Kayak
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With so many water access points across the Tampa area, there are tons of places to go kayaking near you, even on Labor Day Weekend. Whether you choose to book a guided tour or rent from a local kayak rental company it’s a great way to enjoy the long weekend.

Kayaking in Tampa Bay, Clearwater and St. Pete offers a unique way to get out on the water and spend some quality time with loved ones. We’ve rounded up our top picks for where to go kayaking in Tampa Bay during Labor Day Weekend below.

Updated August 2023, by Zoë Joiner.

Tampa Bay Labor Day Kayaking

Kayaking in the City

Want to kayak with the scenic downtown Tampa skyline as your backdrop? Urban Kai, located on the Riverwalk near Armature Works, is best known for stand up paddle (SUP) board rentals, but kayaking and starboard starship rentals are also available. They also have a location just across the Gandy Bridge in Pinellas County at The Getaway beach bar if you want to escape the city and explore mangrove tunnels.

Urban Kai, as well as Tampa Bay Kayak Rentals are unique in that they offer the option to bring kayaks to your desired location and pick them up afterwards. For a shorter, 2-hour trip, hop into an Urban Kai tandem kayak with your love for $45, which is just the right length of time to circumnavigate Davis Island – just an idea!

You could also explore the length of Bayshore Boulevard launching from Ballast Point Park in South Tampa or head even further south to Picnic Island Park, near the Airforce Base.

Tampa Bay Kayak Rentals offers flat-rate daily and multi-day rentals ($60 for a single-day, or $50/day for multiple days), as well as weekly rental rates, perfect for outdoorsy vacationers or staycation-ers.

Kayak rentals are also available from Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in downtown, just across the river from The Straz Center. It’s $35 for 2 hours in a tandem kayak; call 813-274-7453 to make a reservation. Talk about a memorable Labor Day exploring the Hillsborough river downtown!

Tampa Bay SUP has a few locations to choose from for kayaking around the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, including at the Grand Hyatt by Rocky Point, out of Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, and from the Clearwater Beach boat ramp. It’s $45 for two hours or $55 for 4 hours on tandem kayak.

If you or your partner has never been kayaking before, WhatSUP Paddle Sports offers great kayaking for beginners along the Courtney Campbell Causeway. It’s $55 for two hours on a tandem kayak to explore the calm, shallow, and clear waters of Ben T. Davis Beach, which are great for spotting wildlife.

Image credit: Tampa Bay SUP

Weedon Island Preserve Kayak Tour & Rentals

Just 10 minutes from downtown St. Pete and 25 minutes from downtown Tampa is a super easy go-to spot for a nature adventure, including kayaking. Weedon Island Preserve offers guided kayak tours and kayak rentals just south of the Gandy Bridge as you enter Pinellas County.

Guided kayak tours are $45 (single) or $80 (tandem) for 2-2.5 hours spent exploring the pristine waters and seagrass meadows of Weedon Island Preserve. You’ll watch for manatees and dolphins, and navigate some of the longest winding mangrove tunnels in all of Florida. 

If you’d rather skip the guide and make your own tour, tandem rentals are $65 for 2 hours or else just $10 more for 4 hours.

Clam Bayou Gulfport Kayak Rentals

Plan a memorable Labor Day exploring the quaint and cute beach town of Gulfport in south Pinellas county. Kayak Nature Adventures has a super easy launch from Clam Bayou Nature Park, where you can paddle around through the mangrove tunnels or adventure out into the Bay and watch for wildlife. Everyone gets a free lesson as well as a map with a suggested route thru the 180 acre Clam Bayou Nature Preserve.

When you get hungry, it’s just a mile-long paddle down to Gulfport beach to stop for a swim, lunch and shopping (yep – just pull the kayaks ashore and leave them until you’re done!). Rentals up to 4 hours are $55 for a double kayak and guided tours are available with a 4 person minimum.

Fort De Soto Kayaking on Labor Day Weekend

Offering daily tours in Fort De Soto and Shell Key south of St. Pete, See Through Adventures is a glass-bottom kayak experience where you’re almost guaranteed to spot friendly Florida wildlife. Choose from a 1.5 or 2.5-hour tour option and keep your eyes peeled for manatees and dolphins which are commonly seen in the shallow, calm waters.

Pricing differs per tour, with a 1.5 hour tour at $69 per person and a 2.5 hour tour at $99 per person. The last rental is at 4 p.m., and reservations are required (and booking fast) for Labor Day.

Be sure to check out their “Glow” tours which have options to explore mangroves or the St. Pete Pier illuminated at night.

Image credit: See Through Adventures

Shell Key Preserve on Labor Day

Manatees, dolphins, starfish and birds, Oh My! Multiple kayak tour companies, including Coastal Kayak Charters, offer guided kayaking tours exploring the serene Shell Key Preserve, off Tierra Verde and Fort Desoto in St. Pete Beach.

