Up a River With a Paddle

I love a leisurely paddle trip on one of West Central Florida's many beautiful rivers. A few of my favorites include the Myakka River, above, and the Weeki Wachee, both on the west coast.

The photo above was taken at Myakka River State Park, the state's largest state park and a great place to see Old Florida. This river is more like an estuary or wetlands, with little current and lots of winding waterways through tall grass. It's easy to get lost and there are also hundreds of alligators in this river, so it might be a bit intimidating for some. Take the guided airboat tour if the gators are looking hungry!
For crystal clear water and the chance to see wild manatees in a natural setting, Weeki Wachee River has to be my favorite. You can rent kayaks at the livery behind the mermaid attraction at SR50 and US 19. The river is narrow and winding and offers plenty of birdlife along the way. Some manatees are so used to paddlers they will actually let you scratch them!