When all the birds start flying south for the winter, it’s time to pack up the kayak and head that way too. And from sea to shining sea, east to west, Florida to Texas to California, there is no shortage of pristine, warm weather waterways to explore. Here are some of our favorite national parks to paddle in those southern parts of the U.S.
Everglades National Park, Florida
With over 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitat in Southern Florida, this national park encompasses a region that is almost entirely covered by shallow water. Touring by kayak is a great way to see the plant and wildlife including the American alligator. For a great day trip, check out Flamingo or Gulf Coast paddling trails. For a multi-day, camping in Florida Bay and the 10,000 Islands or 99-mile Wilderness Waterway are great picks. Remember, permits are required.
Channel Islands National Park, California
Just off the coast of Southern California sporting miles and miles of rugged shoreline, these 5 islands are most well known for their many caves and outstanding marine wildlife. Because of constantly changing weather, park staff strongly recommends guided kayak excursions for novices. If you want to play it safe, check outSanta Barbara Adventure Company who offers wildlife viewing and coastal kayaking tours year round.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
An expansive old-growth bottomland hardwood forest awaits your winter exploration in the Southeast. With less reptiles and insects to distract, December-March is the best time to tour these backwaters. Fishing, camping, wildlife identification and paddling are all on offer during your visit. Traveling by kayak on Cedar Creek Canoe Trail is a can’t miss activity. You’ll witness 15 miles of primeval old-growth forest containing some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America.
Virgin Islands National Park
Covering most of the island of St. John, the park has outstanding tropical beaches and scenery, natural history and artifacts from the island's complex history. Picture iconic brilliant blue-green bay waters swarming with coral reef inhabitants, coconut palms and pristine white sandy beaches. If you want a kayak excursion that feels truly remote and untouched this winter, Virgin Islands National Park should be at the top of your list.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Last but not least. It might not be quite as warm or tropical as some of the other mentions on this list, but if you're seeking mild temperatures and a desert adventure, Big Bend is the spot. From half-day to multi-day options, the Rio Grande, separating Mexico and the US, running along the southern border of the park, has it all. Just keep an eye out for flash floods and javelina!