Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs

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Most vacationers come to Florida for the world-class theme parks, beaches, and resorts. The downfall to popular tourists spots is long lines and shoulder to shoulder crowds that usually plague most of the high-end attractions. Luckily, Florida boasts plenty of lesser-known beaches, a plethora of charming small towns and dozens of freshwater springs. If you’re looking to truly get away from it all on your vacation or just looking for a unique outdoor adventure, then try kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs.

A view of the crystal clear water while kayaking Weeki Wachee Springs.
The crystal clear water of the Weeki Wachee River.

Getting To Weeki Wachee Springs

Located about an hour north of Tampa and just under 2 hours west of Orlando, Weeki Wachee is the perfect day trip. The town of Weeki Wachee is incredibly small and the springs are probably the biggest attraction. As you approach the intersection of Highway 19 and Highway 50, you’ll see tall waterslides and signs pointing you in the direction of the parking lot.

Looking for a place to stay near Weeki Wachee? Check out the Microtel Inn & Suites for a comfortable and affordable hotel just down the road from the spring!

A cypress tree along the edge of the Weeki Wachee River.
A cypress tree along the edge of Weeki Wachee.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

As you navigate to the parking lot, you’ll see the waterpark, Buccaneer Bay, that has been built around the springs. Entrance fees into the state park include access to the waterpark, wildlife shows, mermaid shows, and a boat ride down the Weeki Wachee River. The boat ride is a great alternative for those who are not able to paddle down the entire river but still wish to enjoy some time on the water. The park opens at 9:00 AM every day and typically sells to capacity on weekends and holidays in the summer. Ticket prices vary depending on the season. Adults are $13 and children are $8.00 in the summer. Click here to visit Weeki Wachee Springs State Park’s website.

Paddle board pulled off on a white sandy beach along the Weeki Wachee Springs.
Multiple white sand beaches line the Weeki Wachee River.

Launching From Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Directly next to the entrance of Buccaneer Bay is where you can rent or launch your own personal watercraft. A one-lane road found in the back corner of the parking lot takes you to the Weeki Fresh Water Adventures building. It’s important to visit the Weeki Fresh Water Adventures website to secure a time slot for both renting or launching. This location is the only place you can rent or launch in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. They cap the number of kayaks they allow to launch in order to not put too much pressure on the river by clogging it up with people. Make sure to reserve your spot well in advance when kayaking at Weeki Wachee.

The crystal clear water of the Weeki Wachee River as seen from the boat ride available at the park.
The Weeki Wachee River as seen from the boat ride that is available through the park just next to the kayak rental.

A Point To Point Paddle

If you launch your own watercraft, you have the entire day to navigate the Weeki Wachee River. If you rent from Weeki Fresh Water Adventures, you have approximately two hours to make your way to the pickup point at their new take out location about 2 miles from the launch. In my experience, two hours is plenty of time to enjoy the river and make it to the pickup point without feeling rushed. Feel free to take your time and stop for breaks along the way.

NEW INFORMATION: As of October 2020, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park rentals will only be paddling from the original launch point to the newly created takeout point about 2 miles down the river. You will have approximately 2 hours to complete this route that winds through the state park before exiting at the newly constructed ramp for your shuttle back. Prices have been adjusted to compensate less time spent on the river compared to the full paddle to Rodgers Park previously. As always, check with the state park for the most updated information!

It is still possible to launch your own personal vessel at the state park for $6. However, the state park will not transport your vessel. The good news is that you can still float the whole length of the river in your own personal vessel as long as you arrange transport back to your car when you are finished.

A kayaker splashing around at one of the beaches along the Weeki Wachee River.
Splashing around at one of the white sand beaches that are scattered along the Weeki Wachee spring run.

Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs

Kayaking at Weeki Wachee is absolutely beautiful with crystal clear water and picturesque landscapes. You’ll spend the first half of the paddle winding through Florida foliage with little to no sign of civilization. Weeki Wachee Springs kayaking is truly something you have to see to believe. If you are taking out at the state park, you’ll remain in the dense Florida forest. If you are going all the way to Rogers Park, you’ll begin to see houses and docks at about the halfway point. There are only a few forks in the waterway, each of which you’ll stay to the left in order to make your way to Rogers Park.

