Explorers Guide to Florida’s Paradise Coast Blueway

Southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast Blueway is a boon for kayakers, canoeists, and stand-up paddleboarders. It currently provides 73 miles of interconnected paddling trails that run from Everglades City to Marco Island. Started several years ago, this Collier County amenity was designed for paddlers to enjoy their sport while keeping them safe.

A guide to kayaking Florida's Paradise Coast Blueway. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

The Paradise Coast Blueway runs through many different Florida ecosystems including cypress forests, mangroves, tropical woodland, estuaries, barrier islands, and parts of the Everglades National Park. Expect to encounter dolphins, manatees, fish, turtles, and many of the 200 bird species that frequent this uninhabited area.

Take a break from paddling and go shell hunting on some of the deserted islands and keys or stroll the beach in search of sand dollars and starfish. Further inland, the shady greenery is the perfect place to spot ghost orchids, ferns, Tillandsia bromeliads, and wafts of Spanish moss. These forests are also home to whitetail deer, racoons, black bears, and wild boar.A guide to kayaking Florida's Paradise Coast Blueway. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

Paradise Coast Blueway History

Phase I of the Paradise Coast Blueway opened the trail from Everglades City to the village of Goodland on Marco Island. It is known as the Ten Thousand Islands section and includes parts of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. As well as providing one main route, the Blueway has six different day trip trails which are well used by local kayakers and tour guides/sports outfitters in the Naples region.

Phase 2 has already been drawn up to provide more routes through the northern part of Collier County and up to Bonita Springs. It will extend from Goodland to the Gordon Pass area, running through the calm, protected waters of Rookery Bay.

Phase 3 has also been carefully planned. It will include a trip up the Gordon River to Naples, a coastal trip along the beaches as far as the Lee County line, and a day trail to Lake Trafford in Immokalee. A Blueway paradise indeed!

Trail Maps and Navigational Aids

The Paradise Coast Blueway does not have any in-water signs and markers to show the route. As well as being impractical, it was felt that signage would spoil the character of this natural wilderness. It would also be costly to maintain. Instead, kayakers can navigate using maps and GPS. You can click on any of the sections within the official Paradise Coast Blueway website and then download a fully detailed and accurate map of the section you want to explore.

Florida's Paradise Coast Blueway Trail Map Overview. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo courtesy Paradise Coast Blueway

Currently, the section maps cover:

  • The Blueway Overview map
  • Chokoloskee to Rabbit Key
  • Collier Seminole State Park to Blackwater River
  • Everglades City to Goodland
  • Everglades City to Sandfly Island
  • Goonland Coon Key Loop
  • Port of the Islands to Panther Key
  • Turner River

Safety Tips when Kayaking in Southwest Florida

Every year, several kayakers and canoeists have to be rescued by tow boats after their day on the water turns bad. In some cases paddlers get completely lost as everywhere looks the same. In other instances, the tidal currents have caught kayakers unawares and they end up exhausted and dehydrated. Having a map, cell phone, and GPS is essential and make sure you have sufficient water and energy-providing snacks. It’s always wise to paddle with a companion, just in case you need help.

A guide to paddling Florida's Paradise Coast Blueway. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

It is essential to check the tides and the local weather forecast before setting out on a Paradise Coast Blueway paddling adventure. You can get up-to-the-minute information from the Blueway website link. Once you have everything in place you can enjoy a serene eco-adventure as you paddle Southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast Blueway.

A guide to paddling Florida's Paradise Coast Blueway. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

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Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

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