Orlando’s year-round sunshine is perfect for lazy days paddling local rivers, lakes and springs. Whether you’re heading out to relax with friends, spy some area birds and wildlife among the cypress trees, or try something new like stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga, Central Florida has plenty of places to “put in” and explore near or far from shore.
Here are five you’ll want to check out.
1. Dinky Dock Park
In the town of Winter Park, just a few minutes north of downtown Orlando, Dinky Dock is one of the best places for beginners to launch their paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. Rollins College students frequent the beach, but the chain of four lakes — including Lake Virginia, Lake Mizell, Lake Berry and Lake Osceola — is lined with historic buildings and connected by gorgeous canals.
The park opens at 8:00 a.m., so you can put in early and enjoy the quiet while the rest of Winter Park wakes. Paddle alongside the sculpture garden of the Albin Polasek Museum and the beautiful Cornell Fine Arts Museum buildings lining the lakeside.
2. Shingle Creek
If you’re staying near Walt Disney World® — like at Bryan’s Spanish Cove by Diamond Resorts — and want a break from the long lines at the theme parks, bring your boat and put in at Steffee Landing at Shingle Creek Regional Park along U.S. 192 in Kissimmee.
The seven-mile trail, which runs from Babb Park to the north and Lake Toho to the south, is packed with wildlife, including waterfowl, turtles and alligators — so be sure to keep your camera handy. For experienced paddlers who want a challenging launch, there are some small rapids in the middle of the trail, but beginners should pick a calmer spot to start. The area is also a newly designated Florida Paddling Trail, and work is underway to clear trees, logs and brush to make the scenery even more stunning.
3. Lake Ivanhoe
If you’re not bringing your own boat or board, Lake Ivanhoe is the easiest place to spend a day on the water. Rent equipment from Maui B’s or Lake Life Paddle, and if you’re a real beginner, you can book a lesson or a tour.
From Lake Ivanhoe, located on Orlando’s main thoroughfare of Orange Avenue, you can enjoy skyline views of downtown, plus paddle under the notoriously trafficked I-4. After your paddle, treat yourself to one of the lakeside’s fantastic eateries, like The Greek Corner or Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe.
4. Wekiva Island
About 40 minutes north of Grande Villas Resort by Diamond Resorts is Wekiva Island, the perfect spot to spend an entire day surrounded by “real Florida.” You can rent paddleboards, kayaks and canoes from the on-site equipment rental, and then enjoy a paddle through the cypress and scrub oak forest.
When you get back, rent a cabana (especially convenient if you’re paddling with a group) and enjoy a refreshing beverage and tasty bites, plus live music from local bands, including the Oak Hill Drifters and Big Ron Betts. Landlubbers can enjoy beach volleyball, cornhole and a boardwalk that overlooks the Wekiva River.
5. Little Econlockhatchee River
East Orlando is home to the Little Econlockhatchee River (or the “Little Econ” to locals). The 8-mile trail through the moss-strewn forest is enchanting, and you’ll be accompanied by runners and hikers while you paddle the winding Little Econ Trail along the riverside.
You might see sandhill cranes, bald eagles, ospreys, red-shouldered hawks, wild turkeys, and more on your adventure along the Little Econ, which is also the second-largest tributary of the historic St. Johns River. Bring a picnic lunch and sidle up to one of several white-sand beaches for a swim, leg-stretch, and a snack.
No matter where you decide to launch, it’s certain you’ll find a waterway that serves up serenity and adventure. Spend a day away from the throngs at the theme parks, enjoy the peace and quiet and get a taste of Florida’s natural beauty 365 days a year.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.