Southwest Florida Paddling
Looking for a Southwest Florida paddling adventure? The Gulf Coast on the Intracoastal side offers lots of great spots to explore on your board! See below for the top 3 must-paddle locations.
Something important to keep in mind: the Intracoastal channel is mostly sheltered however like all paddles you need to check the wind and your abilities. Always paddle against the wind first. In addition to the wind and weather forecast be sure to check tides and plan your paddle accordingly!
Top 3 must-paddle spots in Southwest Florida Intracoastal:
1. Stump Pass Beach State Park
Stump Pass Beach State Park is located on Manasota Key at the southern tip. The park is open from 8am until sundown and costs $3/parking pass via the honour box with envelopes. Correct change is needed. The park includes the southern peninsula of Manasota Key, and two small islands to the east, Peterson and Whidden Key.
- Two beach launch points directly off the parking lot on the Intracoastal side.
- Beach launch between mangroves
- The best spot to paddle is between Peterson and Whidden Key as boats aren’t going fast since they need to weave through the shallower waters. It’s more protected from the winds and due to the lack of boats, you are more likely to see dolphins and manatees here.
- Going south to the Stump Pass there is a beach and shallow sandbars where boats like to anchor and hang out for a day at the beach.
- Keep in mind that between Manasota Key and Peterson Island boats go quickly and it can be tricky to cross over this channel.
- Go early. The parking lot is small and typically reaches its max within an hour of the gates opening. A staff helps guide traffic, one out one in when the lot is full. Depending on the time of day, year and how many people are in front of you, you might be waiting for an hour or more.
- Washrooms available off the parking lot
- “Ski Alley” is the waters between Manasota Key and Peterson Island and is named that since the boats go very fast. Stick close to the shore and be ready for the boat wake.
- Bring a picnic to have on the sand bar/beach at Stump Pass (very tip of Manasota Key peninsula).
- No rentals at the State Park. If you’re looking to rent kayaks or SUPs check out Allure Boat Rentals located on Beach road as soon as you cross over the bridge onto Manasota Key.
- Beautiful water colour with a mix of fun people watching/beach party and wildlife viewing
- The only difficulty is getting a parking spot at the State Park but once you do the launch is easy and worth the wait!
- See my Instagram Reels of the location in order to get a great picture of the area plus my paddle with dolphins in the area!
2. Boca Grande
Boca Grande is located on Gasparilla Island northwest of Fort Myers and is an affluent residential community with great fishing and paddling!
1. Boca Grande Fishing Pier. Located east of Uncle Henry’s Marina, on the east side of the fishing pier. Look for the “Boca Grande Fishing Pier” sign, off Gasparilla Rd.
- This location is good for paddling the old railway and sandbars in the Intracoastal between Boca Grande and Placida
- Free Parking
- No Washrooms
2. 19th St E. Located further south on the island and is best for paddling the channels of Boca Grande
- Free parking with some shaded spots and a friendly beach launch point
- No washrooms
- This will depend on the weather and what you’re looking to see.
- Launching at the Fishing Pier (1) is more exposed but offers shallow waters, sandbars (boats and people often like to anchor and socalize) and reminisce of the old railway.
- Launching at 19th St E (2) has the best access to the canals which are more sheltered from the winds and in the warmer months offer sights of manatees. The canals give you a great viewpoint of the real estate on the island with lots of different places to explore – paddle around Three Sisters Island, the golf course or go further south just past the golf course to check out some mangroves and a secluded beach.
- Lots of other great spots to visit while on the island such as beautiful beaches as part of Gasparilla State Park, Gasparilla Lighthouse or grab a cocktail and sit on the beach at South Beach Bar & Grill.
- The island gets busy! If you bring your bikes you can ride the entire island on the old rail trail mostly used by residents in their golf carts.
- Rentals and tours available at the Fishing Pier from Glass Bottom Rentals
- Private Tours with Tracie at Paddleboard Adventures
Launch 1: Boca Grande Fishing Pier
Launch 2: 19th St E
- Best spot to see the most wildlife and a super fun location to spend the day.
- Highly recommend going on a tour with Paddleboard Adventures owned by Tracie. Tracie will customize the tour to your needs. You’ll learn and see a lot more than going on your own.
- See my Instagram Reels of the location in order to get a great picture of the area. Boca Grande Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Boca Grande with my parents.
3. Don Pedro Island State Park
Done Pedro Island State Park is only accessible by private boat. Ferry service is currently suspended (2022). There is a small land base side with hiking trails and a kayak/canoe/paddleboard launch. Similar to other state parks it’s a $3 day/parking pass via the honour box with envelopes. Correct change is needed.
- Kayak/Canoe/Paddleboard launch is on the land base side of the state park. Approx 260 meters (850 feet) from the parking lot to the water’s edge.
- Launch road is only accessible by foot. You can no longer drive to the water to drop off your kayak/canoe/paddleboard.
- Beach and wooden dock launch
- Straight across the boat channel is a mangrove tunnel to a lagoon. This area is only accessible in and out of the one mangrove tunnel. Visible on Google Maps.
- Explore the island state park south of the land base launch where there is a dock on the Intracoastal side to access the park with washrooms, picnic spots and the parks 1.6km (1 mile) sandy beach on the gulf side.
- Watch boat traffic, especially from the land base launch across to the island. It’s a slower zone but a lot of boats don’t slow down right away.
- Mangrove tunnel is unique and only accessible by paddling. Be sure to go around high tide.
- Accessible launch; however, it is a hike to the launch so bring a cart or be prepared to carry all your gear. Washrooms in the parking lot on the land base side and the gulf side of the island.
- No kayak or SUP rentals on site but you can call and reserve SUP Englewood to drop off rentals here.
- Great spot with lots to explore both on the water and land that is only accessible by boat.
- Mangrove tunnel is long and very cool especially since no boats can come into the lagoon!
- See my Instagram Reels of the location in order to get a great picture of the area. The mangrove tunnel is pretty magical!
LOVE Gulf Coast Florida paddling…expecially during Manatee season 🙂
Fully agree! Where have you been paddling on the Gulf Coast of Florida; any highlights you want to share?
So much great detail! Can’t wait to experience the wildlife advenchas together later this year!
I am really looking forward to showing you around all the amazing places!
Fabulous info! Can’t wait to check it out in person! :o)
Thanks, Nicole! I’m excited for you to check it out in person too! It’s a great area to explore!