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Kayakers on the water

The Adventure Coast’s Coastal Paddling Trail offers a Diverse Adventure

By Diane Bedard Posted on August 12, 2021

Kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing offer peaceful interaction with nature on the water, providing healthy exercise without getting too wet. Florida’s Adventure Coast opened the Coastal Paddling Trail in 2017, providing a new way to enjoy Hernando County’s western shoreline and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coastal Paddling Trail takes watersports enthusiasts and casual paddlers from Bayport Park to Linda Pedersen Park giving residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy what makes Florida’s Nature Coast such a special place without the crowded conditions of the Weeki Wachee river.

On March 16, 2017, the 4 ½-mile mapped coastal paddling trail was officially opened at Bayport Park. A collaborative project involving Parks and Recreation, DPW, Waterways, and Tourism; the trail offers a 1.7-mile one-way trip, with an optional side route down Redfish Bayou (adding another 1.5 miles to the route).

NatureCoaster attended the opening and shared a kayak with Trail Jenny, a fun-loving lady who began blogging about her outdoor adventures in 2016, but then combined her love of outdoor activities with her love of soap making to create a wonderful line of products that help outdoor enthusiasts smell better.

Jenny and I joined several outdoor writers and media people for the inaugural Coastal Paddling Trail adventure between Bayport and Linda Pedersen Parks on March 16, 2017. (Image courtesy of Tommy Thomson of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.)

We joined several writers and media people affiliated with the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and Florida’s Adventure Coast for a short paddle along the trail, leaving from Bayport Park. The trail was well marked with signs and there were laminated maps available at the boat ramp to keep us on track. Robin Draper, the former publisher of Authentic Florida and my mentor, was also there.

We paddled by fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as waterfowl and sea birds. Image by Diane Bedard

After a presentation by our local Sea Grant agent, Brittany Hall-Scharf, we were introduced to the Girl Scout Cadettes Shyanne Beadling, Emily Bladgett, Serenity Meads, and Brooke Starz who constructed educational signs as part of their Silver Award project.

Girl Scout Cadettes Shyanne Beadling, Emily Bladgett, Serenity Meads, and Brooke Starz designed and constructed pose in front of one of the educational signs they designed and constructed for the Coastal Paddling Trail on March 16, 2017. Image by Diane Bedard.

These hand-drawn and painted signs help paddlers identify some sights they may encounter while traversing the Coastal Paddling Trail between Bayport Park and Linda Pedersen Park, and are located at both parks.

The Bayport park boat ramp provides an easy launch for small craft as well as trailered boats. Image by Diane Bedard

How to Find the Coastal Paddling Trail

Find Historic Bayport Park by driving west on State Road 50 straight past the Bayport Inn, until it ends (at the park). Bayport Park is a 7-acre venue with picnic tables, pavilions, grills, and bathrooms for visitors. This is not the park with the beach that you reach by turning south at the Bayport Inn – that one is called Alfred McKeethan Pine Island Park.

The park is open 24/7 and there is a $5 parking fee, but no charge to use the boat ramp. You need to bring your own kayak or call for a rental ahead of time from the local kayak rental companies. When you rent a kayak, you can travel one way and get picked up with your kayak at the other end of the trail. The approximate cost ranges from $30 – $40.

You can also access the Coastal Paddling Trail by starting at the boat ramp at Linda Pedersen [email protected] Creek, at 6300 Shoal Line Blvd and follow the trail’s signs from 11 to 1.

We saw a great blue heron and other wildlife as we eased up the bayou at the trail’s beginning. Image by Diane Bedard.

Experiencing the Coastal Paddling Trail

We encountered a great blue heron, several seagulls, enjoyed views of pelicans soaring and diving and ducks floating by during our paddling adventure on the Coastal Paddling Trail.

As we eased from the bayou to the Gulf, the expanse of open water was breathtaking.

The Coastal Paddling Trail is well-marked with signs and maps can be found at both ends of the trail. Image by Diane Bedard.

Signs along the way eased my fear of ending up “somewhere in the Gulf,” and provided continuity to our adventure. We chose not to take the Redfish Bayou leg, as this was my second kayaking experience, and the wind and weather were a bit brisk for a novice paddler.

Linda Pedersen Park offers a great location for Beginner Paddlers

Linda-Pedersen Park has an aluminum launch for small craft and is adjoined to Jenkins Creek Park by a footbridge over the river. Image by Diane Bedard.

Linda Pedersen Park is a gem! This 135-acre park is connected by an aluminum boardwalk to Jenkins Creek Park, across the street. With 25 developed acres and 110 acres of open space, this park offers activities for the young and the young at heart, including a nice aluminum kayak-canoe launch.

After exiting our kayaks, we walked past a great playground and were awestruck as we encountered a pristine sabal palm forest.

The magnificent sabal palm forest in Linda Pedersen park is a rare and welcome sight. Image by Diane Bedard.

We saw a huge manatee and several shorebirds. It was the perfect ending to a new adventure. I was glad we tried the new trail because encountering hundreds of paddlers on the same route takes away from one of my favorite parts of paddling – solidarity with nature.

A huge manatee was lounging in Jenkins Creek at Linda Pedersen Park. Image by Diane Bedard

The new Coastal Paddling Trail traverses the Mud River and was developed to help us enjoy being NatureCoasters! Let’s get out and use it.

Things to Know for a Coastal Paddling Trail Adventure:

You will want to

  • bring sunscreen, headgear, and sunglasses
  • bring plenty of water to stay hydrated (preferably in nondisposable containers)
  • bring a lifejacket
  • carry your camera. It is a beautiful route with plenty of candy for the eyes.

This paddling trail leaves one of two ways – along a bayou adjacent to the Bayport Park that ends at the Gulf of Mexico or from a watercraft launch in Linda Pedersen Park, under a bridge and through a tunnel to the Gulf of Mexico.

I was unable to make the entire journey either way, but I am a novice paddler – AND – the second time I tried, it was against the tide. Check the tide charts to make your journey more pleasant.

Either way, you start in brackish water and move into saltwater with its large birds, fish, and sometimes alligators along the flats. These alligators are usually sunning or sleeping when one paddles by, but it is always exciting to get a glimpse of an apex predator during a serene paddle.

Click this link for a map of the trail that you see below.

coastal paddling trail map
Coastal Paddling Trail map courtesy of Florida’s Adventure Coast.

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