Paddle to Paradise on Florida’s Wekiva River

See the wilder side of the Sunshine State.

Camping high above the Wekiva

Nothing says summer like a lazy day on the water. Find your streamside haven on central Florida’s Wekiva River, a 16-mile stretch of wetlands just north of Orlando. As one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state, it’s a hot spot for paddlers, hikers, and wildlife. Black bears, otters, alligators, and sandhill cranes frequent the river and its surrounding wetlands, while striped bass and loggerhead turtles glide beneath your SUP or kayak. To reach this unique campsite, launch at Wekiva Island (privately owned; $10 launch fee for private craft, and rentals available) after leaving a shuttle vehicle at the take-out, then follow the gentle current for an hour. Pitch your hammock or camp chair beneath the broad arches of an ancient cypress and soak in the sounds of the babbling river and hidden birds. (Bugs can be a problem; turn to page 52 to find our top-rated bug gear.) Both day trips and overnights can take out at Katie’s Landing, 9 miles from your launch. Permit Required for overnight trips; $5 per person per night Backpacker

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