the bay sarasota kayaking

A Kayaker's Guide to Paddling Sarasota's Waterways

All the kayaking knowledge and inspiration you need for those days out on the water in Sarasota County.

Here's all the scoop on where to kayak, tips for the best kayaking experience, and local businesses where you can rent kayaks or take a paddle tour for your next serene adventure in Sarasota.

Tips to Prep for Your Kayaking Adventure

When you go on a kayak tour, you can expect to do some paddling. Whether you're a first-time or seasoned kayaker, there are a few tips to keep in mind to maximize your experience:

kayaking north port

Photo courtesy of City of North Port, FL

  • Be prepared with essential gear: Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, a lifejacket, hat, and shoes that you don't mind getting wet. You'll likely have to walk in water to get into the kayak. You can also bring snacks, if you wish, as well as a camera for picture-taking. Kayak companies often will provide a seal-tight dry bag so you can keep items like keys or your phone or camera in them. The dry bags don't guarantee that your things won't get wet, but the bags are definitely a good thing to have. 
  • Get ready to run into wildlife: Prepare to possibly enjoy many Florida native seabirds, fish, turtles, and maybe even manatees and dolphins (but remember, there's no guarantee on what you'll see). There are plenty of manatees and dolphins frolicking in the Sarasota area, but the tour companies can't control nature!
  • Consider a guided tour: Local kayaking companies know exactly where and when to go for the best views, and can help you more easily with launching your kayak, navigating Sarasota's waterways, and spotting any nature or cultural highlights.


Where to Rent Kayaks or Take a Tour

Now that you know what to expect when paddling the waters of Sarasota, you can move forward on renting a kayak vessel or choosing a tour in the location you wish to explore.

sarasota kayaking

Dolphin Paddlesports

6018 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

As the name implies, if you've got an interest in dolphins and paddlesports like kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, Dolphin Paddlesports is a great destination, located within Economy Tackle retailer (a great place to stock up on your fishing line and bait for some kayak fishing!). This local landmark both rents and sells quality single and double kayaks, and also offers a launch pad for self-guided tours out of Phillippi Creek Park.

Happy Paddler Kayak Tours & EcoVentures

6844 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key

Whether you want a guided tour of the unique ecosystems of Sarasota or just some independent exploration around Sarasota Bay, the Happy Paddler is happy to help! They have their Coastal Island Tour, Sunset Kayak Tour, and Mangrove Kayak Tour, all geared toward exploring Longboat Key, Lido Key, and Anna Maria Island.

Kayaking SRQ Tours & Rentals

190 Taft Drive, Sarasota

According to Kayaking SRQ, "Paradise Awaits," and we wholeheartedly agree. With more than 40 years of experience, the folks at Kayaking SRQ are ready to take you and your whole family on a tour through the mangrove tunnels in Lido Key or Siesta Key. Kayaking SRQ also has guided kayaking fishing tours and guided paddleboard tours.

Lontra Adventure Outfitters

200 John Ringling Causeway, Sarasota

Now here's something different. The kayaks at Lontra Adventure Outfitters are pedal kayaks, so you pedal instead of paddle to move within the kayak (as you would a bike). This allows the kayaks to travel faster compared to traditional kayaks. However, they can be traditional kayaks when in areas too shallow for pedaling. Lontra offers guided kayak tours from Bird Key Park, Anna Maria Island, and Terra Ceia Bay, as well as a sunset tour that includes a brewery visit!

Ride and Paddle

6551 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota

Located in the heart of Siesta Key, Ride and Paddle offers kayak rentals (in addition to stand-up paddleboards, scooters, bikes, and other recreational equipment). If you prefer a guided tour, book one to launch from the Turtle Beach Public Boat Ramp and explore Jim Neville Marine Preserve.They also offer kayak classes for people of all ages and ability levels, should you need lessons in paddling and navigating the kayak.

Vanhunks USA

6227 N Washington Blvd, Sarasota

This family-owned and operated retailer harnesses the spirit of adventure through kayak sales, rentals and tours. With an expansive range in kayak designs—from single and tandem vessels to fin drive (pedal) and motorized kayaks, as well as all your paddling and fishing accessories, Vanhunks USA is a one-stop-shop to gear up for exploring Sarasota's waterways and beyond. If you'd prefer a demo or rental to try it out first, you can always do that, or simply book one of their local tours.

Best Kayaking Spots in Sarasota County

If you're new to kayaking, your local guide can take you to great kayaking spots. If you're venturing out on your own, here are some Sarasota kayaking destinations to consider:

thebay sarasotaThe Bay Park

The new community park located along Sarasota Bay is a great place to launch or enjoy a free public paddle on certain days of the week. 

Blackburn Point Park

With a convenient kayak/canoe launch, many locals enjoy this 15-acre water access park destination in Osprey for low boat traffic, quiet surroundings, and easily getting in and out of the water.

Bob Johnson's Landing

Named after former Florida legislator Sen. Bob Johnson, this spot is a 7.1-acre public park on Tamiami Trail in the Venice/North Port area. You'll find solitude while you enjoy kayaking, birding, and fishing.

Deer Creek Prairie Creek

Down in Venice, launch and paddle through rugged Old Florida wetlands and wildlife along the banks of the Myakka River and Deer Prairie Creek.

Jim Neville Marine Preserve

This is a small island located in Little Sarasota Bay that has mangroves filled with marine life, including many fish and aquatic birds. 

Ken Thompson Park

At the end of Lido Key on City Island, kayak with unobstructed views of the John Ringling Bridge and watch the marine life teeming all around you. 

Lemon Bay Environment Park

Located further south in Englewood, this park also includes Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve, where you can easily launch your kayak/canoe and cruise through the 210 acres of natural habitats, including a black mangrove forest and mangrove fringe along the shoreline.

North Port Blueways

The name refers to 80 miles of bluewater canals and natural waterways available in south Sarasota County—yes, 80 miles! Enjoy a peaceful kayaking journey along the Myakka River or the Myakkahatchee Creek. 

Oscar Scherer State Park

Located in Osprey, you'll find an abundance of wildlife and native plants, along with kayak rentals onsite to enjoy while hiking or camping the state park.

Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach

Mangroves or areas with trees and shrubs that are tangled together and that form along coastlines. The mangrove tunnels within Ted Sperling Park in South Lido are filled with aquatic life but also provide great views of picturesque Bird Key and downtown Sarasota.

lido mangrove tunnels