Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Emergency Contact Numbers:
Sheriff’s Office: 321-264-5100, 321-633-7162
Volusia County Sheriff’s
Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission 24-hour wildlife emergency/boating
under the influence hotline: 1-888-404-3922
Begin: Front Street Park in Melbourne
End: Smyrna Dunes
Duration: 5-6 days
Boat traffic can be heavy along the Intracoastal Waterway, especially on
weekends and holidays. Paddling along the high energy East Coast
shoreline is not recommended due to safety considerations. While some
calm periods may make it suitable for paddling the coastal shoreline,
conditions can change abruptly and there are few inlets to allow
paddlers to move to more sheltered waters.
This is an area where
large populations of manatee congregate. Manatees can become skittish at
times, especially in dark water, throwing up a large amount of water and
having the rare potential of capsizing a kayak.
This segment continues
along the Indian River Lagoon, considered to be North America’s most
diverse estuary. Overlapping boundaries of tropical and subtropical
climates have helped to create a system that supports 4,300 plants and
animals, 72 of which are endangered or threatened. Paddlers are almost
guaranteed to spot sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and a wide variety of
bird life, from roseate spoonbills to bald eagles, depending on the
A highlight of the segment
will likely be the Mosquito Lagoon, an inviting place of unspoiled
islands and a labyrinth of tidal creeks that is sheltered from the
Atlantic by Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. This estuary is a vital
nursery for fish, oysters, clams, shrimp and other sea life and, not
surprisingly, it’s one of Florida’s most famous fishing grounds.
The abundant life of the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon estuaries have
attracted people for thousands of years. Timucuan Indians annually
migrated to these shores from inland areas to gather clams, oysters and
to catch fish. They left behind giant shell mounds, two of which can be
seen today—Seminole Rest and Turtle Mound, both of which are managed by
the Canaveral National Seashore. To learn more, log onto
The adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, like the national
seashore, was established as a buffer zone for nearby National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) activities. It covers
140,000 scenic acres of brackish estuaries, marshes, coastal dunes,
scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. To
learn more, log onto:
This segment covers two aquatic preserves, Banana River (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/banana/)
and Mosquito Lagoon (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/mosquito/).
An optional route through the wildlife rich Banana River is highly
recommended. The preserves help to maintain and restore water quality
along with mangrove marshes and seagrass beds that act as nursery
grounds for recreationally and commercially important species such as
snook, grouper, snapper, seatrout, tarpon, and lobster. Also, many
species of migratory waterfowl winter in the Indian River and Mosquito
This guide primarily covers the western shore of the Indian River Lagoon
as it offers more parks and boat ramps that can be used as rest areas
and water stops. Plus, between Cocoa and Titusville, much of the western
shore is a shallow manatee protection zone where boaters must observe
Leave No Trace principles should be utilized for any primitive camping
outlined in this guide. To learn more about Leave No Trace priniciples,
log onto: http://www.lnt.org/
1. Front Street Park
in Melbourne to Island #35, 18 miles
Front Street Park has a
boat ramp, restrooms and water and is a good launch site for this
segment. Proceed north along the Indian River Lagoon. Bear in mind that
although this stretch involves paddling in a relatively straight and
wide water body, this is an estuary teeming with life. You may want to
hug the shore to see more bird life and to view original Victorian
homes, especially in Rockledge, an enclave founded in 1867.
Island #35 is one of
numerous spoil islands created from the dredging of the Intracoastal
Waterway in the 1950s. Primitive camping is allowed. No amenities are
provided. Other islands have been designated for educational purposes
and a few are designated as conservation, generally because they are
active bird rookeries. Paddlers should keep at least 100 yards from the
shore of conservation islands and observe birds quietly.
