Kayaking in the Florida Keys

Big Pine Key Adventures: Kayaking in the Florida Keys

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The job of a travel writer includes a whole lot of eating. I know what you’re thinking—rough gig, huh? But it can be hard to keep your weight in tact when you’re visiting a destination like the Florida Keys where every meal concludes with a slice of key lime pie. Which is why outdoor adventures like kayaking always make it onto our travel to-do list: Not only are they fun and give you an overview of the area, but they counteract a bit of that second slice of pie you probably shouldn’t have eaten at dinner the night before.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

My friend Erin, native Floridian, said that kayaking with Bill Keogh is pretty much a “religious experience.” Well, I didn’t get to kayak with Bill due to a change in our itinerary, but I did get to meet him and his dog (adorable pair, those two) and go on a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour) with one of his trip leaders at Big Pine Kayak Adventures, who might as well have been John Malkovich’s twin. (Service-y: Cost is $50 a person for a group tour and worth every penny.)

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

Our guide encouraged us to take separate kayaks—he called the two-seaters a “recipe for divorce”—but we opted to share one, so one of us (i.e. me) could take pictures while the other one (i.e. SVV) could paddle. The times we both paddled at once, I totally got why our guide said that, heh.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

We paddled about 15 minutes across the bay before we reached the mangroves, in which we would spend the next couple hours.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

These guys were not easy to navigate; a thick tangle of branches, you don’t so much paddle as you do pull yourself through their narrow passageways.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

SVV and I, being reasonably coordinated, had no trouble with this and found the challenge quite fun, but others in our group didn’t think it was so easy, and we hovered at the very back of the line giving them ample space to pass.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

Eventually, we reached a lake filled with cassiopea jellyfish. No swimming for us, particularly after SVV’s run-in with a moon jelly just days before.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

The water on the way to the mangroves had been too churned to spot any of the rays or other fish you tend to view on this kayak excursion; however, when we reached the lake, we did see quite a few egrets and other species of elegant birds.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

After spending some time among the wildlife, it was back through the mangroves again—no other way out.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

I thought three hours would be way too long in a kayak, but it was the perfect amount of time and a really pleasant afternoon.

We returned, and pulled all our gear up on land then set out in search of sustenance. Big Pine is right next door to the (in?)famous No Name Pub, so we dropped in for a beer and, yes, a slice of key lime pie. More info to come in my “where to dine in the Keys” post, but it’s worth a stopover for sure.

No Name Pub, Florida Keys

On the way out in search of Key West, we wanted to see some tiny key deer first, so we drove two minutes over the bridge to No Name Key and saw one right away. They’re so used to strangers—but no feeding them! it’s a law!—that this little guy moseyed right up to the car window to say hello. It took all the restraint I had not to jump out and cuddle him. How cute is he?

Tiny Key Deer in No Name Key

The bartender at No Name Pub told us that the key deer are akin to pests in the area and come into the locals’ yards around twilight each evening; thus, if you’re passing through and want a sighting, drive around the area just before dusk, and you’re guaranteed to see one if you give it a few minutes.

Tiny Key Deer in No Name Key

Kayaking, key deer, key lime pie and a brief stint on the beach at Bahia Honda earlier in the afternoon made this the absolutely perfect vacation day.

Big Pine Kayak, Florida Keys

  • January 31, 2014

    Great pictures! I totally laughed when you called “two-person kayaks a ‘recipe for divorce'” When my husband and I were engaged we went on a two-person kayak on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. It was a DISASTER! When we got marriaged we agreed to never ride on a two-person kayak again (or a tandem bike, or anything similar!)

    • February 3, 2014

      Ha! That’s a pretty smart marriage pact to have!

    • February 5, 2014

      So true! Experienced the same thing at Key Biscayne on a tandem kayak which we promptly flipped over. Two hours of silent treatment over who was a fault ensued. Wonderful pictures in the article. Thanks!

      • February 6, 2014

        Glad I’m not alone! I just figured it was because I’m the least patient person on the planet 😉

  • January 31, 2014

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts on the Florida Keys. My husband and I are leaving for Miami and the Keys next month, and have found your posts very useful.

    • February 3, 2014

      Oh, I’m so glad! I have “where to eat” and “where to stay” posts coming up in the next week or so; hopefully, you’ll find them useful =)

  • January 31, 2014
    Briel K.

    Kayaking is so fun. I liked the video! Great song choice, one of my favs from the show. Haven’t heard that exact version before.

    • February 3, 2014

      Mine, too! I love the original, but Hayden’s version may be my favorite of the song.

  • February 3, 2014

    What a fun adventure! We did something similar in Charleston and loved it.

    • February 6, 2014

      I also kayaked in Kiawah Island last summer. Charleston is the best for such nature-y activities!

  • February 5, 2014

    So, basically I can never go to Key West because then I will end up bringing a deer home, or in jail, or maybe both. Because OH MY GOODNESS THAT DEER FRIEND IS ADORABLE!

    • February 6, 2014

      Basically, yes. Knowing you and your penchant for adopting rescue animals…

  • February 18, 2014

    great travelogue, loved the video. Btw, lime pie and beer after paddling is definitely worth the effort 🙂

  • February 19, 2014
    Christy Root

    Awesome!! I must say you are a stunning photographer, truly all the pictures are so good and I love you blog so much that this time I could not stop myself for appreciating your work! Thanks for sharing!

  • February 23, 2014

    Your kayak experience looked so fun. You should have gone fishing too. Anyhow, I would love to experience that two-person kayak. I was intrigued!

  • March 28, 2014

    Kayaking is always an awesome time. It is a great way to get out on the water and explore and see a lot of amazing sights. It is something we try to do whenever we visit Florida.

  • April 15, 2014
    Caryl Anne

    Great post! Kayaking is such a great experience and adventure! It’s one of my favorite outdoor activities to do, especially on vacation. Thanks for sharing!

  • April 22, 2014

    Great yeah. Really awesome post, also helpful 🙂 .. What about best hotels in florida?

  • January 13, 2016

    Wow, how wonderful this place is. I wanna come there right away. That should be the greatest kayaking trip I have. Thanks for useful information you shared.

  • January 21, 2016

    Great yeah. Really awesome post , also helpful

  • May 13, 2016

    Great Photography and Article. Loved it.

  • August 16, 2016
    David Hamburg

    The place seems beautiful. Being an avid kayak enthusiast myself, I’d love to read on people’s narrative of their experience and pick their thoughts on some places I may consider going to. Thanks for all the information!

    • August 16, 2016

      Funny, I’ve gotten really into SUP since writing this post four years ago, so now I’m the same as you about reading other people’s narratives!

  • May 27, 2018

    Your picture is wonderful, Florida truly a paddler’s paradise.
    Do you know Wekiwa Springs in Florida?
    I have been visiting Wekiwa Springs in last year, For pristine natural beauty, there is no better way to experience Wekiwa Springs than cruising through it on a kayak.

  • August 9, 2022

    Awesome!! I must say that you are an amazing photographer; all of your photos are fantastic, and I love your blog so much that I couldn’t help but compliment you! Thank you for your contribution!

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