My daughter has been bugging me like crazy to take her paddleboarding. That sounds like a no brainer, but I usually go super early in the morning, way before the rental places open and I usually don’t have to pay anything since I have a board. Free is good for a favorite pastime, right?
But I love the fact that she’s interested in it so we decided to find place to rent boards and go a little later than usual. My partner in crime and my daughter immediately conspired (this is a common thing, I can’t win) and after much Googling and mapping told me that Weeki Wachee is closer than my usual paddling site (Fred Howard Park) and they found a place that rents boards as early as 8 am.
Weeki Wachee is the faraway land of mermaids, manatees and clear blue waters. I always think of it as being in the same area as Crystal River, about an hour + drive from home, and a place where no one rents anything earlier than about 10.
I couldn’t argue with that, so we reserved our boards and off we went to The Kayak Shack. I gotta say, if you’re going to spend the money to rent boards this is the way to go. They have plenty of stress free parking and really nice people working there (plus a couple of huge, gentle dogs that may or may not be part of the staff). They load you up in a van and drop you and the boards off about 5.5 miles up the river. You get on and can just drift/paddle down the river as you choose until you get back to the shack. In the few places you have a choice of paddling left or right there are very clear signs letting you know which way to go. If you are feeling lazy you can literally just drift the entire way. If you don’t stop to get in the perfectly clear water (don’t be foolish, jump in!) you will get back in three to four hours with zero effort. Don’t want be on the water that long? Paddle and you’ll get there sooner.
If you prefer to bring your own board I was told there is a place nearby open to the public to put in, I’ll let you know where after we bring our boards up and find it. Paddling upstream is quite a challenge in some places, so be certain to start off going upstream so that you can relax a bit on the way back.
One thing to make note of – a few sections of the river are INFESTED with yellow biting flys. These things are no joke. We brought cream bug repellent and all of us look like we have chicken pocks on our legs and are occasionally still crazy itchy, especially after being in the heat. Bring bug repellent SPRAY, not cream so that after playing in the water you can immediately spray more on. I usually don’t use bug repellent but I was ready to drink the stuff it it would have helped. After I got home I bought a bottle of extra DEET camping bug spray and a bottle of all natural stuff, next time I go I’m testing both and will let yo know if the natural stuff works. Cross your fingers for the natural stuff working. Either way, this stuff is right up there with sun screen for must haves if you go paddling at Weeki Wachee.
Paddling this river is like paddling in paradise – clear blue water, huge fish swimming under you, the occasional manatee and scenery right out of a movie. We even had a raccoon following us along for a few minutes!
If you get the opportunity you should definitely visit Weeki Wachi. If paddleboarding isn’t your thing you can also rent canoes and kayaks, or go see the mermaids! I have yet to see a mermaid…