Depending on the tide, you may be able to paddle through mangrove tunnels during the ~3 hour tour. If you’re lucky, you may have a dolphin swim near your kayak, a once in a lifetime experience (and so romantic!). The cost for this tour is $49/person, with instruction and everything you’ll need included.

Little Manatee River Kayak Tour

Located 30 minutes from downtown Tampa, Canoe Outpost – Little Manatee River offers multiple kayaking adventures at various levels of difficulty, including one-of-a-kind monthly Moonlight Paddles. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned kayaker, you’ll enjoy paddling out and back or embarking on a longer journey with a return trip by shuttle bus.

The most popular trip takes a minimum of 2.5 hours to paddle 6.5 miles through Little Manatee River State Park, stopping for a picnic or a swim on a sand bar. A great excursion for families or groups, there are restrooms, nature trails and a playground at the halfways-mark just in time for a break.

Return transportation is provided every hour on the hour so you can go at your own pace. It’s $49 for the day for a double-kayak, returning by 5pm.

Kayaking in Tampa on the Little Manatee River
Image credit: Canoe Outpost – Little Manatee River

Weeki Wachee River

The crystal-clear water of the spring-fed Weeki Wachee River will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to another world. While you can rent a kayak or paddle board at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park for a 1.5 hour long kayaking adventure, you can also head a little further downstream to the Kayak Shack in Spring Hill which is right across the river from Rogers Park.

You can rent a single kayak or paddle board for $35 or a tandem kayak for $45. They only launch from 8am – 12pm and you must be back by 5pm.

Keep in mind that exiting your kayak or paddle board to swim is discouraged because trampling on the bottom of the river can destroy the natural vegetation that is critical to the ecosystem. Expect this park to be extremely busy during Labor Day Weekend.

Honeymoon Island/Caladesi Island

Boasting natural beaches, stunning sunsets, top-notch shelling and more, Honeymoon island State Park is an unspoiled paradise just minutes from hip downtown Dunedin. Cross the Dunedin Causeway, pay the $8 park entry fee and access is yours.

While lazing on the beach and exploring the hiking trails are popular park activities, kayak rentals are also available at the park concession or you can bring your own kayak.

Alternatively, you can rent a tandem kayak outside the park from Sail Honeymoon, setting your sights on scenic Caladesi Island for a secluded beach day. Splurge on the full-day tandem kayak rental ($80) to explore at your leisure and make the most of Labor Day Weekend.

Lido Key

Lido Key may be a bit of a trek from Tampa, but the drive is worth the reward of paddling through scenic mangrove tunnels. Pack a plastic bag for your phone because you’ll definitely want to snap some photos while exploring.

You’ll be laughing as you inevitably bump into branches or accidentally snag your paddle on a stray branch, but you’ll also gain some serious kayaking chops navigating the sometimes tight and twisty tunnels. Rentals are available from several companies, including Sea Life Kayak Adventures.

While guided tours are available, the tunnels are surprisingly simple to navigate and the current will help you along. Beginners up for a bit of adventure can totally tackle this experience. Consider it the ultimate Labor Day Weekend adventure. Your kayak rental company should also offer a map to help you get oriented.

Lido Key mangrove tunnel kayaking
Image credit: Stephanie Patterson

Longboat Key

South of Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key is a ritzy haven with stunning shorelines and fantastic restaurants. Exploring on the water offers a unique vantage point of both Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, while also inviting you to stop off at a sandbar or peruse mangroves.

Happy Paddler Kayak has several rental locations, but many locals are partial to Longboat Pass. After boarding your vessel, you can paddle out and around to the sandbar in front of Jewfish Key near Longboat Pass.

If you’re feeling adventurous, make your way under the Longboat Pass bridge and out into the gulf for views of AMI and Longboat Key from the clear water. Tandem rentals are $65 for a half day (4 hours).

Robinson Preserve

Headed to Anna Maria Island for Labor Day Weekend? Combine soaking in the sun with a morning kayak trip through the mangroves and calm waters of Robinson Preserve. The iconic Surfer Bus, which you can find parked along Manatee Avenue before reaching the island, offers kayak rentals just a short paddle away from the entrance to the preserve.

You’ll paddle through several short mangrove tunnels and open water and can paddle all the way to the preserve’s lookout tour which offers scenic views of Anna Maria Island and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Just be warned, it will be super busy for Labor Day Weekend. Expect to pay ~$60 for a half-day (2.5 hours) on a tandem kayak.

Note: Check the Facebook page for the latest details. Robinson Preserve is undergoing restorations, and Surfer Bus is also working on a new bus.

Feature Image Credit: Step Outside

Prices subject to change. Check with each company before you head out on your kayaking adventure. Enjoy!

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