Where to Kayak and Paddle Board in Vero Beach
Are you new to Vero Beach, or new to kayaking or paddle boarding? Maybe you’re looking for cool new places to paddle. Well, you’re in luck; this is one of the best places to paddle in Florida. The Indian River Lagoon often referred to as the “River”, is one of the most diverse waterways in North America, and is nothing short of marvelous.
Here is a list of our favorite launch sites on the Indian River Lagoon (The River) in Vero Beach. These routes we use for our guided tours and events at Paddles By The Sea. They’ve been tailored to give the most amount of fun while staying safe. We’ll also explain the routes we like most and what you might see there. This guide will also describe what route is best for what wind direction. If you’re not familiar with reading the wind, or how it affects your kayak trips, check out this previous blog post that explains it. Paddle Boarding or Kayaking and Wind
- Round Island Park Riverside
Overview: Round Island Park is loved by all that have paddled here. Famous for its year round manatee population, it’s always a crowd favorite. This launch site also offers several island destinations that are easy to reach.
Launch Site: The loading/ unloading area is in a dirt area between two wooden pylon rows. There is a small sign labeling it as a kayak launch, but it’s easy to miss. Drive down the path between the first row, you’ll be able to get fairly close to water if you stop at the second row of pylons. This area can get very crowded on weekends, so it’s best to unload and move on before you get blocked in. Please do not park in this area.
Parking: There are paved parking spots near the restrooms and roadways. It’s best to only park in them, occasionally county sheriff will come in and ticket people parked on the grass. Trailer parking is available, although, there are not very many spots.
Restrooms: Yup, it’s got’em. It’s the standard city park type, nothing fancy, but it works.
Wildlife you might encounter: This area usually has lots of manatee hanging out. Please keep your distance and practice passive observation. Here’s a link to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that details how best to observe manatee. Manatee Viewing Guidelines . Occasionally see a dolphin in the launch area, wouldn’t plan on it though. Dolphins are spotted more often on the far west side of the island. Have seen otters here, they are not as common
Short Route: When you launch you’ll be in a protected cove with two ways out. This cove is a great place to hang out for a short paddle. Please be mindful of manatee here though.
South Wind Route: For South winds, I like to go under the bridge while keeping the mangrove island to my left. Follow it around until you get to a larger body of water. From there you can follow the boat channel heading (West) out to the main part of the Indian River. At this point, you’ll also keep this island to your left and follow it all the way around, around a mile. Once you make your first left turn the wind will start to be felt, staying close to the mangrove will usually help here. If the wind is too much you can always turn around and follow the boat channel all the way back to your launch site and protected cove. If not, keep following the island around keeping it on your left until you come to a three way intersection. This is where the boat channel comes in, you want to follow its markers and take the center path. This leads to the starting cove.
If you want a bit more adventure you can paddle out to some spoil islands (man-made islands) nearby. It’s a little farther, but its super cool. Great place to spend the day. Please be prepared with enough food and water to support the time you’ll be out.
Its best to attempt the island run with a South wind, that way you have a tailwind on the way back. You’ll start at the same place, except you’ll go out the other channel, following the boat channel markers. Where it turns right at the three ways you’ll take the center route, the widest route. Follow this until it opens up to the main river. At this point, my favorite island will be directly in front of you, about a mile away. The west side offers the best landing site with fantastic beaches and a rope swing.
This is also the island we usually camp at, it’s free to use on a first come first serve basis.
North Wind Route: Not a lot of options that is super fun for a north wind. Most of the time I’ll take people on a similar route to the first south wind route, but the other direction.
- Oslo Boar Ramp
Overview: Bit of a hidden gem. At the end of a dirt road is a small boat ramp. Its one of the few launch sites on the west side of the river. Great Spot to set out for kayak or paddle board fishing.
Launch Site: it’s a sparse dirt road with a dirt boat launch. I’d avoid the muddy areas in the water, you won’t like the smell.
Parking: Parking is all dirt and no assigned spots. Not a lot of room so be careful to park so you won’t get blocked in.
Restrooms: None, this place is very remote and simple.
Wildlife you might encounter: Have seen manatee and dolphin here, not as common as other places nearby. This is a great place for kayak or paddle board fishing.
Short Route: There are several small islands straight out from the launch site, they make for great short route destinations.
South Wind Route: Not a lot of cover from the wind here, so please be mindful of how the wind might change while you’re out. It’s a good practice to always head into the wind first and get a nice ride back. Although, it’s not uncommon to see a manatee in this area, wouldn’t plan on it.
North Wind Route: Pretty much the same as above. No real destinations besides the small islands nearby. All other destinations are about 5 miles out, more than we’d recommend for new or intermediate paddlers.
