Dispatch from Manasota Key. Hands down, the best stretch of Florida coast lies along the fine sand and mangroves from Siesta Key south to Manasota Key. And one of the most beautiful kayaking routes is through Lemon Bay at Stump Pass State Park.
Launching from Stump Pass State Park into Lemon Bay, we paddled southeast in the bay. It was early enough so the boaters weren’t out yet, and we had the waters to ourselves–except for a Blue Heron and an Osprey perched in the trees along the shore. We paddled to Stump Pass and headed back, the same Osprey now in flight, spooked by a pair of kayakers ahead of us.
By now it was hot, and the sunblock was beginning to sweat into my eyes. We pulled the kayak up under the shade of a mangrove and cooled off a little in the water. The water was fairly cool, enough so that a dunk dropped our body temperatures and gave temporary relief from the heat.
One drawback of Stump Pass State Park is the numerous boats that pass through the bay, usually beginning late morning/early afternoon. The boats were out now–Jet Skis, fast boats, fishing skiffs–all alongside kayakers and families swimming. The boats were cruising by, some a lot faster than they should have, but most stayed close to the middle of this channel through the bay. Kayaking off to either side should keep paddlers safe.
It was too rough in the Gulf, with three to four foot seas churned up by Tropical Storm Bonnie, but next trip we’ll put the yellow rig in along the beach. In summer, the Gulf of Mexico is calmest just before eight a.m., if the weather is normal. Kayakers can launch from both the bay and the Gulf at Stump Pass State Park. A $3 fee is collected at an honorary fee station upon entering the park.
Another great place to kayak along this stretch of coast is John Neville Reserve, off the tip of Turtle Beach in Siesta Key.