Adventure Travel

Orlando’s Top 5 Spots For Fun Water Activities

Experience a different side of Orlando with these unique things to do

The Vacationeer
Sunrise over Florida lake.

Orlando’s year-round sunshine is ideal for lazy days paddling local rivers, lakes and springs. Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast or simply seeking unique things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks, the City Beautiful abounds with water activities. Reconnect and relax with loved ones on a laid-back canoe ride, set out for a solo adventure in a kayak to spot regional birds and wildlife or try something new like stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga. Central Florida has plenty of places to “put in” and explore near or far from shore.

Here are five worth checking out. 

1. Dinky Dock Park

Coupling canoeing together.   

In the town of Winter Park, just a few minutes north of downtown Orlando, Dinky Dock is one of the best places for beginners to launch their paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. Rollins College students frequent the beach, but the chain of four lakes — including Lake Virginia, Lake Mizell, Lake Berry and Lake Osceola — is lined with historic buildings and connected by gorgeous canals.

The park opens at 8:00 a.m., so you can put in early and enjoy the quiet while the rest of Winter Park wakes. Paddle alongside the sculpture garden of the Albin Polasek Museum and the beautiful Cornell Fine Arts Museum buildings lining the lakeside.

2. Lake Ivanhoe 

If you’re not bringing your own boat or board, Lake Ivanhoe is the easiest place to spend a day on the water. Rent equipment from Maui B’s or  Epic Paddle Adventures, and if you’re an absolute beginner, you can book a lesson or a tour.

From Lake Ivanhoe, located on Orlando’s main thoroughfare of Orange Avenue, you can enjoy skyline views of downtown, plus paddle under the notoriously trafficked I-4. After your paddle, treat yourself to one of the lakeside’s fantastic eateries in the Lake Ivanhoe area, known locally as Ivanhoe Village.

3. Shingle Creek Regional Park

Idyllic image, bird flying over lake, sunrise, Central Florida.    

If you’re staying at one of Hilton Grand Vacations Orlando resorts and want a break from the theme parks, bring your boat and put in at Steffee Landing at Shingle Creek Regional Park along U.S. 192 in Kissimmee.

The seven mile trail, which runs from Babb Park to the north and Lake Toho to the south, is packed with wildlife, including waterfowl, turtles and alligators — so be sure to keep your camera handy. For experienced paddlers who want a challenging launch, there are some small rapids in the middle of the trail, but beginners should pick a calmer spot to start. The area is also a newly designated Florida Paddling Trail, and work is underway to clear trees, logs and brush to make the scenery even more stunning. 

4. Little Econlockhatchee River

East Orlando is home to the Little Econlockhatchee River (or the “Little Econ” to locals). The eight mile trail through the moss-strewn forest is enchanting, and runners and hikers will accompany you while you paddle the winding Little Econ Trail along the riverside.

As the second-largest tributary of the historic St. Johns River, its home to a plethora of wildlife. You might see sandhill cranes, bald eagles, ospreys, red-shouldered hawks, wild turkeys and more to discover on your adventure along the Little Econ. Bring a picnic lunch and sidle up to one of several white-sand beaches for a swim, leg stretch and a snack.

5. Wekiva Island

Beautiful clear waters surrounded by trees, Florida fresh water springs.    

About 15 miles north of Orlando is Wekiva Island, a perfect spot to spend an entire day surrounded by “real Florida.” You can rent paddleboards, kayaks and canoes from the on-site equipment rental service, and then enjoy a paddle through the cypress and scrub oak forest.

When you get back, rent a cabana (incredibly convenient if you’re paddling with a group) and enjoy a refreshing beverage and tasty bites, plus live music from local bands. Visitors who prefer dry land can enjoy beach volleyball, cornhole and a boardwalk that overlooks the Wekiva River.

No matter where you decide to launch, you’ll find a waterway that serves up serenity, adventure and a taste of Florida’s natural beauty. 

Read “Venture Outdoors In Orlando: Where To Scout For Flora, Fauna and Fun Things To Do” for more unique things to do. 

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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