Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking Through the Mangroves at John Pennekamp State Park

Twisting and turning our way through, we arched back to skim under the low hanging trees. As we maneuvered our kayaks carefully towards the other side of the mangrove cluster, I wondered if we were on the right path. The path we chose, was indeed correct, and it led us through the tight and narrow paths of the mangroves in John Pennekamp State Park.

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

John Pennekamp State Park is located in Key Largo, and it extends three miles into the ocean to encompass coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass swamps. Activities in the park range from diving, snorkeling, and kayaking to relaxing on the beach, camping or taking a tour on a glass bottom boat. We visited the park on our weekend getaway to the keys with our friends, Alex and Heather, from Outside the Den. As we only had a few hours to explore, we decided to rent kayaks by the hour and explore on foot a bit after.

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

After renting our kayaks and providing the rangers with our information in case we ran into any problems out on the water, we were able to head on over to our kayaks for a brief overview of the area. Thankfully, we were provided with a map–it would have been super hard to navigate the mangroves without any reference points!

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

We chose a path that was to take approximately 1-1.5 hours roundtrip and then set off on our way. The water was pretty calm, so it was a perfect day to set out on our adventure. There are around 2.5 miles of mangroves to explore–some areas are wide open channels, and others are so tight and narrow that you may wonder if you are on the right path.

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Photo Credit: Outside The Den

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

When venturing through the mangroves, make sure to keep an eye out for the beautiful birds flying above and the marine life you might spot under your kayak. Some areas are so dense with seagrass that it almost feels like you will get stuck in the shallow water, but keep paddling and see if you can spot any fish below. Also, watch out for boats, too! Depending on the path you choose, you may have to cross a boat channel, and sometimes boaters don’t follow the rules and end up in areas they shouldn’t be.

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

With a variety of rental options, you can rent kayaks (and paddleboards too!) by the hour, or for a half or full day. Kayaking makes for a nice relaxing day, especially when you are back in the secluded mangroves of the Florida Keys, and it’s one of our favorite activities to do in the area!

Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park

Have you ever been kayaking before?

 

18 Comments
  • Sunshine
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:05h, 09 May Reply

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m from Miami Beach and not that many people outside SoFL know about John Pennekamp. I have a few kayaks down there I leave with my parents. I’m a swamp girl. So for me, there is nowhere in the world better for kayaking than SoFL. I can spend all day out there, looking at the birds, manatees, turtles…it’s totally my ecosystem and no matter where I am in the world, I always know the mangroves of FL is where my soul lives. Funny thing is, I’ve never kayaked in Pennekamp but I’ve always kept it in the back of my head. Next time I’m in town I’ll earmark it if we have the time. Have you been up to Oleta River?
    Sunshine recently posted…12 Rules to Live By: My DesiderataMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 21:00h, 16 May Reply

      You’re welcome! Yeah, it doesn’t seem like it’s a place many people know about, but we loved it there! That’s great you can leave kayaks with your parents–I would love to have our own so we could go whenever we want. You will have to try kayaking there one of these days and hope you have fun! I haven’t been to Oleta River–I will have to look into it. Thanks!!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Giveaway: Airport Parking from The Parking SpotMy Profile

  • Corinne
    Twitter:
    Posted at 03:07h, 10 May Reply

    We are heading to FL this summer and I do want to do some kayaking, so this is a very timely post. I like the idea of only a couple of hours and you seemed to have fantastic weather. Love your photos.
    Corinne recently posted…Santiago de Compostela and its Tetilla Cheese (and a recipe!)My Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:57h, 16 May Reply

      Great! Hope it helps! 🙂 It was definitely a good spot if you are only looking for a couple of hours–there is so much to see very close to where the kayaks are launched. Hope you have a great time in FL!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Giveaway: Airport Parking from The Parking SpotMy Profile

  • Mandie
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:27h, 10 May Reply

    Awesome! I had to comment because we are literally packing up to go kayaking right now! I love to be on the water but I’ve never kayaked through mangroves before. We should have some good rapids here in Arkansas after last night’s rain, so it will be a bit less relaxing than your excursion. Lol
    Mandie recently posted…The Best Tablets for Travel BloggingMy Profile

  • Anna
    Twitter:
    Posted at 17:28h, 10 May Reply

    Wow, these photos are just gorgeous! I’ve been kayaking but definitely nowhere as pretty as this! I love the tight narrow paths. It looks like a perfect way to spend a couple of hours!
    Anna recently posted…Foodie Friday: I eat blood sausage in Buenos AiresMy Profile

  • Dennis Kopp
    Twitter:
    Posted at 03:09h, 12 May Reply

    Jenna, that looks like a pretty nice kayaking trip. So far I have only seen mangroves from the land side, but it looks like it must be quite interesting to paddle through the dense vegetation. While seeing some wildlife like fishes is certainly great, I really hope there were no alligators around… :/
    Dennis Kopp recently posted…Exploring Bali’s Landscapes by ScooterMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:48h, 16 May Reply

      Thanks! Yeah, they are a lot of fun to explore from the water. I hope there weren’t any alligators either, lol. We didn’t see any thankfully–I’m not sure if they are many in the area, but I hope not!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Giveaway: Airport Parking from The Parking SpotMy Profile

  • Megan Claire
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:10h, 16 May Reply

    I love Kayaking in Florida – it’s an amazing State for it. Though we have an inflatable kayak and your choice looks a lot more sturdy and reliable!!!

  • Charli
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:09h, 16 May Reply

    John Pennekamp looks like a great environment to explore. We’ve recently started to get into kayaking as a way to see the locations we visit. You can often get a completely different perspective from the water, and being in a kayak really connects you to the world around you.

  • Agness
    Twitter:
    Posted at 21:18h, 20 May Reply

    I’m a big fan of kayaking and that would be a perfect way to spend one afternoon in this Park. How much did you spend on it if I may ask?
    Agness recently posted…Phuket on $25 a DayMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:32h, 30 May Reply

      They are $12 per hour and $40 for the full day. Not exactly cheap, but compared to the tours from other companies, it’s a great price. It was a really fun afternoon!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…U-Pick Oranges in the Sunshine StateMy Profile

  • Robert Jenkins
    Posted at 01:00h, 06 June Reply

    What a fantastic place to go for a paddle. Some great photos too.

    I’ve never been to John Pennekamp State Park but will have to go there sometime. I’m a huge kayaking fan.

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