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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kayaking with Manatees on the Weeki Wachee River

One of the highlights of my trip to Florida, and one of my top experiences overall, was kayaking the Weeki Watchee River in central Florida. 

My sister-in-law, who knows me pretty well, suggested this excursion last year, but for one reason or another, we never made it out there. Admittedly, I was hesitant, having only been kayaking once, and my uncertainty over whether river kayaking was for me nudged me toward lazy days at the beaches Siesta Key and St. Pete/Clearwater over paddling downstream. 

How wrong I was. 

After suggesting it again this year, reassuring me of my alligator and heat stroke concerns, my sister-in-law (and kayak pilot) booked our reservation at Paddling Adventures at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on Florida's Nature Coast. Soon, we were on our way.  

From the moment we launched, I knew I would have a great day. It was so beautiful; the water was crystal clear. 

My niece piloted a kayak with her friend, and my sister-in-law piloted ours.

She's a pro!

A gentle current guided us down the stream, which was canopied by cypress, oak, and palm trees. The rangers told us that we could observe fish, turtles, and birds, and just after launching our kayaks, we saw this guy drying his wings in the morning sun. 

There are places to stop and swim all along the route, once you exit the state park portion of the 5.5 mile route. 

Checking out shells and playing with the Go-Pro. 

You can wade along the sandbars, swim in the cool river, or even jump from a tree into the deeper water of the crystal clear Weeki Wachee River. 

My daredevil niece and her friend had fun with this. 

We knew that manatees visited this area, but we didn't expect to see them, since they are known for visiting during the winter months, when the gentle herbivores migrate toward warmer water to feed on the river's grasses and plants. 

We were wrong. 

This manatee swam right under our kayak!

To see a manatee in her natural environment felt like a once-in-a-lifetime gentle, so graceful. What a thrill!

Once we arrived at Rogers Park, we were assisted out of the river by the Paddling Adventure guides, and after they stowed our kayaks and gear, they shuttled us back to our launch point. 

My Weeki Wachee adventure exceeded my expectations beyond measure. If you are visiting Florida's Nature Coast, make this experience a must. 

Paddling Adventures at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

6131 Commercial Way
Weeki Wachee, Florida 34606

What is an experience you had that exceeded your expectations after going into it unsure about whether you would even enjoy it?


  1. OOOH Lovely!

    Those Florida springs are so beautiful, and to get a visit from a manatee? What a day!

  2. Love your photos Kelly. What a fabulous adventure!

    1. Thank you, Nancy! I'm still smiling...what a treat!

  3. Wow! What a thrill! I was born and raised in FL and have never seen a manatee in the wild. I'll have to take this excursion on my next visit.

    1. It is so much fun and worth a trip. Hopefully, you will be as lucky as I was!