One of the reasons paddleboarding is so attractive to many are the options it presents for getting to out of the way spots. Kayaking and canoeing have traditionally filled this role, but paddleboarding allows the user to stand, hence the acronym “SUP.”
Rentals around Cocoa Beach and the Indian River Lagoon are fortunate in that they can offer a wide variety of spots for paddleboarding. These range from secluded, low-traffic spots where a novice can learn, to open waters for the most seasoned expert.
The Indian River Lagoon is also special since there are so many protected areas and diverse environments you can paddle. In some spots, you can cruise over sea grass beds for the chance to see a wide variety of fish and wading birds, or you can skirt around one of seemingly endless number of islands for the chance to see birds nesting and other wildlife. If you zig one way, you can get into freshwater, or zag the other and get into the salt.
If you’re looking for places around Cocoa Beach where you can enjoy an SUP rental, the following 6 spots offer a natural view of one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America.
NOTE – The following 6 places are all in the central and northern parts of Indian River Lagoon within a 40 mile radius of Cocoa Beach.
- Canaveral National Seashore – You could probably spend a decade or more exploring the waters and small islands of this amazing park. On the north end near the town of Edgewater, explore Shipyard, Orange or one of hundreds of islands in Mosquito Lagoon. Towards the southern end of the park, put in at Eddy Creek for more of a saltwater environment, or put in on the west side of the Haulover Canal strip for a glimpse of the Lagoon’s freshwater side. Click here to learn more.
- Merritt Island Refuge, Cape Canaveral – Connected to the Canaveral Seashore is the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and grounds for the Kennedy Space Center. Just east of Titusville, you can take your SUP along the shoreline of the Indian River (west side) or the Banana River (east). A bit more open than the creeks and backwaters in Canaveral Seashore, NASA’s operations in the area provide an opportunity to see the USA space program in action. Check with your SUP rental or media reports in the event of any closures.
- Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary, Sykes Creek – A bit more convenient to other attractions and the heart of Cocoa Beach, the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary is a wilderness within a city. The 436-acre sanctuary is known to bird watchers throughout the world for its incredible rookeries. Birds aren’t the only wildlife you may see – dolphin, manatee and alligators also call Ulumay Sanctuary home. Paddle through a network of canals created for mosquito control for the surrounding community. Sykes Creek at the park’s southern end is a popular local fishing destination. To reach the boat launch, turn onto Sykes Creek Parkway off of Hwy 520.
- Indian River Lagoon State Park – A bit farther south from Cocoa Beach, but still far from the end of the Lagoon, is the Indian River Lagoon State Park. Situated on a barrier island in mangrove wetlands and saltwater marshes, the undisturbed area provide an invaluable service by filtering runoff, preventing shoreline erosion and maintaining water quality. Located south of Melbourne off A1A, the park itself isn’t currently open to the public due to an aggressive restoration project, but the waters around it provide a glimpse of a pristine coastal environment.
- Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge – Pelican Island itself is only three acres, but it is known as being the first wildlife refuge established in the United States. This chain of islands just east of Sebastian is known for its high number of brown and white pelicans. Pelican Island is also different since it’s right in the transition zone between the sub-tropical climate to the north and tropical to the south. The island is only accessible by SUP, motor boat or a chartered tour.
- Off the beach or near your condo – If you’re staying at an on-the-water rental in Cocoa Beach, take your SUP down to the water and practice getting on and off and paddling around. Most condos and houses are in pretty quiet areas with minimal wake. Another general area is off the beach. While not protected in the sense these other spots are, there is no boat traffic within 100-200 yards of the beach. You may find it’s easier to crouch and ride your SUP like a surfboard, which is in fact where the idea for paddleboarding came from.
One reason many hesitate to try a new sport like paddleboarding is the perceived lack of places to get comfortable with the sport. As you can see though, these 6 places and others within the Indian River Lagoon provide many opportunities to not only use a stand-up paddleboard safely, but see a variety of fish, birds and other wildlife.
If you are looking for a SUP rental in Cocoa Beach, Calypso Kayaking offers guided tours in a variety of spots around the Indian River Lagoon region. Visit CalypsoKayaking.com for more information today!