Florida Keys Paddling Atlas

By Bill & Mary Burnham
A Falcon Guide

2008 winner of a National Outdoor Book Award (NOBA) for best Outdoor Adventure Guidebook.

NOBA wrote:

"This is an exceptionally well-done sea kayaking guide to the tropical water paradise of the Florida Keys. Graphically appealing and functional, it includes fully annotated navigational charts and information on key launch sites, helpful route-finding hints, paddle-friendly marinas and hidden-away waterways."

This first-of-its-kind all-color chartbook specifically for paddlers is the result of kayaking every bit of the 100-mile island chain. It features color charts and photographs, resources on launches, campsites, paddle-friendly lodging and restaurants, hidden waterways, fishing and bird-watching sites -- all with GPS coordinates.

Read the full blog of our 100-mile paddle from Key Largo to Key West

More than 100 color photos, interspersed with historic B&W images and postcards supplied by the Monroe County Library’s MileMakers program. So you'll see an historic image of the building of one of the bridges carrying Henry Flagler’s railroad, next to a photo of it today, still in use, carrying the Overseas Highway, Route 1 to Key West.

The charts are cross-referenced with extensive appendix listings of places to launch, to spend the night, pull up for a meal, as well as historic, cultural and natural sites. All with GPS coord. So paddlers can plan their own routes.

We documented every single put-in, more than 100 of them, visiting several times to check access and conditions. From happening Smathers Beach in Key West where you can launch among the sunbathers and para-sailers, to places known only to locals, like a narrow mangrove opening on No Name Key. We describe the conditions, boat ramp or sandy beach, directions and GPS coord., facilities nearby like restrooms or a place to walk to get a Cuban sandwish, and of course, the paddling attraction, whether a sweet fishing spot, a bird rookery or a patch coral for snorkeling.

There are 30 places to pitch a tent, from primitive camping on uninhabited islands to camping resorts and state parks like Bahia Honda and John Pennekamp. Many are establishing sites just for paddlers doing the new 106-mile Florida Keys Paddling Trail. We even include the Dry Tortugas NP, 70 miles west of Key West and details on how to take your kayaks on the high-speed ferry and camp in the shadow of the massive brick Fort Jefferson. The snorkeling there is out of this world.

There are 60 paddle-friendly lodgings ranging from colorful mom-and-pop motels like Conch Key Cottages to luxurious resorts like Cheeca Lodge. These are places where you can pull your boat up on the beach without getting hassled and get a friendly welcome. We’ve visited every one for launch conditions and their willingness to accommodate paddlers. Many provide free kayaks for guest use.

Paddling buddies, Cynthia and Steve

Bill sneaking through a mangrove tunnel (just like he bushwhacks in Virginia!)

Endangered miniature Key Deer

Nearing the end of a perfect Keys paddle.