Island #35 is located 500
yards east of channel marker 80, a mile and half south of the Highway
520 Bridge. Access is on the east side.
Paddlers can enter the Banana River Aquatic Preserve just past the
Highway 518 Bridge in Melbourne. The Banana River has many notable
features. Almost every East Coast manatee comes through the river due to
its abundant sea grasses. Not surprisingly, the river is the site of the
largest manatee aggregation ever documented outside of a warm water site
(700). It boasts one of three diamondback terrapin sites on the East
Coast, counting the Keys. It has the largest known brown pelican
rookery, a large great blue heron rookery, and it is a major place for
dolphins. Just north of Port Canaveral, a manatee protection zone exists
where no motorized watercraft are allowed.
To break up this stretch, the 53-acre Samsons Island is available for
camping in the southern end of the Banana River near Satellite Beach. It
lies about 6.5 miles from the launch in Melbourne. Free permits must be
obtained from the city prior to camping, either in person or by fax.
Contact info: City of Satellite Beach, 1089 South Patrick Drive,
Satellite Beach, FL 32937 (321) 773-6458; Fax: (321)
779-1388. There are fire pits, grills and a port-a-let on the island,
but no water or other facilities. Campers are advised to pack it in and
pack it out. The permit holder must be 18 years old or older and must
remain on the island for the duration of the permit.
The next campsite is on Ski Island near Port Canaveral. Ski Island is
about 23.5 miles from Front Street Park in Melbourne, or about 17 miles
from Samsons Island. From Ski Island, you may want to spend a day
exploring the no-motor zone of the Banana River north of the power
lines. Thousands of alligators and other wildlife frequent this area.
Canine companions should be left at home as they will attract
alligators. Fishing is considered excellent. Port Canaveral offers
numerous restaurants and opportunities to view manatees, dolphins and
large fish going through the locks. Past the locks, there is a
full-service campground at Jetty Park—(321) 783-7111.
Sykes Creek, between Banana River and Indian River Lagoon, is a popular
waterway for day kayak trips. Sykes Creek can also be used as an
alternate route in windy conditions, although camping options are
From Ski Island, head west on the barge canal to reenter the Indian
River Lagoon. It is about 13 miles from Ski Island to Manatee Hammock
2. Island #35 to
Manatee Hammock Campground, 13.5 miles
In proceeding north, you
can land at Lee Wenner Park at the Highway 520 bridge after about two
miles. Restrooms and water are available and several restaurants and
shops are easily accessible just to the west in historic Cocoa Village.
The Port St. John Boat
Ramp is the only other public landing spot to the north. This is about
two miles before the campground. A city park with restrooms and water is
a hundred yards north, but you may want to walk there as landing is
difficult. Across the highway are several restaurants. A supermarket is
one half mile north on U.S. 1.
The Manatee Hammock
Campground, managed by Brevard County, offers shaded sites, water,
showers, a swimming pool, a Laundromat, volleyball and shuffleboard
courts, and horseshoes. A supermarket is 1.3 miles south on U.S. 1. The
park has a narrow landing for small boats south of the fishing pier. You
may want to reserve tent sites 163 through 168 as these are closest to
the water. Call 321 264-5083 for more information and to make
reservations, or log onto
3. Manatee Hammock
Campground to Titusville Spoil Island, 9.5 miles
Make sure to stock up on fresh water in Titusville,
either at Kennedy Point Park or at the Highway 406 Bridge boat ramp, as
there may not be another opportunity until late the next day. Camping is
on a spoil island just north of the Highway 406 Bridge in Titusville.
There are also two islands closer to the bridge. Note that the spoil
islands in a direct line to the Haulover Canal are managed by the
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and are off limits to camping.
Refuge lands also extend into Mosquito Lagoon. Camping is
prohibited on all islands and shoreline to marker 19 in the Intracoastal
Spoil Island to Shipyard Island, 27 miles
In this section, you will
proceed toward the Haulover Canal. Before the canal was dug, fishermen
used to haul their boats over this short spit of land to the Mosquito
Lagoon, thus the name. Two of the spoil islands before the canal have
since become bird rookeries. Keep your distance as you observe these
active bird colonies. Adult birds will be tending young, defending
territories, and retrieving food and nest materials.
In the canal, be sure to
pull into the little cove for the Bair’s Cove Boat Ramp. Manatees
frequent this spot along with other parts of the canal.
