Cedar Key Kayaking

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Cedar Key is every kayaker’s dream. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by lots of kayaking spots, each one unique and beautiful? The wildlife is diverse and the views breathtaking.

Kayaking in Cedar Key should be on every paddler’s bucket list. It is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

This small historic town has a population of under 1000 people. It is quiet, peaceful, and kayak friendly. And the best part? You won’t run out of places to go kayaking.

Let’s take a look at some of the best spots for paddling.

Best Places to Kayak in Cedar Key

a. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge was established to provide safe grounds for birds to breed and nest.

Kayaking the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge allows you to combine two awesome activities: bird watching and kayaking.

Paddle out to Sea Horse Key to see roseate spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, white ibis, night herons, among others.

Other than birds, you can spot dolphins swimming joyfully in the summer at Snake Key and Sea Horse Key.

During autumn, you will be able to spot tons of butterflies in the area too.

As already mentioned, there is always something to see here throughout the year.

If you didn’t bring your kayak, don’t fret. You can always rent one from the various Cedar Key kayak rentals

Note: Sea Horse Key is usually closed from March 1 to June 30.

b. Kayak to Atsena Otie Key

This is a must-visit.

Atsena Otie is a small island, about half a mile from Cedar Key. It was the original Cedar Key townsite.

This island is accessible by ferryboat or kayak. Once you arrive there, get off your kayak and go on a hike. Learn Atsena Otie Key’s rich history, see the ruins of the original Cedar Key and the historic cemetery.

Don’t forget to bring snacks. There is a place you can sit and enjoy the view as you birdwatch. 

If you are lucky, you will be able to spot a dolphin or two.

Note: before you grab your kayak, make sure you check the tide schedule.

c. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

If you can make your way to the Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, you will be in for a treat. It is about 10 miles from Cedar Key.

The Suwannee River is the definition of scenic. There are different beautiful trees along the banks. They give the place a calm, peaceful vibe.

There are so many animals and birds to see including turtles, deer, bald eagles, manatees, maybe a gator, and other endangered species. If wildlife observation is your thing, you can’t afford to miss this. 

Don’t forget to bring your binoculars because this refuge is home to about 250 bird species.

d. Waccasassa Bay Preserve

This bay preserve extends from Cedar Key to Yankee town, making it the third-largest preserve in Florida.

The area is only accessible by watercraft—you can access it by kayak from Cedar Key. 

It is home to tons of wildlife species such as otters, osprey, dolphins, turtles, deer, pelicans, and great egrets, among others. You will also see endangered species including black bears, West Indian manatees, alligators, and bald eagles.

The shallow waters and countless creeks make this a kayaker’s paradise. You can enjoy both freshwater and saltwater paddling.

There are three primitive campsites in the area, in case you want to take your kayaking experience to the next level. But they are only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Note: you won’t find launches within the Waccasassa Bay preserve.

ALSO READ: Discover the best kayak fishing spots in Cedar Key, Florida

e. Manatee Springs State Park

Lastly, you may want to take a day trip to Manatee Springs State Park.

Fun fact: the spring discharges about 100 million gallons of water daily.

Kayaking is allowed throughout the year. And if you have been all over Florida trying to see a manatee, you might just get lucky here. They are curious, so don’t be surprised when one swims up to your kayak. But know that they are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Don’t touch them.

Other than the sea cows, you will see gators, deer, turtles, and a ton of other wild animals. When you are tired of paddling, there are areas where you can take a swim or do some diving.


Many kayakers dream of visiting Florida. But once they get there, they are disappointed by the crowds and development. However, you can still get the original Florida experience in Cedar Key. There are lots of places to paddle, all of them rich in wildlife. You don’t have to bring your kayak since you’ll find many kayak rentals in the area.

Happy kayaking!

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