Top 5 Paddling Destinations Along the Florida Panhandle

A visit to Florida’s Emerald Coast isn’t complete without a float trip on the inland waterways. Maximize your vacation with these top north Florida kayak destinations.

The mention of Florida’s Emerald Coast naturally conjures images of glistening white sand beaches and emerald green waters, but a short distance inland lies a network of rivers and creeks that explore an equally enchanting world just waiting to be discovered. Paddlers on these waterways will find clear spring-fed waters, wildlife and amazing hidden views that many people never get to experience.

1. Paddling in Santa Rosa County

Just north of the coastal town of Navarre and near Milton in Santa Rosa County is a triple-threat paddling destination consisting of Blackwater River, Coldwater Creek and Juniper Creek. Currently two outfitters, Adventures Unlimited and Bob’s Canoe Rentals, provide kayak, canoe & tube rentals to this area allowing paddlers to spend half-day, full day or multi-day trips on these waterways.

Blackwater River and Juniper Creek consists of a shifting-sand bottom with numerous white sandbars lining the banks where visitors can enjoy picnic lunches and even camping. Coldwater Creek consists more of a fine gravel. In addition to wilderness camping, nearby Blackwater River State Park and Coldwater Creek Recreation Area also offers camping for a nominal fee.

2. Okaloosa County

Near the City of Niceville paddlers with their own vessels and an Eglin recreation pass can explore Turkey Creek from its beginnings on the Eglin Reservation to its terminus at Niceville and Boggy Bayou. This narrow, twisting spring-fed creek takes paddlers past pine forests, swamps, the remnants of the old Eglin railroad and the Turkey Creek boardwalk.

North of Crestview paddlers can enjoy a relaxing float trip on the Shoal River by putting in at the Ray Lynn Barnes boat launch on Hwy 90 and floating almost 10 miles to Hwy 85 just below the city to take out at Shoal River Wayside Park. Paddlers wishing to continue downstream to the Yellow River will need to obtain an Eglin recreation pass.

3. Walton County

In addition to numerous coastal dune lakes to explore, paddlers will want to head north of Panama City to explore Econfina Creek and its numerous spring runs. Econfina Creek Canoe Livery is located just off of Hwy 20 along the banks of the creek. For a nominal fee the livery provides kayak and canoe rentals as well as shuttle services. This easy paddle reveals several large springs to spend time at before heading for the takeout at Hwy 20.

When visiting the Florida panhandle plan for an extra day or two to explore the inland waterways. Some of the Emerald Coast’s best-kept secrets are just a creek bend away and will provide memories for a lifetime.