Once in the Mosquito
Lagoon, proceed north along a series of spoil islands. You can stay on
the west side of the islands to keep out of boat traffic if you wish.
Next available water stop is at Lefils Fish Camp near the end of the
day. Islands managed by the Canaveral National Seashore that are
available for camping begin about two miles south of Lefils Fish Camp
(see below for permit and campsite information).
Be sure to stop at the
Seminole Rest Mound, one of the few remaining shell mounds along the
Atlantic Coast. Two pioneer houses stand atop the mound. The Snyder
family protected this Timucuan built mound early in the last century,
while a nearby mound suffered the fate of most ancient shell mounds—it
was hauled away for fill material. There is a restaurant about a quarter
mile north of the mound.
A good rest stop is River Breeze Park, operated by Volusia County. The
park offers shaded picnic tables, water and a short hiking trail. It is
the site of a Colonial-era plantation. According to the West Volusia
Audubon Society, the park and its environs are great for birdwatching.
This is from their website: “Here, up
close on a sandbar, Marbled Godwits doze and preen and luxuriate in the
sunshine, shoulder to shoulder with handsome Black Skimmers. In the
brackish waters of the lagoon, the birder may spot a wintering American
White Pelican or a Common Loon. Reddish Egrets and Red-breasted, Common
and Hooded Mergansers visit this spot and you may see American
Oystercatchers. Check the area for migrating warblers before you leave.”
In order to more fully explore the unique and scenic Mosquito Lagoon
area, proceed west from River Breeze Park along Slippery Creek, paddling
around several islands. Once along the main peninsula of the Canaveral
National Seashore, you can dock and stroll around the historic two-story
house visible from the water. This is the restored Eldora Statehouse, a
vestige of a waterway community that once thrived on these shores. When
location of the Intracoastal Waterway shifted, and a railroad was built
on the mainland, Eldora slowly declined. You can hike a short nature
trail through the scenic Eldora Hammock.
From Eldora, cruise about a mile along the peninsula to the ranger
station. This is where you can obtain a permit to camp in one of three
sites that are on your way north: site 2 (Shipyard); site 3 (Headwinds);
or site 4 (Government Cut). For site 1 (Orange Island), you’ll need to
backtrack about a mile. These four sites are generally reserved for
paddlers, but boaters can take them if not used. You can reserve a
campsite up to seven days in advance by calling (386) 428-3384. Be sure
to arrive at the ranger station by 4 p.m. to pick up your permit. There
are also picnic tables at the ranger station and you can obtain water.
Click here for map and gps coordinates for all 14 of the Seashore's
Just after the ranger station, be sure to visit Turtle Mound, a huge
midden built by Timucuan Indians for more than 600 years. These early
people would visit coastal lagoons every winter to harvest abundant
marine resources, staying in camps of one or more families—25-30 people.
Don’t miss the panoramic view of the lagoon and coast from atop the
Just past Turtle Mound, you can take a scenic paddling trail to
campsites 2 and 3, which are on the west side of Shipyard Island. Obtain
a map at the ranger station.
For information about fees and to make reservations at the park,
call (386) 345-5525.
5. Shipyard Island
to Smyrna Dunes Park, 13-14 miles
This will be a very scenic
paddle through the upper half of Mosquito Lagoon, winding around several
uninhabited islands that provide numerous opportunities for rest breaks.
You can take an old channel just west of the Intracoastal Waterway for
most of the way (see map). Callalisa Creek is also a scenic option,
passable by kayak. This winding route may add a mile or so to your day.
Smyrna Dunes Park,
operated by Volusia County, is a coastal treasure. You can land near the
park entrance where the Intracoastal Waterway veers northwest and hike
on a long boardwalk that spans a pristine dunes ecosystem. You can view
the scenic Ponce Inlet and access some fine beaches along the Atlantic
Ocean. If you paddle Ponce Inlet, proceed with caution as currents are
heavy and breakers will likely be encountered as you near the Atlantic.
Camping is on spoil
islands just north of the park. These will be described in segment 23.