Kayaking through the Thousand Islands Conservation Area — Photo courtesy of Rusty Clark
Surfing isn’t the only active way to experience the waters on the Space Coast of Florida. The area is, no doubt, a surfing hotspot, with the ocean its main agua attraction. But this unique region in Florida is also striped with rivers and canals that are open for adventure.
Whether you're an experienced kayaker or you've never sat in a boat before, a guided kayaking tour through the Space Coast’s beautiful and interesting Thousand Islands Conservation Area in the Indian River Lagoon is an active way to see Cocoa Beach from a different perspective.
Although there are many guided river boating outfitters around,Cocoa Beach Kayaking is highly rated by participants and respected in the region.
The Indian River Lagoon — Photo courtesy of Rusty Clark
The Thousand Islands area is 338 acres in a lagoon that's mainly accessed via boat. This calm waterway is dotted with many different green islands, with tucked-away channels and nooks – almost like a peaceful labyrinth on water.
The locally owned and operated eco-tour company Cocoa Beach Kayaking sets up a full 2- to 2.5-hour tour and provides everything guests need to have fun on the lagoon. Kayak, paddle, life jacket, sunscreen, water, hat and even polarized sunglasses are provided (not that they’re easy to forget in this near-equator weather).
The guides are highly trained; they tout hundreds of hours of studying the region’s history, ecology and wildlife.
So not only do guests get to experience charming canal views, paddling past majestic islands and enjoying up-close-and-personal encounters with some of Florida’s most exciting wildlife, but the guides also make a point to educate guests along the way.
An anhinga spotted in the Thousand Islands — Photo courtesy of Rusty Clark
The guides are trained to know where the bottlenose dolphins and manatees like to hang out, so you have a good chance of seeing some, while you drift through the same water. The experience is even more personal than spying water critters from land or a bigger boat.
It can be exciting to “swim with” the dolphins and manatees, but Cocoa Beach Kayaking is known for that true Space Coast atmosphere: laid back, relaxing and calm. The wildlife like this, too.
Expect to paddle leisurely in the two-person, open-cockpit kayak, using just one single paddle to reduce noise and disturbance, as well as to let guests alternate resting.
The tours frequently take a pause to watch the wildlife and talk about points of interest along the way. If you’re lucky, you may see a roseate spoonbill or blue heron.
Cut through different areas of the mangroves to see how Florida looks and feels, unspoiled.
See wildlife on a kayak tour — Photo courtesy of Rusty Clark
Kayaking with this outfitter is active, but it's appropriate for all fitness abilities and ages, starting at age five.
No previous kayaking background is necessary. Part of the experience includes safety and paddling instructions.
Because the kayaks have an open cockpit, guests can bring a small cooler or backpack with snacks or extra drinks, like electrolyte-enhanced beverages. (You can work up an appetite paddling and sweat a lot in the sun.)
You're encouraged to bring a camera with a quick shutter speed to capture the scenery on film.