Aaron Medow puts in his kayak with the other Tuesday/Thursday Paddlers at
Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park in Boynton Beach to paddle along the Intracoastal
Waterway. Photo by Tim Stepien
By Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley
Whether you are in search of great blues (herons), roseate spoonbills, alligators, manatees, mangroves or mega mansions, your kayak is a great way to see them.
South Florida is veined with canals, lakes and waterways that are perfect for paddling. In fact, our area is part of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.
It begins at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, heads south along the west coast of the state, covers the Keys and then makes its way up the east coast to Fort Clinch State Park near the Georgia border.
A natural wonder, the trail passes through every coastal Florida habitat from barrier island dunes to salt marshes and mangroves.
The 1,515-mile trail is made up of 26 segments. Palm Beach County is included in segment 18 (Pompano Beach to Lake Worth) and segment 19 (Lake Worth to Jonathan Dickinson State Park).
For local paddlers, segments of this trail, as well as other paddling adventures, are easy to access from the many marinas and parks in our area.
My husband, David Seeley, has been kayaking throughout South Florida for over 15 years. He goes with an informal group that meets every Tuesday and Thursday to paddle our waterways.
With his assistance, we’ve put together this guide to local put-ins and the paddles they offer (listed in order south to north). These are easily accessible, offer a variety of amenities and, best of all, they are the starting points for many pleasant paddles.
Just for fun, we’ve included latitude and longitude coordinates so you can find these put-ins with your GPS or on navigational charts.
Of course, these trips are good for canoes and paddle boards as well as kayaks. So throw your boat on your car, pack your paddle, and we’ll see you on the water.
217 NE Fifth Ave.
N 26 19.279’
W 80 05.811’
Although it’s a little bit of a ride into Broward County, the potential paddles make travel to this spot worthwhile. You can head south, paddle under Federal Highway and end up in the Intracoastal Waterway.
But first, take a detour through the canals of Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club. You’ll be impressed by the money spent on backyards.
Also, check out Deerfield Island Park where Al Capone wanted to build a house but was blocked by Boca Raton residents who didn’t want him as a neighbor. The island is home to squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, armadillos and birds.
If you need a restroom, there are facilities in Deerfield Island Park and a dock.
Head north from the put-in under Dixie Highway, and you’ll have to make a decision. You can continue north on the Boca Rio Canal or take the western fork into the Hillsboro River that passes under I-95.
The river, which is the dividing line between Palm Beach and Broward counties, is navigable for only about a half mile before it comes to a dam. And because it passes behind an industrial park, it’s not that scenic.
We prefer the canal that lets you view backyards and park-like areas.
Silver Palm Park
600 E. Palmetto Park Road
N 26 20.977’
W 80 04.574’
Tucked into downtown Boca Raton, this hidden gem lets you head south to Lake Boca Raton, where you can pass by the tower of the Boca Raton Resort and Club. If you want to brave the boat traffic and ocean, make your way through Boca Inlet.
Head north from the ramp and you’ll paddle into Lake Wyman, which is really just a widening in the Intracoastal Waterway. Along the eastern bank you’ll see nature at work at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. On the west, James A. Rutherford Park has trails through the mangroves. These used to be open to the public but now they are only accessible through tours from Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. There is talk of refurbishing the paddling trails, but the work hasn’t started yet.
Head farther north to arrive at another widening of the Intracoastal dubbed Lake Rogers. On its eastern bank you’ll find Spanish River Park.
None of these parks have facilities for you to exit your boat, but they do attract wildlife you can enjoy from the water.
1211 S. Federal Highway
N 26 26.576’
W 80 3.962’
The ramp at this park was steep enough to be difficult to use. The city closed it in October to do construction that would make it more accessible. The ramp reopened in late January. Here, like at Knowles Park, you access a narrow part of the Intracoastal Waterway where boat traffic can make paddling unpleasant.
1001 S. Federal Highway
N 26 22.067’
W 80 4.497’
This park just north of Mangrove Park provides access to the Intracoastal in Delray Beach at a spot where the waterway is narrow. Boat traffic can cause turbulence, making paddling from here difficult.
Ocean Inlet Park
6990 N. Ocean Blvd.
W 80 02.719’
This park is set on the east side of the Intracoastal just south of the Boynton Inlet. Instead of a ramp, you launch your boat from a beach.