A manatee sighting along the Weeki Wachee River.
Floating and waiting for the manatees to come to you is the best way to see them!

The Return Trip

When you arrive at the new exit, you will be picked up in their shuttle and returned to your car at the launch building which is only approximately a 5-minute drive. If you are putting in your own kayak for your paddling adventures down the Weeki Wachee River, the shuttle will not transport your personal boat back to your car for you. My advice is, do this paddle with at least one other person and either use two separate cars or utilize Uber to transport you back to your vehicle. Ubers in the area seem to run approximately $12 for the return trip.

A paddler shows off her inflatable paddle board.
You are able to bring your own vessel, but make sure you plan ahead because they will not transport personal vessels back to the launch point.

Best Time of the Year for Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs

The summer tends to draw huge crowds, especially on the weekends and holidays. The handful of swimming holes and white sand beaches that are scattered along the river are a huge draw for people looking to cool off on the hot summer days. If you are looking for a more peaceful outdoor experience, try visiting during the winter months (November-March). With the cooler temps, it might not be as refreshing to enter the water, but thinner crowds and less heat/humidity make for a great paddle. It’s also much more likely that you will encounter manatees during a winter paddle since they retreat to the warmer waters of the spring.

A manatee spotted just at the edge of a paddle board while kayaking Weeki Wachee Springs
A manatee spotted just at the edge of my paddle board.

What To Bring For Your Weeki Wachee Springs Kayak Adventure

Being prepared is key to an enjoyable paddling adventure. Lather up the sunscreen, pack a hat and sunglasses and don’t forget a reusable water bottle. Disposable plastic water bottles are not allowed on the river so make sure to bring a reusable one! Need a water bottle? Check out my favorite CamelBak bottle <—Super CHEAP! After you exit the state park, you are allowed to swim in some of the deeper areas of the river. Bring a pair of goggles and a towel if you plan to get in and enjoy the warm water. Check out this snorkel set!

Gear secured on paddle board while kayaking Weeki Wachee Springs.
Some of the things I bring along with me during a typical paddle.

Be Respectful

The Weeki Wachee river is a beautiful Florida gem that has grown in popularity over the years. While paddling, be mindful that this is a wild place and it should be kept in pristine condition for others to enjoy and wildlife to thrive. Everything you take with you should leave with you. When you encounter wildlife, do not harass or attempt to touch. It is a much more amazing experience if you simply float and let the wildlife come to you. Manatees are known to frequent certain areas of the Weeki Wachee River. Remember that it is illegal to harass or touch a manatee as they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

A manatee viewed from underwater while kayaking Weeki Wachee Springs.
Always be respectful of the wildlife and natural places you visit. Do not touch or harass a manatee and as always leave no trace.

Hungry After Your Paddle?

Check out some of the local restaurants that are just a short drive from Weeki Wachee Springs. I’ve had lunch multiple times at Upper Deck which is just across from Rogers Park. Not only is their food amazing and service great, but they’ve got a balcony overlooking the water with a killer view. If you’re looking for even more of a dive, check out BeckyJack’s Food Shack which can be spotted on your drive back to retrieve your car. It’s a small and unique place with great staff and delicious bar food.

A beer overlooking a kayaker along the Weeki Wachee River.
A cold beer is the perfect way to end a paddling adventure down the Weeki Wachee River!

Enjoy the natural springs of Florida and help keep these wild places healthy for future generations to enjoy!

For more fun Florida adventures: Check out Ginnie Springs, Crystal River, and these other fun floats!

10 thoughts on “Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs”

  1. Hi,

    I have never heard a story for that spot and i can tell it is so interesting and informative.Thanks!!

    I like the combo between the adventure and the wildlife encountering. It would be a great experience to go there one day.

    Best wishes,


  2. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous
    blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  3. I’m so glad you highlighted this old Florida gem! I’m from Tampa originally, and so many people miss the real Florida, thinking they’ve seen it when they visit Disney.

  4. I love kayaking and am trying to go in as many places around the world as possible. Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs looks wonderful. Although I try to kayak a lot I don’t have my own kayak so I always look for places that rent and will pick you up in a different spot. It would be so cool to see a manatee!!

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