Kayaking in Key West is the best there is because Key West is a beautiful island, surrounded by miles and miles of backcountry flats, mangrove islands and channels. The flats and mangrove islands extend in every direction around Key West, so there are a number of different starting off points for a Key West kayaking excursion. If it’s at all windy and the seas are at all rough, you probably won’t want to kayak much on the south side of Key West. That’s the Atlantic Ocean and especially if the wind is coming from the south or the east, it will be pretty rough and hard to paddle your kayak. Besides, that side of Key West has no mangrove islands or channels or other protected areas. It’s just open ocean, albeit pretty shallow for a while. It won’t be that interesting, either, with no hidden pathways through mangrove forests, no discoveries around each corner as you paddle forward. It’s just open ocean, paddle hard, get wet.
Two Great Kayak Routes in Key West
One really great place for starting a Key West kayaking trip is actually on Stock Island, at Hurricane Hole Marina. There’s an outfitter here that rents kayaks at a reasonable rate. You paddle from their dock and enter Cow Key Channel.
Watch for incoming boats, but they should be going slow since a bridge is coming up for them. You can cross Cow Key Channel near the bridge and enter a canal that goes behind some million dollar homes on Key West, and off this canal you can enter some wild mangrove trails that lead you to the salt ponds in Key West. The salt ponds are behind the Key West Airport. It’s a good place to explore, and you can see large pieces of debris stuck in the mangoves themselves, thrown there from Hurricane Wilma. Kayaking in the salt ponds of Key West is fun, but if it’s summertime it’ll be too hot and sunny back in there, especially if there’s no breeze.
Another fun place to kayak in Key West is around the small island just northwest of Key West, in Key West Harbor. These are Christmastree Island and around Sunset Key. Sunset Key, formerly known as Tank Island, is a private island with a resort on it so you can’t actually get out of your kayak on their beach or anything. That’s ok because just across the channel is Christmastree Island, which is wild and begs people to explore it. The real name of Christmas Tree Island is Wisteria Island but locals call it by the other name. Just paddle up to the shore like this guy did, get out and explore the beach. The inner section of the island is kind of overgrown and wild but it too is good to poke around. If you walk north on the beach you’ll see a little stone statue just behind the beach in the trees.