Head south to the Two Georges (www.twogeorgesrestaurant.com/boynton/) or Banana Boat (www.bananaboatboynton.com) restaurants. Each has a dock where you can get out of your boat to enjoy a meal or snack.
Go north and you are at the south end of Lake Worth Lagoon. Here you can navigate around Hypoluxo Island. Just be careful. It’s shallow at the north end of the island where the waterway rejoins the lake/Intracoastal.
The Old Key Lime House (www.oldkeylimehouse.com/) on East Ocean Avenue provides floating docks in case you want to exit your boat to eat on your way back down the Intracoastal to your car.
Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park
(formerly Boat Club Park)
2010 N. Federal Highway
N 26 32.741’
W 80 3.160’
Located about opposite Ocean Inlet Park, this park offers ramps, floating docks and a small beach that give you access to the same paddles mentioned above. But we prefer this park because you enter the water opposite the Boynton Inlet so there’s less boat traffic.
Although there is a weekend fee for trailers/boat launching, we are told it doesn’t apply to kayaks.
2240 N. Federal Highway
N 26 32.909’
W 80 3.194’
Located just north of Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, you can enjoy the same paddles as above. Here you’ll put in from a beach instead of ramps.
330 E. Ocean Ave.
N 26 35.037’
W 80 02.835’
This put-in has limited parking, but it does provide access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Boynton Inlet as well as the south end of Lake Worth Lagoon on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Ocean Avenue Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway is scheduled to be closed for work. Car traffic will be prohibited beginning March 19, but use of the ramps in this park should not be affected during the closure, which may last two years.
and South Bryant Park
30 S. Golfview Road
N 26 36.852'
W 80 2.868'
These are different parts of the same park with boat ramps in the middle. From here you have easy access to Lake Worth Lagoon and the north end of Hypoluxo Island.
North Flagler Drive and 23rd Street
West Palm Beach
N 26 44.179’
W 80 2.967’
Use this park if you want to cut across Lake Worth Lagoon to Palm Beach Island. Go south to look at Mar-a-Lago from the water. But be warned, on your way south you’ll experience lots of big water studded with only a few islands.
We prefer to go north along the coast of Palm Beach so we can explore the magnificent homes from sea level. But keep going and you’ll come to Peanut Island, accessible only by boat.
It’s an 80-acre tropical park with swimming beaches and a 1.25-mile brick walking path around the perimeter that provides access to wildlife habitats.
The island also is home to a historic Coast Guard station and boathouse that was built in 1930. And there’s a command post and bunker for use by President John F. Kennedy in case of national emergency.
Phil Foster Park
900 E. Blue Heron Blvd.
N 26 47.004’
W 80 2.487’
Although it’s a little bit of a drive, this park is worth the trip to put your boat into the north end of Lake Worth Lagoon. From here you can head north to Peanut Island (see above). And you can visit Little Munyon Island and Munyon Island, which are part of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
According to the park website, Munyon Island has a colorful history. The Seminoles called it Nuctsachoo (Pelican Island) and it was said to be one of the largest wading bird rookeries in South Florida.
The first inhabitant in 1884 lived in a tent and made his living by selling green sea turtles caught in Lake Worth.
Next came the Pitts family, who bought the island in 1892. They built a two-story house and raised 28 kinds of fruit on their land. In 1901, the Pitts sold the island to Dr. James Munyon. He took two years to construct the Hotel Hygeia, named after the Greek goddess of health.
The five-story, 21-room, eight-bath hotel catered to wealthy Northerners who came to recuperate and drink Dr. Munyon’s Paw-Paw Elixir. It was fermented papaya juice bottled on the island.
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
10216 Lee Road
N 26 29.853’
W 80 13.309'
To get here, you need to head west. Yes, all the way to the Everglades. But it’s worth the trip. Set on the north side of the Everglades, this 145,800-acre park offers a 5.5-mile kayak/canoe trail hewn from the sea of grass.
Go in the spring and summer when it’s hot and you’ll see plenty of alligators. We’ve floated over and around them up close and personal. You may see snail kites, frogs, turtles, birds, butterflies and deer.
At some times of year, the paddling path may be overgrown with water hyacinths or the water may be low in the dry season. Call ahead to check trail conditions.
There is a $5 entrance fee to the park.