to Serenity Eco Guides for equipment rental, a guided tour of the mangroves and beaches, or even a SUP yoga class in Manatee Bay. You will find this location restores your mind, cleanses your soul, and allows you to discover the beauty of the surrounding ecosystem.
- Bahia Honda State Park: If are really into marine life and would like to spot colourful fishes while paddling head up the US-1 S Highway to reach Bahia Honda State Park. The crystal clear waters make it an ideal site for catching a glimpse of marine animals in their natural habitat.
Paddle the length of Sandspur Beach and find a personal palm tree along the 1-mile stretch to lounge under. There are no SUP equipment rentals or organized tours here. So either bring your own paddle board or track down a rental shop further south in Key West, and make sure you have a map on hand to help guide you through.
- Seven Mile Bridge: The Seven Mile Bridge in Key West is on every tourist “Key West bucket list tour”, be it from road or ocean, thanks to featuring in several Hollywood action movies: True Lies, License to Kill, Mission Impossible III, and 2 Fast 2 Furious.
This is typically tackled in scenic drive road trips as it covers the open ocean, however, this is a tough place to paddle trough and one mustn’t attempt it unless she/he is a seasoned paddler. Even then one must be sure to check the conditions before setting off and take time to carefully consider your times and full route.
- Here are a list of beaches to launch your board from:
- Smather’s Beach: If you are travelling with your family then this beach with its myriad activities such as Parasailing, SUPs, kayaks, wind sailing, and more is probably your best option. If you are a beginner or want to take the family to a safe spot, then Smathers Beach is perfect for you. You can even book a tour with Sunset Watersports to explore further afield and discover the backcountry close by to Smathers Beach.
- Higgs Beach: This will give you Caribbean vibes, so take your board and jump into the water and enjoy the sun and the waves and forget the troubles of the past! The shallow waters here are ideal for beginner paddlers or someone looking for a truly relaxing experience. Launch off either directly from the beach or make use of the long wooden pier to start off further out.
- Here are some other amazing places that you can explore with your Paddle Board on tow.
- Simonton Street Beach: This is one great place to go SUP while enjoying the setting rays of the sun. Launch your board off the shallow beach and enjoy the gorgeous sunset.
- Sugarloaf Key: Sugarloaf Key is a superb spot for paddling through wildlife and escaping the crowds of the southern parts of Key West. This is a good place for beginners to start challenging themselves and explore further afield with tidal currents to consider.
Keep your eyes open for the Bat Tower in the middle of the mangrove ecosystem which was established as a control measure against mosquitoes in the Key West area.
- Stock Island: Stock Island offers incredible wildlife through mangrove highways, clear waters to the bottom in the bays, and perfectly chilled out vibes. If you are after a casual SUP session then this is the place for you!
And you can drop by Lazy Dog for rentals, a lesson, or for joining one of the daily tours.
- Dry Tortugas National Park: There are several options to choose from in Dry Tortugas National Park depending on your experience level. Garden Key offers shorter paddles close to shore, whereas Loggerhead Key provides miles to explore over to Garden Key.
The longer explorations are perfect for more intermediate paddlers and involve some strong currents over the deep, open ocean.
- Places worth a day trip from West Key:
- Islamorada - Florida Bay: If are up for it and have the time then squeeze in Islamorada into your schedule. It’s a string of islands that lie in the open ocean with insanely clear water with famous coral reefs, beautiful sunshine, and incredible fishing spots.
Beach Bum Paddle Sports offers great guided tours and competitive prices for rentals, if you don’t have your own. If you are into SUP fishing then THIS is your spot.
- Key Largo - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Tis was the first underwater park in the US and offers some incredibly diverse reefs to explore. The perfectly crystal clear waters mean you get excellent visibility from on top of your SUP, or you can tie up and explore up close with a snorkel from your board.
The 50 miles of natural mangrove wilderness will keep you busy all-day for numerous day trips. Rental is available if you choose not to travel with your equipment.
So why not take a SUP vacation? Okay, my bad! But the next time you are in Florida take your SUP along and discover this whole new side of the ‘sun shine state’!