- Riverside Park Google Maps Link
Overview: This is a great park, has lots of space, great bathrooms, perfect area to have a picnic or play volleyball. It is not a good kayak or paddle board launch site. It has a couple of small openings between the mangroves, but they all have large rocks that are covered in barnacles and oysters. Those sharp little devils are great at ending paddle trips. If there wasn’t a really great launch site less than half a mile away, Id thinks better of this launch site. Alas, there is our next location that has access to all the places this park does.
Update: The City of Vero Beach has approved a fishing pier to be built at this site. Making this an even less desirable launch site. Here’s an article from TCPalm
- 4. McWilliams Boat Ramp
Overview: beautiful Park for lots of different activities. Vero Beach Rowing Club has a facility here; the Vero Beach Dog Park is there too. Lots of parking and you can unload your gear steps from the water.
Launch Site: Beach launch with lots of room to get set up. The loading/unloading area is a small dirt shoulder at the exit end of a roundabout. Not a lot of room for multiple vehicles please be courteous and unload and park nearby.
Parking: Can be an issue on busy holiday weekends. This kayak launch shares parking with the boat ramp next door and the dog park. If you don’t have a trailer I’d suggest parking at the community center parking area on the far side of the roundabout. That’s usually empty.
Restrooms: This is my least favorite part of this park. The bathrooms are a bit of a hike. They’re located at the ball field by the main road. To be honest I try not to complain, up until recently you had to go to the other side of the bridge to find a public restroom. This is a big improvement.
The great part about this location is it has lots of clues to what direction the wind and current is heading. As soon as you leave the starting area, the Vero Beach City Marina always has sailboats moored. They are excellent for reading wind direction. Always go in the direction they are pointed. That way you’re sure to be heading into the wind first.
South Wind Route: From the launch area you’ll head out a small channel to the west, really the only way to go. From there you’ll follow the fishing bridge under the Barber Bridge until you reach an opening, then head left (South). Recommend going to the second opening. If you get caught in a fishing line they yell, “Look, I caught a mermaid”. It’s super awkward. Once navigated to the other side of the bridge, you’ll head towards the marina behind the Riverside Café. This is where Paddles By The Sea Indian River Lagoon launch site is. Be sure to wave and say hello. We’re happy to let you know where we’d seen dolphin and manatee that day. From here this is where we send our renters and tours. You’ll follow the coast until you get to a cove on your left (east). This area usually has lots of dolphin activity, keep an eye out. From there we’ll go farther into the cove and under the footbridge that leads to Memorial Island. Once under the bridge, you’ll keep to the right to avoid the boat launch that’s there. This entire area is a no-wake zone, but best to give it a wide berth. If you keep the island to your right and follow it around it’ll take you back to the cove and a clear view of the bridge you started from. This route usually takes about an hour.
The longer version starts the same, except you’ll head to a spoil island south of Memorial Island and circle around, bringing you back to Memorial Island and a clear view of your starting point. I’ll usually choose a rotation of the island that gives the most wind cover. Also, keep an eye on water depth, the spoil island has a sand bar around most of it. If you have a rudder it could rub.
North Wind Route: After exiting the starting area, you have two choices. You’ll be circling the spoil island directly to your right (North of the Bridge) by following its shore until you’re back at the bridge again. You can go clockwise or counterclockwise. Usually make the call based on if there is an east or west inflection to the wind direction. Your northern turnaround can be fairly exposed with some wind directions. I try to have a tailwind with my turn. For example: with a North West wind I might make a clockwise, northeast I’ll take a counterclockwise route. Both ways are fantastic and very common to see dolphins throughout the entire area. This route is about 2 miles.
For longer paddles this direction you have a couple of options. By following the directions to the short course above, you will find a channel at the northern side of the island. Following it takes you back to a spectacular area that makes it seem like you’re in old Florida before it was developed. Very easy to imagine you’re much farther from civilization than you really area. This area can seem confusing and easy to get lost, but it’s really not too bad. Once on this path, you have two more choices. If you keep following paths that turn left (west), you’ll end up in the main channel of the Indian River Lagoon. Keep the island on your left until you see the bridge and you’re back. Same for the pathways to your right (or East). Keeping the island on your right until you come to the marina you started in and follow it to the bridge. Both routes are about 4 miles.
That’s it for our favorite launch sites in kayak and paddle board in Vero Beach. There is definitely more place you can launch from, these are the ones with the best access, best facilities, and the best locations to paddle too. If I missed your favorite, please send me a message, would love to check out a new place to add.
Now get out there and go for a paddle in Vero Beach!
By: Chris Woodruff
Owner: Paddles By The Sea
What: Paddle Board and Kayak Rentals and Tours
Where: 3321 Bridge Plaza Dr Vero Beach FL