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.
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.
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.
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.
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.