Kayaking 101 - Florida

Several kayakers paddle in the water near a maritime forest in the background.
Ranger led kayak programs are one of the best ways to learn to kayak and see the park's water resources.

NPS Photo

The tidal salt marshes, bayous, and deeper open waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore are some of the most diverse marine habitats in the world. With around 120,000 acres of marine habitat to explore, you can join a park ranger to discover the plants and wildlife that inhabit these complex environments and experience the recreational opportunities available in your national seashore.

Dates for Florida kayak programs can be found on the park’s Calendar of Events. Programs are free, but reservations are required. Reservations can be made by calling the Kayak Reservation Hotline at (850) 916-5670. All reservations must be made through the hotline. Programs are limited 16 individuals and last up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Participant Requirements

  • All participants must complete and sign a Waiver Form.
  • A legal guardian must accompany participants under the age of 18.
  • All participants must weigh a minimum of 30 pounds or 14 kilograms.
  • For single, sit inside kayaks, total participant weight cannot exceed 300 pounds or 136 kilograms; for tandem, sit inside kayaks, total participant weight cannot exceed 500 pounds or 226 kilograms.
  • All participants must wear a life jacket or PFD (personal floatation device) and a whistle while on the water.
  • All participants must know how to swim in open waters without the aid of a flotation device.

Learn and Explore


What to Bring

The park provides kayaks, paddles, life jackets, whistles, and dry bags. We recommend participants bring with them:
  • Water: Pack at least two liters of drinking water per person depending on heat and humidity forecasts.
  • Food: Salty or high-calorie snack(s).
  • First Aid Kit: Prescription medications
  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, and polarized sunglasses.
  • Correct Clothing: Weather appropriate clothing, such as a swim suit and a long sleeve water shirt or other wicking fabrics, and close-toed water shoes.

Program Cancellations

Programs may be cancelled at anytime and without notice. If possible, participants will be informed as soon as possible if a program is cancelled. There are no rain checks or make-up dates for cancelled programs. Reasons a program may be cancelled include:
  • Inclement weather.
  • Sustained wind speeds meet or exceed 10 miles per hour.
  • Water temperatures are below 60 degrees or combined air and water temperatures total less than 120 degrees.
  • Unsafe water conditions.
If you must cancel a reservation, please notify park staff as soon as possible so that those kayaks can be filled. Call the Florida Kayak Reservation Hotline at (850) 916–5670 to cancel and/or make a new reservation.

Last updated: August 30, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563


(850) 934-2600

Contact Us