Did you know the state of Florida has a 1,515 mile Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail that begins at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, travels around the Keys, and ends near the Georgia border, or that the Florida legislature designated Milton as the “Canoe Capital of Florida”? With over 183 miles of river paddling trails in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties plus countless creeks, bayous, bays, and the Gulf of Mexico, the western Panhandle is a paddler’s dream. Paddling is good exercise for the mind and body and is a skill that can be learned as a child and pursued one’s whole life. 

Canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular pastimes in Northwest Florida, and the quiet nature of paddling makes it the perfect way to see wildlife up close in their natural habitats. Small craft can navigate into shallow saltmarsh creeks to see redfish or blue herons feeding or paddle far up a crystal clear, 78° (even during the hottest part of the summer!) freshwater creek past stately cypress trees and white sandbars. In the open Gulf, paddlers regularly encounter dolphins, stingrays, and endangered sea turtles while exploring the turquoise waters.

Native Americans used canoes for thousands of years to traverse the Panhandle waters for fishing, hunting, trapping, and basic transportation. It’s easy to carry on the tradition and become a modern day explorer—see our list of paddling outfitters and rental facilities and start your adventure today!