The southeastern United States is a treasure trove when it comes to paddling. From black water swamps and hidden lakes to tiny creeks and scenic coastal beauty—there is much to explore. Planning a trip down south? Here are 6 stunning waterways to dip your paddle into.
Cumberland Island, GA
When it comes to paddling in the southeast, it doesn’t get any better than Cumberland Island, one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the country. Sitting pretty just off the coast of Georgia, paddlers can navigate the 12-mile stretch of pristine tidal marsh and set up camp at Brickhill Bluffs. Paddling here is a treat, as the island is known for great wildlife spotting opportunities, whether it be manatees, sea turtles, wild horses, or bobcats.
The Everglades, FL
Dip your paddle into another world completely, into the stunning Everglades, where no other place like it exists in the world. With 10,000 islands, miles of forests, varying landscapes, and plenty of unique wildlife to behold, you will never tire of the exquisite beauty of this Gulf of Mexico haven. Head out in winter when the weather is cooler, rainfall is rare, and the mosquitos aren’t a hindrance.
South Fork Shenandoah, VA
Nearly 100 miles of this historic north-flowing river can be paddled, but explore South Fork Shenandoah—the 28 mile stretch between Luray and Bentonville for some prime scenery, peaceful surroundings, and small rapids. Enjoy the elegant peaks of the Massanutten Mountain range as the river guides you right through the heart of this magnificent valley.
Lake Jocassee, SC
Nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, this 7,500-acre lake may be man-made, but the sheer beauty of it is mesmerizing, with mountains looming in the horizon and undeveloped land stretching far and wide. What will really steal your heart at Jocassee are the waterfalls that flow down from the foothills along the banks, some tucked within beautiful hidden coves. Embark on a three-day paddle trip and enjoy cliff jumping, camping, and exploring within the most hidden and untouched nooks and crannies of the lake.
Roanoke River, NC
Paddle the 9.1‑mile stretch from Weldon to Halifax where you’ll be delighted to find yourself completely immersed in the largest untouched bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem in the region. Lush forests and swamps are home to over 200 bird species, and this area is as remote as it gets for some nice quiet time with Mother Nature.
Florida Keys, FL
Anywhere around these magical islands is perfect for paddling and doesn’t require much effort or searching, as the search becomes the thrilling adventure. Pack up your kayak or rent one. Rentals options abound throughout the keys. Then, drive along US1 and keep your eyes peeled on either side of the road where numerous close-range mangrove islands dot the turquoise blue water. Pull over by a bridge, park without issue, and drop on in. Explore the untouched islands and look out for manatees, sharks, and fish that play amongst the red mangrove roots. At low tide, you can even find your own private beach to relax upon and soak in the sun’s warm rays.