If you love fishing or paddle sports then the 1000 Islands at Cocoa Beach is a most wonderful place to explore! Unfortunately, there is little information to be found either in print or online about the 1000 Islands – until now!
Here we will share as much as we can find out about one of our favorite places in Brevard County. Maps, paddle routes, hiking trails (yes you can hike on some of the small islands), what to see and where to see it.
A Quick Summary of the 1000 Island Experience
Officially, it is called the Thousand Islands Conservation Area
The area is rich in sea life and birds and with scenic mangrove tunnels
It offers shelter from windy and choppy conditions on the rivers – easier paddling
The launch areas (Ramp Rd and Country Club) are easy to use.
Stay aware of your surroundings (GPS is suggested) – you can get lost!
It is best to stay on the outside channels during your first few visits until you are familiar with the conditions and geography
The water between the islands is mostly very shallow (6 inches to 2 feet at most). Do not bring a long skeg when using a SUP!
Dolphin and manatee will be in the deeper water so focus on the boating channels for sightings
Use the Church Tower (shown on our map below) as a navigational reference in case you get lost. The Launch is to its left!
Google Earth is a good place to start and we use Google Maps to plot our GPS waypoints and tracks. This is work in progress and it will be for many years to come – please know one can spend a lifetime in the 1000 Islands and still discover new mangrove tunnels, paddle routes and enclaves.
The brochures show crystal-clear blue water with playful dolphins leading the way as kayakers paddle between pods of friendly manatees.
Often, however, that’s not what folks experience and the kayaking shore trip activities get mixed reviews as a result – a shame! The Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area is perfect for water-based exploration and kayaking is one of the most popular adventures in the area. You just need to plan properly and manage your expectations!
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your kayaking shore trip:
At the coast weather can be unpredictable. You may have to brave strong wind and small waves on the river.
Know your capabilities and book an excursion that you can handle! You have to paddle to get around – there is no floating downstream here!
Come prepared with sunscreen, thin gloves, wide-rimmed hat, sunglasses (with retainer), bug repellent, sandals that stay on your feet (not flip-flops), waterproof camera, comfortable clothes. For longer tours bring water and/or energy drinks and snacks.
Sightings are not guaranteed and the water is often murky. Also understand that manatee sightings are fewer during the colder months (Dec-Mar).
All kayaking tours are not the same. Read below to learn about the differences in terms of group sizes, kayaks, launch locations, etc.
How To Book a Kayaking Trip
There are 4 ways to do a kayaking adventure near Port Canaveral.
Book a shore excursion with your cruise company
Book a guided tour with one of the outfitters listed below – RECOMMENDED
Rent a kayak, either at the launch site or have it delivered to the launch area. Then explore on your own, however, we recommend a guided tour instead.
Rent a kayak at or near the beach to play in the ocean – this is really a beach-related activity for experienced folks and we list a few beach rental companies below
Kayaking outfitters offering guided tours
Most of these companies do not have offices to visit – they store/transport their kayaks on trailers not far from their favorite launch sites. Once booked, you will receive directions to the meeting or launch place which will be chosen based on season, sealife reports, currents, wind strength/direction, etc.
The prices, tours and locations listed here do change so PLEASE contact each company for accurate information!
Tours start at Kelly Park to an island near Canaveral Lock
Kayak rental companies
They may or may not deliver kayaks depending on many factors such as time of day, season and your location. You may have to rent a roof rack system if you have a rental car. It is best to call and ask about these things before renting.
The easiest way is to rent at the launch site from companies who park their trailers there for a day! You just show up in your rental car or with Uber/taxi and your kayak will be waiting! Try Calypso at the 1000 Islands.
This map shows the popular kayak launch areas in the area. For newcomers or cruisers we suggest to focus on the 1000 Islands at Ramp Road for your first kayaking adventure. Please read our Guide to the 1000 Islands at Cocoa Beach.