Last summer our family tried kayaking for the first time, and we were instantly hooked. Living in the River City lends itself to plenty of opportunities to explore the waterways. With just a little planning and preparation you can enjoy a kayaking adventure that the whole family will love. Here are my top 5 tips for kayaking with kids.
- Saftey First – Everyone in the boat should always wear a life jacket. This includes all kids as well as adults. My daughter was only three on our first kayaking adventure, and I wasn’t sure if the rental location would have a life jacket her size, so I brought one for her. It turns out that they did carry her size, but always call ahead or come prepared for even your smallest traveler.
- Do Your Homework – Check the tides and the weather (including wind speed) ahead of time. The marshes and creeks in Jacksonville are greatly affected by the tides and can become shallow very quickly. If you’re planning to go out with the family at low tide, I would highly recommend visiting the waterway during low tide ahead of time to make sure you aren’t going to get stuck.
- Be Prepared – I recommend investing in a dry bag for your phone, applying sunscreen ahead of time, and packing some bottled water and snacks. Even if you’re only planning to be out on the water for a short trip kids get hungry (and cranky) quickly.
- Start Small – On our first kayaking excursion with the kids my expectations were low. Really, really low. I figured if we could spend half an hour on the river with no one crying or falling in the water we’d chalk it up as a win. That first day we ended up paddling for a little longer than originally planned since everyone was having such a great time. No one cried OR fell in, but they all did complain about being hungry because I didn’t think ahead to pack snacks for such a short trip (see tip #3). Starting small also refers to the type of water you’re going to explore. Don’t plan on taking young children or even inexperienced older kids out in the ocean or where there are strong currents. Stick to the calmer, less windy marshes and creeks.
- Ask Questions – Once you’ve decided where and when you want to go kayaking start asking questions. Most of the kayak retail locations around Jacksonville are staffed with very knowledgeable people. Their goal is for you to have a great time, so you return for another trip. Ask them about the tides, the best waterways to explore and the easiest areas for the kids to paddle.
Kayaking in Jacksonville
The greater Jacksonville area has lots of great places where you can rent kayaks for just a few hours or even a full day. Always call ahead and ask if there are any age limits for kayak adventures. Now grab a paddle and start exploring!
Nice Paddle – A division of All Wet Sports is located right off of Beach Blvd, next to Big Pottsberg Creek.
Kayak Amelia – Located in Talbot Islands State Park you can rent their kayaks or sign up for a kayak tour.
Anastasia Watersports – Located within the beautiful Anastasia State Park which is only two miles from downtown St. Augustine.
White Ibis Tours – Offers a variety of guided kayak tours throughout the St. Augustine area.
First Coast Outfitters – Kayak tours geared towards families looking to have some fun out on the water. They operate out of several locations in the Jacksonville area.
Free Spirit Adventures – They bring the kayaks to you for guided tours or rentals in the Amelia Island and Yulee area.
St. Augustine Eco Tours – Two hour guided nature tours, located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine.
River Quest Eco Tours at the Jacksonville Zoo – Kayaks are coming to the zoo! You’ll soon be able to rent a boat and guide yourself along the river.